The future of work is already here. Automation and artificial intelligence are no longer hot topics these days. Cognitive applications such as IBM Watson have a broad impact, and the HR function continues to reel under their influence—from automated analytics to bot-based interactions, the world of HR is facing disruption. Cognitive automation technologies, like machine learning and natural language processing, have gone a step further: They can understand a problem and find a solution. Towards this end, it would be worthwhile to see how global HR views cognitive solutions. According to a survey by IBM, a significant portion of HR executives viewed positively the role of cognitive HR solutions:

  • 46% consider that cognitive technology will transform their talent acquisition capability
  • 42% believe that cognitive technology will bring substantial operational efficiencies to talent acquisition
  • 49% of HR leaders believe that cognitive technology will transform their payroll and benefits administration
  • 39% report that HR processes are overly complex and will benefit from cognitive technology
  • 40% believe that cognitive technology is well suited to address the digital skill gap
The march to cognitive HR

Today, the concept of viewing HR as a cost centre is no longer valid. However, the function is constantly burdened with lower budgets and higher expectations. HR staff are expected to make operational improvements, but then they are not provided with the capital and time to make a meaningful difference. All this at the cost of neglecting higher impact services. In other words, the HR invariably neglects focussing on higher-value services at the expense of the basics. For example, the monthly administrative processes are so overwhelming that it is impossible to redeploy HR resources to focus on coaching managers and developing engagement action plans. Given the challenges that HR often faces, cognitive technologies can be viewed as a boon rather than a bane.

As technologies shape and improve the way work gets done, it is necessary for HR to leverage them to stay relevant. To cynics who discount the role cognitive solutions, the writing on the wall is clear: cognitive solutions are in no way intended to replace human expertise. Instead, they are designed to augment and aid the HR function with additional skillsets. For instance, cognitive tech have proven capabilities transform talent acquisition—from intelligent recruiting and simplifying complex processes in HR back office operations to fortifying existing talent with personalised learning and career development. What can be a better way to gauge this statement than a real-life example?

Let’s take the case of an engineering placement firm specializes in the placement of 14,000 contractors each year. To better serve clients, the company collaborated with a technology provider to introduce a cognitive computing solution. The business challenges included a lengthy hiring process and misalignment of candidates. The tech company provided a solution that addressed these challenges with new ways of sourcing and matching, including digital interviews, online personality assessments and increased data types. The solution included natural language processing and cognitive search capabilities to aid in faster response turnaround time. The placement firm was able to fill positions more quickly than the competition, with 83% increase in matching improvement and a 6-time reduction in matching attempts. The result: greater customer satisfaction and worker fulfilment. It earned a greater market share.

It is high time that organizations understand that cognitive tech plays an important role in driving profit and performance—with a healthy dose of disruptions. To fuel business growth, these disruptions require a workforce that is more flexible and high performing.