Human capital management technology is on the cusp of a revolution: from a focus on automating human resources (HR) processes to one on enabling people to do their best work with the help of technology.
One of the ways technology is becoming increasingly people-focused is in its interface, with human capital management (HCM) vendors designing tools in a way that makes using them easy and intuitive. For example, while in the past employees needed to learn workflows and file locations in order to get things done, they can now dialogue directly with the software, engaging in a chatbot-style conversation to get instant information and quickly take action.
This isn’t a far-off future innovation — these technologies are already here. But are organizations ready to embrace them?
We conducted a survey with 53 HR leaders spanning organizations in 19 different industries to learn more about how people view the value of these innovations.
Here’s what we learned.
Today’s Workforce is Ready for Something New
Technology is pervasive in every aspect of our lives, and work is no exception. But while the technology we use in our daily lives has evolved to meet our every need, that which we use at work often falls short. Sixty-eight percent (!) of our respondents indicated that the employees and managers working in their organizations feel routinely frustrated by outdated work technology. Over half expressed concerns that this technological environment would impact their ability to attract and keep top talent in the future. Cumbersome workplace technology is not just a matter of frustration — in today’s increasingly social, visible, and transparent world, it’s a talent issue as well.
The Stakeholders Are the People
Respondents identified many advantages that chatbots could bring to the business, but by far the most commonly identified benefit was the ability to create positive employee experiences. On the other hand, when asked what some potential barriers might be to adopting this technology, the most commonly mentioned pitfall was that members of the workforce might doubt the accuracy or usefulness of the tools. Potential issues commonly seen with enterprise technology adoption, like senior leadership buy-in and change management requirements, were virtually nowhere to be seen. This suggests that this technology is familiar to people all the way up the organizational ladder—the business case may not be necessary when we’ve been using conversational tools in our day-to-day lives for years. But it also suggests that HR’s focus has shifted from partnering with the business to also partnering with the people, increasingly recognizing that enabling positive employee experiences at the individual level drives organizational success.
The Bots Are Tools that Strictly Simplify — But They Don’t Have to Be
The most commonly identified use case for conversational, chatbot-type technology was enabling employee and manager self-service, followed closely by the automation of routine, repetitive tasks. Indeed, conversational interfaces can be used to filter HR FAQs, or to save employees time when they are doing relatively simple things like clocking in or searching for a specific form. But if we consider the ability of bots to simplify people’s lives as the first step in how they add value, the next steps are far more impactful.
Beyond saving people time and administrative burden, conversational interfaces can be used to advise. One of the key ways HCM technology adds value to businesses is by providing a rich repository of data on their people. Imagine how powerful this technology would be if the tool could put into natural language what all that data meant. Conversational interfaces could be leveraged to inform strategic decision-making, from intelligent promotion recommendations to instantly creating staffing and workforce planning scenarios.
Every single interaction with this technology would yield further data. In the same way customer experience technology has been used to learn more about how customers engage, interact, and ultimately purchase, HR professionals could leverage additional engagement data to learn and understand and clarify more about their people.
And finally, as the employee experience becomes a key component of an engaged, productive workforce, there is increasing recognition among enterprise technology vendors that this spans beyond the boundaries of HR. A manager, for instance, has many complex tasks to complete throughout the day, some of which are HR-related and some of which aren’t—but they tend not to distinguish and rather view their to-do list as “things I need to do.” As bots get increasingly sophisticated, they will be a key way to connect across different solutions to deliver one seamless “work experience” to the people using them, responsive to questions, tasks, and actions of all kinds.
Conversational interfaces in HR technology are here, and their benefits are numerous. HR leaders are already aware of the positive impact these tools can have on their peoples’ day to day work experiences, and how that translates to bottom-line benefits over time. But the leaders who think broadly about the value of these innovations—extending beyond simplifying already simple tasks to guiding, facilitating, and augmenting the more complex aspects of peoples’ jobs—are the ones who will pull ahead competitively when it comes to attracting, engaging, and retaining the best talent. HR technology has evolved beyond automating processes to enabling people. As we explore the role of emerging technology in today’s workplace, our thinking around what it means to truly enable people to do things better, faster, and more effectively must evolve as well. The tools are already here. It’s time to put them to work.