IBM HR head explains what is driving business growth

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February 10, 2020 4:29 AM

Human resources powered by AI is the new driver of business growth today.

IBM HR head, Artificial Intelligence, HR lifecycle, Cognitive Talent Insights, HR professionalsChaitanya Sreenivas, HR Leader, IBM India/South

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has fast become an essential part of Human Resource (HR) operations. It is being used in HR to automate repetitive, low-value tasks thus increasing the focus on more strategic work. “AI, combined with strategic insight, creates new business opportunities and is transforming the way HR contributes to an organisation’s competitive advantage,” says Chaitanya Sreenivas, HR Leader, IBM India/South Asia. In an exclusive interview with Sudhir Chowdhary, he talks about the impact of AI in HR and how IBM is leading the way in infusing AI in their HR lifecycle. Excerpts:

First things first, why is AI being used in HR?

Deployment of AI in HR can be done throughout the talent lifecycle. Our experience is that AI can be applied in almost any area of HR, including candidate attraction, hiring, learning, compensation, career management, and HR support. We believe AI can address pressing business challenges. AI enables HR organisations to deliver new insights and services at scale without ballooning headcount or cost.
Persistent challenges, like having the people resources to deliver on the business strategy and allocating financial resources accordingly, can be addressed through the thoughtful application of AI solutions. Apart from this, AI is used to attract and develop new skills, improve the employee experience and provide strong decision support.

How have you infused AI in the HR lifecycle?

Human resources powered by AI is the new driver of business growth today. It is not surprising, then, that both HR leaders and managers are leveraging AI to augment decision-making and interactions with employees. The age of the intuitive decision based on intuition is gone, today, you have to use data while making a selection.

We have infused AI across the HR lifecycle: attract, hire, engage, retain, develop, grow and serve.

Recruitment: Watson Candidate Assistant helps direct job seekers to the roles that are best fit – for the applicants and for IBM. Candidates apply for jobs in IBM 3x more often than on other career sites. As it can ingest huge amount of data, it not only reviews the applicant’s resume but can also consider their digital media presence.

Development: Your Learning is a personalised learning platform built on a number of AI and Watson cognitive technologies. This has personalised learning to the individual user.

Chatbots: HR chatbots have become a great initial starting place for HR organisations to introduce AI into their HR functions. While it’s also driving productivity, the benefit to employee experience is even more important. Chatbots are freeing up managers and non-managers from transactional work with 24 x 7 availability.

Among others, Cognitive Talent Insights provides a unique analytics experience that allows HR professionals and managers to easily explore data, confidently predict outcomes and share results broadly. CogniPay helps managers make compensation decisions—based on various factors including market demand for skills, internal forecast demand for their skills, and attrition data with the same skills.

How are chatbots streamlining operations?

We launched chatbots internally at scale in HR in 2016. We have embedded in most areas like talent acquisition, payroll, compensation, benefits performance management, travel planning and expense and mobility. Last year, we consolidated our 28 HR chatbots into one for employees called AskHR. This provides our employees across the globe with an intelligent assistant to help them address all HR-related inquiries, saving time and creating an overall better experience. In 2019, the chatbot received more than 900,000 inquiries from employees.

What’s the role of AI in mitigating bias to enhance diversity and inclusion?

AI solutions are being developed that have the potential to mitigate biases and, as a result, enable more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Unlike human beings, machines do not have inherent biases that inhibit diversity and inclusion. When appropriately developed and deployed, AI can remove the attributes that lead to biases and can learn how to detect potential biases, particularly those unconscious biases that are unintentional and hard to uncover in decision-making processes. Following detection, AI can alert HR or managers to the presence of the biases.

What are your recommendations for successful AI adoption in HR?

We believe that first and foremost empower the people with AI. People feel most empowered when their decision autonomy is augmented rather than replaced. Ensure transparency in the system for managers to feel comfortable working with an AI recommendation.

AI requires context, reflected in data from different sources, to learn and make appropriate recommendations. An AI solution designed in one region of a multinational organisation’s operations may need to be entirely retrained before deployment in another region due to the nuances. As you develop your AI solutions, it’s also important to have a holistic view of the end goal in mind. This will avoid, for example, having a proliferation of unconnected chatbots.

What HR trends do you see in the age of AI?

We are witnessing the movement towards augmented decision making at scale and this is helping HR to move to the new way of work. The transactional aspects of HR is now either being automated or completely done away with. This also means that HR professionals have to be very familiar and fully embrace big data, AI tools and methodologies as they bring to bear this to daily work. Finally, we see that the employee experience is at the centre of everything we do.

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