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Why Human Intelligence is Critical to Aritificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been in the media limelight in recent months, and rightfully so—the AI market will be worth nearly $60 billion by 2025, a figure that doesn’t even account for markets related to AI, like machine learning as a service and deep learning. The data proves that AI is more than just hype, and most businesses are already leveraging AI or automation in some way. In the HR industry, we’re seeing massive growth of AI usage across recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and other human capital management functions.

Myth: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace the need for human employees

With the growing hype around AI, comes considerable concern among workers fearing for their jobs, and rightfully so. For every headline referencing the growth of the AI industry, there’s another that offers perspective on how and why AI is a threat to human jobs. One PwC study found that 38% of jobs in the U.S. could be “vulnerable” to AI by the early 2030s. This study, along with countless sources referencing AI’s threat to human jobs, may be missing a critical element – the need for human emotional intelligence and data analysis. If we take a closer look at the specific ways AI is improving the workplace for HR professionals, it’s clear that the human factor will not become obsolete, although roles of employees may change.

Human intervention is critical to the future of AI—and AI is critical to ensuring HR leaders can continue to move from performing a strictly administrative function in an organization to becoming a strategic partner and contributor. We’ve debunked the idea that AI is posing a major threat to jobs—so how can HR leaders make the most out of this growing technology segment? As we continue to apply machine learning and automation to HR processes, we must take a holistic look at the employee lifecycle, from recruiting and onboarding to off-boarding and outplacement, and everything in between.

#1: Recruitment and onboarding

There are a great number of technology vendors committed to bringing AI and automation to the recruiting and onboarding processes. Recently, RiseSmart’s Sanjay Sathe wrote about how AI is radically streamlining the onboarding process in VentureBeat. He described how the types of jobs employees obtain will look much different as AI continues to develop and grow exponentially. He’s not wrong and his point of view supports the idea that AI will not replace jobs as much as redefine them.

Even the task of recruiting and onboarding the new breed of employee will be affected by AI, but will not completely replace the need for humans to interview and meet potential employees to determine things like culture fit and personality. Today, AI applications make the recruiting process more efficient by delivering some information that will help HR leaders make initial candidate decisions by collecting data from work samples, social media posts, and resume “word choice”. From candidate-matching before an interview to candidate scoring based on social interactions, recruiting and onboarding processes have greatly benefited from automated processes and machine learning. Vendors have tapped into the great wealth of candidate data that already exists before the employee is even hired, and are applying machine learning to ensure only those candidates with the matching skills, and apparent values, make it into personal interviews where emotional intelligence and human interactions determine the final outcome.

#2: Performance appraisals

Most HR practitioners agree that the traditional performance appraisal model, with a stand-alone end-of-year performance review, is outdated. When AI is applied to the performance management process, new insights emerge. Yet the HR person remains critical to the success of continuous performance management, and talent management processes.

For example, data might show that an employee is hitting her goals and targets, yet her peers receive more promotions or quicker advancements. Simply obtaining accurate data about employee progress brings more subjectivity to the process. But it’s still the manager and HR leader’s job to surface this information and advocate to promote the individual employees who deserve it.

#3: Performance development

Surprisingly, many companies don’t know the talent profiles of the individuals within their organization. When paired with employee data, AI can enable HR leaders to keep tabs on the company’s talent pool and can help to provide professional development opportunities that match the growth and transformation of the business.

Let’s use the oil and gas industry as an example. The industry is currently undergoing a massive transformation. If its employees don’t grow and change alongside the company, it will be difficult to achieve long-term success. There are plenty of situations when the macroeconomic picture or strategic direction of a company might change. AI will be one way to know if your talent pool is ready to tackle these changes.

AI can ensure HR leaders spot gaps and misalignment between business and employee growth and transformation. When we apply automation to people data, the gaps emerge. HR leaders can leverage this information to make strategic decisions, such as whether or not to retrain select employees, or what areas recruitment to focus on.

On the other hand, when a business isn’t developing but its people are, feelings of frustration will quickly surface. People begin to outgrow their environment and itch for a new opportunity. Automatically surfacing these gaps empowers the HR manager to pool additional resources to ensure there are no feelings of misalignment, or gaps in talent. 

#4: Layoffs and outplacement

While AI technology can identify who should be laid off by simply weighing input metrics, the final candidate decision will come down to cultural fit and soft skills. HR managers will agree that it’s usually feasible to strengthen a skillset, but changing an employee’s personality is not a viable option.

In the human management continuum, an automated system might suggest retaining an employee because he is meeting his goals, but the manager may know he is an internal distraction that only meets his goals while disrupting the work of other team members. Meanwhile, another employee might be scraping by, according to the data, but bring other valuable assets to the team, like leadership, teamwork, and collaboration. It’s vital that HR practitioners learn to combine the data collected by AI applications with human observations and anecdotes to get the complete, 360-degree picture in order to make highly educated and informed decisions.

Learning to use the technology and the resulting data will continue to be a challenge for HR leaders and departments as well as other employees within an organization as more and more data and automation is available for a variety of roles. But artificial intelligence will never completely replace the human element necessary to make the kinds of decisions robots and machines will never be able to make. Gathering data on employees, such as RiseSmart does after a layoff, can give companies and HR leaders great insights into things like alumni sentiment, but making the changes to notification practices or providing resiliency training for the remaining employees takes a human touch that can never be replaced by machines.

Human intelligence and intervention are important components of any AI strategy. As the industry continues to evolve, and HR vendors emerge to apply automation to all parts of the employee lifecycle, remember to take a step back and look at your workforce holistically. Data inputs are vital, and offer a subjective view—but the human eye is still needed, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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