My husband started a brand new job two months into lockdown. The full process from application through to interview and onboarding was completed entirely remotely.
To this day, he still hasn’t set foot in the office, or in fact seen any of his co-workers below the neck. For many this is the reality of starting a new job in 2020 and, coupled with an en masse shift to remote working, it’s paving the way for some radical innovation.
Pre-pandemic induction processes were usually entirely face-to-face and typically included lengthy introductions to policies, practices, teams and structure. There might have been an office tour, some awkward introductions and some team bonding over coffee/beers/badminton. Now companies are facing the challenge of delivering important HR practices like induction programmes quickly, effectively and wholly through digital means.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added pressure to all aspects of business operations, but HR has arguably faced the greatest upheaval – it does after all deal directly with the one aspect of everyday work which has been affected the most - interpersonal relations.
Amid the disruption, it’s hard not to step back and consider where the real tangible innovations lurk. Office work is now conducted entirely via a computer screen, with much more of our daily tasks and interactions now generate analysable, trackable data. This opens up new opportunities for data-reliant AI systems to help fill the breach and smooth the ruffles caused by the lack of in-person engagement.
Unpacking this HR AI theme with some of our clients recently, we’ve uncovered three core areas where we’ve found AI offers real, accessible and possible efficiency now: recruitment, induction and retention, and staff wellbeing.
Whether a recruiter or a hopeful employee it all starts at the application process. Employers are beginning to realise it’s just as important to sell themselves to applicants as it is the other way around. As the ‘war for talent’ rages on, AI proves to be a handy tool in any recruiter’s arsenal.
For example McDonalds have used Textio to automate the writing of job descriptions; by analysing past application results, they can generate job ads that more closely resonate with intended audiences, reducing accidental bias and potential alienation.
If, like IKEA, reducing candidate drop off is your goal, platforms like XOR could be your solution; by deploying a relatively simple chat bot, Ikea increased the number of applications received though their job site. Features like filtering and recommending jobs based on qualifications and the ‘bot’s 24/7 availability to resolve issues instantly helped greatly reduce the number of incomplete applications as well as reduce the time taken for applications to be completed and processed.
For larger organisations, sifting through volumes of applications is a primary drain on resources. This was the challenge L’Oréal set out to tackle using AI to greatly reduce the time taken to process and screen applicants. By setting predefined parameters, recruiters can automatically filter out unsuccessful applicants and simultaneously limit human bias, narrowing down and arranging interviews with only the most appropriate candidates - all with reduced human supervision and input.
Regardless of recruitment concerns, hiring the best suited employee is always the key goal. Whether your company struggles with attracting the right candidates, increasing application numbers or simply sifting through a sea of applicants, AI can offer much-needed solutions to reduce pressures on core HR teams.
So you’re in the door. Welcome to the team! What now? Much like recruitment, AI presents opportunities to streamline and automate the induction and onboarding process, especially as we enter a new norm of home working.
Regardless of organisation size or industry, step one of induction involves the distribution of routine information like wifi passwords, login information and company policies. AI solutions like Botbot or Beekeeper can compile all of the information a new start needs in one easy-to-manage, accessible tool, while offering 24-hour answers to mundane or even awkward questions without disrupting busy HR teams. By offering read receipts or e-signatures HR managers can be assured that the necessary information is being received without physical monitoring or constant check ins.
As Microsoft Teams consultants, we too have built and tested a number of integrated solutions to ease HR challenges. One example is a Teams integration tool which can scan uploaded or photographed documents to extract key data automatically, while our latest tool allows new employees to find out the right person to speak to on a given subject. The responses are based on an analysis of colleagues’ online behaviours and contributions, limiting the amount of work the organisation needs to do to set this up. In a world where you can no longer turn to your neighbour for a quick question this tool, and others like it, could be invaluable in supporting new starts with navigating their way around the new business with confidence.
Despite all the above, perhaps the most challenging aspect of HR is staff retention and wellbeing. Happy staff work harder and are more likely to stay in their role and with an organisation longer, and offering a well-structured work-life balance is vital in ensuring staff remain motivated and less stressed at their job. Even automation of the simplest tasks can help cut down the friction of administrative tasks and make for a smoother employee experience.
Consider annual leave requests, for example. By allowing staff to quickly request, edit and cancel annual leave requests or shift changes through an automated interface, solutions like Senseforth give staff greater autonomy and control over their day-to-day lives and a faster resolution to queries and requests, leading to a more fulfilling work-life balance and greater satisfaction at work.
Spotting a demotivated or unhappy team is a constant challenge for HR managers, even moreso now employees are no longer visible and their needs less easily identified. ‘Bots like HazelHQ aim to solve this by providing regular updates to managers about staff morale through regular monitoring of habits and surveys of staff opinions. HazelHQ can also make recommendations and offer guidance on how to rectify key areas of concern to ensure staff issues are always being attended to.
Another area key to employee satisfaction is training and development. AI-powered solutions like Lessonly have arisen to offer employees better control over their own career paths and support managers in helping them develop their teams. By identifying team member strengths and weaknesses, it helps managers work with their colleagues to build individual development plans to target both praise and support where most needed.
HR has, like every other business area, faced unprecedented challenges throughout 2020. Key areas like staff recruitment, induction and retention will always remain a key focus for businesses large and small, but investing in AI solutions now will lighten the load and pave the way for a more connected, healthy, motivated and largely remote workforce for many years to come.
If you would like to discuss an HR bot project or to arrange a demo of the bots we have developed and tested in our lab so far, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.