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Ready for the next generation of HR service?

Future of Work

By George Zarkadakis | May 8, 2018

Delivering HR services to employees is like an ambulance. Not something that you think about every day, but essential when you need it. And much like an ambulance, HR services need to be responsive and proactive. Too often they’re neither and the ambulance becomes lost in a maze of backstreets.

Woman sitting on bench using laptop

Because HR services is often regarded as a cost center, the aim has usually been to reduce costs, often at the expense of reengineering the process to make it more efficient. HR is often offshored to a low-cost vendor. Quality of service suffers, which reflects badly on corporate culture, undermines employee loyalty, and as a consequence, can lead to recruitment, retention and succession-planning issues.

Creating agile HR for agile companies

As organizations become more agile and knowledge intensive, many have started to look at ways of automating HR services and providing an improved experience to their internal customers. Instead of risking employees losing time and patience in a maze of multiple systems with disparate data and accounts, introducing portals has enabled HR departments to start basic data integration to deliver a more responsive service with a level of personalization.

Now these same digital technologies are moving to a new level of automation, which includes the use of artificial intelligence. Whether it is digital assistants like Siri or bots on messaging applications, the trend is towards reimagining how humans communicate with machines. If the aim is cost reduction, then Robotic Process Automation technology can replace offshored human workers with a digital workforce that performs at the lowest cost level.

Reimagining the front desk experience

It’s on the virtual front desk, where employee experience really matters, that chatbots can make a profound difference. Artificial intelligence and, in particular, Natural Language Processing has become so advanced that it not only understands free text by reading it but it can also create a meaningful response. By accessing the data in back-end applications the chatbots can go from responsive to proactive, offering real solutions to users’ problems. Machine learning algorithms can enhance chatbots’ capability by providing recommendation engines, akin to what Netflix and Amazon do when they suggest content or products based on previous searches or purchases.

More evolved versions of chatbots can act as personal HR advisors that deliver tailored content to each user. And contrary to what cynics might think, there’s available research to suggest that employees are comfortable interacting with chatbots on factual or transactional inquiries, suggesting that they may have a much more extensive application.

The bottom line

These next generation technologies offer an enormous opportunity to reinvent HR service delivery at the back end as well as the front. HR leaders should take charge of these capabilities and use them to support the digital transformation of the business to make their internal customers feel happy, secure and more productive. In short, they can get themselves out of the passenger seat and start navigating the HR ambulance using GPS, saying goodbye to the backstreets of confusion forever.

About the Author

Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Digital Incubator and leader of the Future of Work Strategy Advisory Services for Great Britain and Western Europe

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