Half of today’s enterprises are exploring or already benefiting from AI in HR – time to get with the program


The intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and personalization in HR / HCM offers the opportunity to significantly elevate service delivery, and therefore employee and manager satisfaction and engagement. It also highlights the looming challenge of getting the mix right between human and machine or “bot”-based HR. These critical topics were discussed during our recent Digital HR webcast.

The evidence? Our annual “State of Operations and Outsourcing” study of 454 major global enterprises, conducted with KPMG, just revealed that 52% of enterprises are already evaluating, piloting or implementing robotic process automation (“RPA”) solutions for HR processes. HR executives: Like it or not, the new world of HR Tech automation has arrived, and you need a definitive strategy to deal with it.

How are enterprises approaching RPA in the HR domain today?

Source: HfS Research in conjunction with KPMG, State of Business Operations 2017 N=454 Enterprise Buyers

We already know that “science” has for years been leveraged in the recruiting domain in the form of assessments that predict the best talent, culture fit, leadership potential, retention likelihood, etc. And with the initial wave of HR chatbots or digital HR assistants converging with many new personalization capabilities to further enhance the user experience, the range of potential use cases linking these two themes for enterprise benefit is only limited by one’s creativity and understanding of operational HR.

Here is a small sampling of what HR Tech buyers will likely see from their vendor partners, and in many cases, sooner than one might expect. HfS Research just published a detailed POV (point of view) with more examples under the categories listed below. It can be accessed here.

HR Tech vendor Beta / early release capabilities

  • Slackbots: SAP SuccessFactors is now testing “Slackbots.” These chatbots use their new technology partner Slack’s messaging tool within a performance review module to manage various process-related communications and tasks. HR Tech vendors like Zenefits and BambooHR, popular with smaller and medium-sized businesses, also integrate with Slack.
  • Sourcing bots: Crowded Inc. is a startup sourcing technology provider with a bot that asks questions of software developers applying for a job, and uses their responses to complete an application vs. making them type in the information themselves. TextRecruit is a California startup with a recruiting chatbot named Ari that organizations can use to field questions from job seekers. This allows recruiters to prioritize questions from actual candidates. Finally, Fama, founded in 2015, uses natural-language processing to scan news stories, social media and deeper web content for indications of a higher-than-acceptable risk profile in candidates.
  • Heavy usage bots: And multiple new chatbots from global ERP and HCM platform company Ramco Systems, and one from Boston startup Talla, are designed to respond to various, typically predictable and common employee HR questions and issues in real time. And if appropriate, the new (digital) HR staff initiates an approval or notification process. Bot-driven PTO-related interactions seem popular with both software vendors.

Right around the corner

  • HR admin chatbots: Extending the heavy usage bots theme, this category refers to Q&A capabilities using text messages and messaging applications (e.g., Slack), in concert with AI (e.g., natural language processing and machine learning), to manage many of the routine questions that come into HR, Payroll and Benefits departments every day. These include “I joined last week, when is my first check?”, “Our baby is due next week, how can I adjust my Benefits coverage?”, and “How do I know if a planned leave of absence is eligible for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) coverage?” These chatbots accept and answer questions in a flow of natural language and provide links to appropriate forms, workflows or content.
  • Highly personalized onboarding experiences: Given that mentors and courses don’t address much of the social side of getting acclimated, the convergence of personalization and AI will soon lead to having particular colleagues being alerted to welcome the newbie because they have a college or town of residence in common, or the same former company, or similar interests or career goals. This capability should be right around the corner given that all the relevant data is available between the corporate HRMS and tapping into pretty standard social media.

Likely a bit further out (2018/2019)

  • Reporting line and team member matching: HR Tech platforms can also be expected to make recommendations about who someone should report to, or which team they should join, based on analyzing where that employee tended to be most successful in the past, specifically from a behavioral, personality type or cultural compatibility perspective. Anyone who’s been in the workforce for some time knows there are certain types of bosses – and teams — that bring out the best in them, and others that do not.

Further out still?  We shall see

  • Span of control alerts: An “HR” or organizational design issue that occasionally surfaces for C-suite residents is the span of control of their direct reports and one level below that, as it can get unwieldy at times. Compounding this, what if there was higher than average employee retention risk in the particular department where a manager’s span of control (number of direct reports) was already way above average? If the HR bot could let the senior manager or C-level executive know all this, it would be an example of the Bot leveraging two things: KPI info on desirable span of control for different roles, and as above, one of the humans on the HR staff for complementary consultative support around viable options.

Bottom line

Continuing advances and the obvious momentum building within the Digital HR (including AI in HR) arena highlight three important calls to action: (1) the need for a very symbiotic relationship between human and bot HR staff; (2) the need for crafting a vision for this relationship “asap” and (3) the need to bring together HR Tech customers, vendors and representative end-users, along with HR practitioner and corporate culture experts (and ultimately, perhaps legal advisors) to start developing best practices for this new and exciting frontier.  

Posted in : HR Outsourcing, HR Strategy


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