Cognitive HR

Cognitive Technology is For Everyone (Not Just Millennials).

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New cognitive HR solutions are grabbing the attention of organizations looking to drive better results and gain competitive advantage from this powerful technology. In order to fully realize these benefits, the workforce needs to adopt it. So, are employees willing to embrace cognitive?  The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute conducted some research to find out …

The study

We asked more than 8,600 employees from a range of English-speaking countries to imagine themselves in a variety of scenarios describing work situations where HR assistance might be sought. Each scenario had two versions, one where traditional assistance (from HR, a manager or a peer) was provided, and one where a cognitive agent provided guidance. Respondents were randomly assigned the cognitive or traditional versions, and then asked a series of questions: Did they have sufficient information to make a decision? Did they trust the information? Would they seek similar assistance in the future?

The results

Overall, the results showed that HR scenarios that are information-based (vs. personally evaluative) and that involve more complex decision making are particularly well-suited for cognitive solutions.

We also wanted to test if age was related to willingness to adopt cognitive. Specifically, are reactions to the technology more positive among younger generations, as the popular press would have us believe?

When we examined our data by generation, we found that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are just as accepting of cognitive as millennials. In fact, the main generational difference we discovered was that millennials were more likely than other generations to make use of all HR support, cognitive and traditional alike.

The guidance

This research suggests that organizations need not be concerned about generational differences in reactions to new cognitive HR technologies. Instead, the guidance for Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers is the same:

  • Emphasize the informational. The more complex and information-rich the situation, the greater the employee readiness for cognitive.
  • Recognize it’s a new way of working. Whenever you’re introducing new technologies, regardless of the age of your workforce, plan for robust change management to ensure success. Cognitive is no different.
  • Demonstrate how it improves the work experience. Cognitive can both simplify and bolster confidence in decisions and actions, and those advantages should to be emphasized to all employees.

To find out more about Cognitive HR solutions and the readiness of organizations for cognitive HR, read the latest IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and Institute of Business Value report, “Extending Expertise: How Cognitive Computing is Transforming HR and the Employee Experience.”



Director, IBM Talent Management Consulting and Smarter Workforce Institute

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