When I began working in human resources more than 15 years ago, most of our systems were task oriented (time management, payroll), and most of the interfaces were not visible to employees. Years later, HR evolved to be a business partner, and we started to use organizational design, leadership development, and skill-building to deliver on our business strategy. We also started to use HR systems (employee surveys, skills assessments)as a means to gather insights, which would allow us to make better decisions.
Now the role of HR has become transformational. The world is currently undergoing a technological transformation that is impacting our countries, businesses, and customers. The internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and big data are creating new ecosystems and opening new possibilities for our companies.
Employee’s expectations in terms of systems have also changed and there is more focus on the experience. Regardless of age or generation, people are already having a digital and AI experience in the consumer world and they are expecting the same from their employers. For instance, Netflix uses AI to give us suggestions on movies or series that we should watch, based on the ones we have already watched. If we translate this to HR, we can leverage this technology by replicating those experiences. In the case of Signify(formerly Philips Lighting), we use an AI-based learning platform, Learning@Signify, that suggests employees learning content relevant for them.
Digitization is also affecting the jobs and skills that our businesses need to be successful. Not too long ago, I remember having to go to the bank in person, and now I do all of my transactions through an app. As a consequence, banks have had to start recruiting employees with skills such as cybersecurity and app development, instead of customer service representatives.
In this case, HR can take advantage of AI to adapt more effectively to the changes driven by technology. As you know, AI is the capacity of machines to think and learn. There are two algorithms within AI that HR can leverage the most: machine learning and deep learning. Through machine learning, we feed the system with data, for example, of the skills that we need in a certain job (that is,cybersecurity), and then the machine can give us insights about who would be the best match. In the case of deep learning, we work with larger amounts of data than machine learning. It is used for facial or voice recognition and language translation. For instance, in HR, this could be used to identify if a person is a good speaker. The system would learn through representations (videos)to identify patterns (intonation, pace, eloquence, articulation) of what a good speaker is. When confronted with new data, it will be able to assess if the person is a good speaker or not. The algorithm will learn and perfection itself, as it receives data.
"In addition to a complete alignment with the legal and IT landscape, AI must be part of a broader HR digital strategy and must also fit within the company's vision and purpose"
An approach to use AI and other new technologies in HR should not be done in isolation. In addition to complete alignment with the legal and IT landscape, it must be part of a broader HR digital strategy and must also fit within the company’s vision and purpose.
In the case of Signify, we are the world leader in lighting, and we have been in the market for more than 125 years. We have started the journey to go from conventional lighting to LED and connected lighting to lighting for the IoT, unlocking new value for our customers. The purpose of our company is a strong support towards an HR approach of innovation and digitization.
How can HR Become Transformational and Leverage AI and New Technologies?
Making sure that your employer branding is customer-centric. In our case, our customers are at the center of everything we do. We state that “We are the leading lighting player in the IoT space and pioneer technical innovations to delight our customers” and we are leveraging that lighting is already installed everywhere that people go, to launch our brand Interact as an IoT platform for connected lighting, systems and services.
Translating employer branding into an employee (and, candidate) experience. Employer branding should be more than a “value proposition”. In the past, the values attached to a company were more related to job security and compensation, now is all about the experience. If you sell your company as innovative and digital, you need to ensure that every step of the employees’ journey is aligned to that digital experience.
Examples of these are chatbots in career pages that support candidates to find jobs and onboarding virtual assistants. In Signify we have started to explore how to bring benefits “beyond illumination,” such as data-enabled services, LiFi, and 3D printing. To drive the transformation, we are using our Learning@Signify platform to accelerate the up skilling of our employees.
As result, AI can help us understand not only the skills needed for new jobs, but also how to buy/build those skills fast for our businesses to be successful and ahead of the game. In this way, HR can leverage AI and other new technologies, to not only to support the transformation of our companies, but to lead it.