Talent Analytics

The HR Journey to Cognitive (Part 1 of 3)

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The talent landscape is being redefined with various factors impacting the way the HR function operates. Across industries, I am seeing an onslaught of new technology and data, a shift in workforce demographics and expectations, and continuous cost pressures. The time has come for HR professionals to be open to technology-driven possibilities that will allow them to thrive in such a landscape. One such possibility that has significant implications is the emergence of cognitive systems.

Cognitive systems – What are they?

The emergence of artificial intelligence, or augmented intelligence, is the foundation of the cognitive era. This can best be described as a system that can process natural language, unstructured data and learn by experience. These systems:

  1. Understand all types and sources of data, with context, at astonishing volume and speed
  2. Reason with the ability to form hypotheses, make considered arguments, and prioritise recommendations to help humans make better decisions
  3. Learn and interact whilst accumulating data and developing insight from every interaction

They augment the way we think; they extend human expertise.  One such cognitive system is IBM’s Watson (named after IBM’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson). Given its capabilities, Watson has been applied across a diverse range of areas – including Healthcare, Oncology Research, Weather Forecasting, Legal, Financial Services, Music, Food and Telecommunications.

Cognitive technology and HR

We are now seeing cognitive capabilities extend into the HR industry. Drawing on the ability of cognitive technology to help us make better decisions, HR leaders are now in a position to reinvent workforce activities. Cognitive systems and solutions aim to change the landscape of HR completely, by enabling organisations to outthink their biggest challenges, and offering HR professionals new capabilities that help them do their jobs more effectively.

For instance, what if you could –

  • Proactively identify and reach out to potential recruits who have the right capabilities that you’re hiring for before they’re even thinking of a new job?
  • Offer virtual concierge services to your employees for career development, skills advancement and tailored learning?
  • Modify your HR services and operations, as well as your tools and processes so that you treat employees just as you would consumers – thus building collaboration and diversity of thought?

Cognitive solutions can make a significant impact in these areas and as the business landscape continues to change, so too does the need to be responsive and create personalised employee experiences.

Figure 1: Solutions aligned to the HR lifecycle

So how can we apply these capabilities to our business?

I believe we need to focus on three key areas:

  1. Creating experiences
  2. Enabling the workforce
  3. Driving business strategy

Over the next few weeks, I will explore these key areas. For now, let me give you my thoughts on the first one:

Creating experiences and culture

In order to create positive employee experiences, HR leaders have to look at revising their strategies for attracting, retaining and managing talent. This means adopting a mindset that accepts the move forward to a technically capable and driven workforce. We know from statistics presented in a variety of studies, that the vast majority of active candidates use their smartphone and mobile applications to find companies and to begin a job search, yet most organisations don’t have job posts mobilised.

Considering this situation, the significance of cognitive technology becomes apparent – HR leaders can directly enable a shift in HR processes so that the changing behaviours of the workforce can be met. For instance:

    • Design and automate employee experiences: To stay competitive, HR leaders can change the way they engage with people, communicating with their prospects in a deeper, more personalised way and understanding the employee journey enough to design the accompanying experience to it.
    • Acquire and grow employee relationships: Attract new candidates and delight existing employees with personalised, multichannel experiences.
    • Dynamically serve up relevant content: Personalise a user experience with behavioural data and response history to help create value at every point.

In my next two articles, I will explore in detail how we can enable the workforce and drive business strategy through the capabilities of cognitive technology.

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