2020-03-26-HR Examiner article Software Implementation in HR with Intelligent Tools and AI John Sumser stock photo img cc0 by Pedro Sandrini via pexels black textile 910299 full 544x363px-hq.jpg

“The number of tools available in Talent Acquisition outnumbers other tools by almost 10 to 1. New intelligent tool initiatives are most likely to start in the Recruiting silo or as a part of a larger suite initiative.” - John Sumser

The Narrower The Problem, The Better It Works

The most important thing to know about intelligent software is that the narrower the problem, the better it works. As a result, a good deal of energy must be spent in development trying to break big problems into tiny ones. This means that larger system implications are often overlooked in the pursuit of a problem small enough to be successful.

Great individual instances of intelligent software have very specific boundaries. For example, chatbots work best when based on a decision tree and a script. This focus on success in a small instance can produce big unintended consequences. It’s important to keep an eye on the overall system and its responses to the new tools.

The number of tools available in Talent Acquisition outnumber other tools by almost 10 to 1. New intelligent tool initiatives are most likely to start in the Recruiting silo or as a part of a larger suite initiative. Ultimate Software is an early leader when it comes to having the largest concentration of customers who actually use their intelligent tools.

Starting points seem easier when tightly bounded (point solutions) or delivered as a part of an existing system from an incumbent legacy system. But it’s important to consider the big picture. Intelligent tools in a suite will work with other applications, but can make it hard to switch providers. Point solutions seem like a good place to test the waters, but may not be compatible with your other tools and data.

You Must Begin With A Vision And Strategy

At a minimum, the HR Department needs a strategy development process with a good first draft in hand. Early commitments to vendors my become locked-in relationships. Careful decision making is critical as is the willingness to move without complete information.

The question is when, not whether, organizations will use intelligent tools. The future is inevitable. The sooner you get started, the easier it will be to keep up. Conversely, the longer you wait, the more competitive advantage you will lose.

However, starting for the sake of starting is a mistake. At a minimum you must have some idea of where you are going (vision) and how you will get there (strategy). Plan first, execute second.

2017-04-21 HRExaminer photo img sumser john bio pic IMG 3046 black and white full 200px.jpg

John Sumser is a Principal Analyst for HRExaminer.

A significant component of the strategy involves knowing where you want to go in general. Workforce planning, with a five-year horizon line, is a good way to understand the kinds of skills, traits, and abilities you want to build in the workforce. Strategic workforce planning requires an in-depth understanding of the company’s view of its future. The workforce plan is simply the set of talent acquisition and development outputs required and the execution details for getting there.

That’s simple in the saying and very complex in the doing. If you’ve spent time listening to the various ideas about the future of work and the skills required to get there, you might be experiencing a bit of overwhelm. There’s a good deal of talk about AI replacing workers willy-nilly. There’s even more talk about the remaining workers needing to acquire very important, but completely undefined, ‘new skills.’

Cutting through the noise to deliver a clear set of scenarios for future workforce composition is integral to the larger strategy conversation. The company knows where it is going. The HR input to that strategy is a combination of feasibility analysis and execution plan. It should say, “Here are the kinds and numbers of people we need; here are the obvious shortages; and, here is the plan to overcome the risk or the assertion that it’s impossible.”

How To Think About And Reskill Your Workforce

While it’s true that AI is going to have a powerful impact of the way we work, it’s no longer clear that there will be significant job losses. It turns out that completely driverless cars and trucks are a long way off. And if drivers are no longer managing and maintaining the fleet, someone will have to. At a minimum, workers will need to learn how to process new kinds of information. They will also need to know how to argue with machines.

As I mentioned, silly exercises of administrivia are not long for the world. Expect this to accelerate with COVID-19 impacts to the workforce. Repeated tasks that can be replaced with decision trees or scripts that handle every case the same way will sweep through HR Departments over the next four or five years.

In addition, there will be an onslaught of intelligent tools. Every decision will have an accompanying recommendation, suggestion, or forecast. Employees will increasingly be called on to follow, approve, or debate those outputs. At first, the task will feel superhuman, especially since it seems like the machine has all of the data. But the data in the machines is not always the only source of important information or inquiry.

Ultimately, these conversations will become a quality vs quantity debate. Employees will have to adjust to being overruled by their digital compatriots. They will simultaneously learn how to evaluate machine performance based on outcomes. One manages machines by becoming increasingly specific about the requirements for the outcome, while understanding the larger context and strategy the decisions support.