There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest workforce disruptor in recent history. As the UK Government initiated lockdown orders and social distancing protocols, companies had little time to prepare for a massive shift to remote work arrangements.
This shift is likely to be permanent. According to Gartner data, 47% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely full-time post-pandemic, while 82% said they’d at least allow it on a part-time basis.
For human resource (HR) teams, however, this could mean more work. A Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing survey of 200 senior HR leaders in the UK found that two-thirds believe their workloads will rise as a result of remote work becoming permanent.
The pandemic also raises the importance of supporting frontline workers, who not only risk exposing themselves to the coronavirus but also have needs different from desk-based staff. For instance, a recent study published in PLOS One found that frontline workers lacked awareness of mental issues, especially in physical healthcare settings.
But another set of disruptors may hold the key to overcoming these challenges.
How Artificial Intelligence and Automation Are Driving Change in HR
Keeping employees engaged has always been a core component of any HR strategy. But the pandemic has accelerated the shift to new ways of working, creating new obstacles for employee engagement. This is on top of the growing list of tasks and processes that HR departments already face.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation present practical solutions for streamlining common HR processes, whether it’s screening job applications, approving business travel receipts, or processing payroll. In fact, a Gartner survey in 2019 predicted that 47% of organisations would be using AI-powered HR solutions by 2022. But with the ongoing pandemic, that number is all but guaranteed to be higher.
But how exactly are AI and automation helping HR departments?
1. Streamlining Recruitment Tasks
Routine and repetitive tasks often hold back talent acquisition in many HR departments. Advanced HR solutions can streamline these processes and help hiring managers:
- Identify potential candidates;
- Conduct background checks;
- Schedule interviews;
- And onboard new hires, all without any human intervention.
For example, HR chatbots can automatically engage and pre-screen candidates on a website’s recruitment portal, asking them questions such as “How many years of experience do you have in FIELD X?” or “Can you start your internship on DATE?”
This is how companies like L’Oréal handle the deluge of queries about their job listings without negatively impacting candidate satisfaction.
2. Automating Responses to Employee Queries
HR departments often receive the same set of requests and questions from workers about things like payroll, sick leave and employee assistance. Automation presents an opportunity for organisations to connect employees with their HR policies.
For example, cloud-based tools like Zoho People offer self-service tools that allow employees to:
- Book and check their annual leave requests
- Track their attendance
- And fill up a variety of HR forms, among other things.
What’s more, workers can do these things on any device connected to the Internet. This is great for companies with a large number of non-desk-based staff — think workers who do a lot of travelling or spend most of their time out on the field.
3. Improving Visibility of Employee Performance
As the average modern workforce moves away from the traditional co-located workplace, HR departments will have to find new ways to maintain visibility of employee productivity and satisfaction. Many AI-powered HR software come with a built-in analytics dashboard that enables HR leaders to monitor real-time employee key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Employee health index
AI can even help predict whether an employee is going to quit. IBM’s AI technology, for example, predicts which workers are planning to leave their jobs with an accuracy of 95%.
Should HR Managers Embrace AI and Automation?
Much of the conversation around AI and automation revolves around its potential to displace people’s jobs. But these disruptive technologies don’t necessarily replace HR professionals; rather, they augment their abilities and free them from repetitive and routine work. This enables HR teams to spend more time building relationships with employees to improve their satisfaction.
Name: Andy Wilkins
Andy is the co-founder and CEO of Futr, a tech start-up providing superpowers to critical support teams across the UK. Futr was born in 2017 when Andy and co-founder Lee Skyrme saw the massive opportunity to use cutting edge artificial intelligence to transform the way we access public services. Four years later, with the support of an amazing team and fantastic VCs, Futr is proud to include the police, the NHS, and many amazing charities and social services as valued customers.
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