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The Technological Forest and the Trees of Human Resources Technology

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 10/17/2017

Imagine if you will, a world where job applicants engage with artificial intelligence long before speaking to an actual human being, where employees of a company ask an AI-controlled device questions about benefits, and humans learn from an AI-driven teacher. Sounds like a science fiction movie doesn’t it? For Human Resource professionals around the globe, it’s less sci-fi and more just another day at the office.

Entering the Technological Forest

Put simply, AI is changing the way human resource departments function. It’s not taking humans out of the equation, only complimenting and adding efficiency to the resources. That being said… it’s important to accept that AI is merely a tree in a technological forest standing alongside other trees including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Robotics. Each of those will be discussed in greater detail moving forward, but first artificial intelligence. Defining AI within the HR Space.

Male head with puzzle piece inside

Artificial Intelligence is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as:

  1. a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers
  2. the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior

While the first definition is certainly valid, it’s the second definition that is of most significance to human resource professionals. So, how is AI in Human Resources imitating intelligent human behavior? Chances are you, as an employee, have come in contact with AI already and didn’t realize it.

Chat bots seem to be the AI of choice when it comes to companies employing the technology. Chat bots can answer questions from prospective candidates, as well as employee, and remote workers. A perfect example of this: Fareportal.

Fareportal employees have started using Amber, inFeedo’s smart AI assistant. According to their website, Amber “will talk to your employees and help you proactively find those who are unhappy or about to leave.”

The company is also employing artificial intelligence in its hiring and recruitment efforts as part of a pilot program. As HR professionals know, hiring and recruitment requires a lot of work; labor such as reading resumes, going over those resumes with managers, and talking with candidates. Fareportal hopes its AI pilot will help streamline the process by pulling information through applicant tracking systems.

The data is then used to score each applicant. Those receiving the highest scores continue through the hiring process.

Fareportal may be on to something.

According to a Randstad Sourceright study, 76 percent of 400 global human capital leaders say technology analytics is huge when considering talent engagement. 48 percent, again according to Randstad, are using analytic dashboards to manage and predict talent needs. As such, future hiring processes will likely include some form of AI to find the right candidate for the right job.

Looking at Reality Virtually

Artificial Intelligence will, at some point, be a prevalent part of Virtual Reality. Until that happens, however, VR can continue to operate in the human resources space without AI’s influence.

man using VR headset to construct modules

Virtual Reality is defined by Merriam Webster as:

  1. an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one's actions partially determine what happens in the environment; also :the technology used to create or access a virtual reality

VR seems to be most effective in training. Before allowing any new employee an opportunity to preform their job function in real life, employers are able to train and test them in virtual scenarios. Construction companies are getting in on the action in order to improve site safety, prevent injuries, and increase training success.

We look to the Bechtel Corporation as evidence.

Bechtel is collaborating with Industrial Training International (ITI) to create the most widely used crane simulator on the market. The two companies will marry their expertise in the construction and VR fields, Bechtel’s in rigging, safety, and crane operation and ITI’s VR and craft training experience, to expand the training library of crane types and practice assessments endorsed by the National Commission for Certification of Crane Operators.

“We are looking forward to working with ITI, applying our extensive experience in construction and workforce development to enhance innovative training programs that will strengthen the knowledge of craft colleagues working on projects across the world,” said Bechtel Equipment Operations president Jim Nolan. “Our collaboration with ITI will support construction industry’s efforts to use new technologies in broadening workforce development opportunities, improving safety for our people and lowering cost for our customers.”

UPS is also getting on the VR bandwagon. The company is using the technology to train drivers long before they step foot in an actual truck. In terms of training, Walmart is doing the same. They are putting new associates in training scenarios, allowing them to experience situations they will most likely encounter. One of those includes a training simulation for Black Friday.

Augmenting Reality

Not to be confused with virtual reality, augmented reality is a rising technology.

man using device for augmented reality

Augmented reality is defined by Merriam Webster as:

  1. an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera); also :the technology used to create augmented reality

As consumers, we’re seeing it more and more, especially in gaming. A perfect example: Pokémon Go.

But what is AR’s impact on the HR space? Like VR, AR can certainly serve as a training tool, but unlike VR, AR has many daily applications. A more precise answer to the question is AR will affect business processes, workflows, and employee training. What’s amazing, all of those could be impacted at the same time.

Through augmented reality the phrase jack of all trades has new meaning.

For example, a company is asked to send a home repairman to a job where furniture needs to be fixed. The problem is the repairman has no experience repairing furniture. Enter augmented reality. Knowing the specific type of furniture he’s going to repair and the problem with it would allow him to download step-by-step instructions to his smartphone. He can then overlay those using the phone and his camera and thus, be guided through the repair.

The business process was impacted by sending an unskilled worker to a job he had no training for. The workflow was affected because the worker had to lean on technology to assist in the repair. Lastly, the repairman received on the job training while fixing the furniture through use of the technology.

It’s through augmented reality we will see companies working with clients in a wide variety of industries regardless of mission.

The Robotic Workforce

It’s difficult not to imagine a science fiction movie when talking about robotics.

blue robotic arm in use

The topic is defined by Merriam Webster as:

  1. technology dealing with design, construction, and operation of robots in automation.

For a long time, robots have been employed on industrial assembly lines. That’s no longer the case. Additionally, robots are showing up in offices, hospitals, and schools, warehouses, fulfillment centers, and small manufacturing centers. That sounds great for employers, but it worries employees.

A recent report by Price Waterhouse Cooper says 38% of US jobs could be lost to automation by the early 2030s. The sectors most impacted: transportation and storage, manufacturing, and wholesale and resale. Health and social work sectors seem to be at a lower risk. On the flipside, however, some say robotics increases job opportunities. IDC reports spending on robotics will reach $135.4 billion by 2019. That’s up a whopping $71 billion from just two years ago. $32 billion of that accounts for services in training, deployment, integration, and consulting. Translation: new jobs.

Robots, in any case, are here to stay.

The Future Unkown

With technology marching further into the HR space, it’s difficult for some to view it as any less than an invasion. The reality is it’s more of a revolution. The difficulties for HR professionals will be finding a way to apply new technologies to their daily, professional acts. The use of technology is not mandatory, but it is necessary to find the best talent available thus staying ahead of competitors and building better client relationships.

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 10/17/2017