Forget the stories of cold and impersonal technologies destined to take the corporate role of human beings. According to Melanie Hache, Strategy Director of the leading IT multinational corporation, Oracle, new technologies will have a very different role: “They will make a fundamental contribution to facilitating work processes, helping candidates choose the most suitable positions, and helping HR managers give more weight to human and personal considerations during performance reviews.”
Here is what she told us.
New technologies are often seen as a threat to employment, and as replacing human beings. Is it possible to adopt a more positive interpretation of the situation? Can new technologies and artificial intelligence be used to improve the management of human resources, and even help them to grow?
It is true that the focus, over the last thirty years, has been on how technology has replaced jobs that used to be carried out by people, for example in the bureaucratic sphere. So far, the focus in HR has been on simplifying and automating processes. Today, however, through technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence, we have reached the point where digitisation can finally offer employees, and not just employers, a new experience and new opportunities.
How does this occur?
In two concrete ways. One concerns the selection of candidates, and the other involves the management of employees. Young graduates seeking work are often frustrated because their CVs are often met with impersonal rejection emails, sent perhaps at three in the morning. This can be perceived as a lack of respect, and can damage the company’s image by spoiling relations with those who would have liked to work for them. Activating a chatbot (programs that simulate conversations between robots and human beings, Ed.) can be very useful, for example, as it gives potential candidates the chance to have a personalised “chat” regarding the position sought. In this way, candidates can outline their experiences and expectations, and perhaps even be directed towards other opportunities. This not only saves time, but also turns the selection phase into an instrument of growth for candidates. As regards employee management, take for example a manager at the head of a team of more than ten people. Time being at a premium, he cannot be familiar with the personal situation of every employee or with what might affect their productivity, such as whether they have children, or if they engage in corporate volunteer programmes. This is important information for anyone managing a team, not just to understand their staff’s availability, but also to detect individual characteristics that are worth enhancing. Having access to analytical tools that collect this type of information, such as applications, can save time and at the same time can help to manage resources more effectively.
Chatbots, for example, don’t just save time, but also transform the selection phase into an instrument of growth for candidates.
What are the most interesting experiments being conducted at the international level to develop a virtuous relationship between new technologies and human resources?
A case in point, among our customers, is a large retail multinational with a workforce of 300,000 employees. One of their most critical issues was organising employee shifts, also as a result of a very high staff turnover, with considerable associated costs. Automated sift management introduced a dual advantage. First of all, it lightened the managers’ organisational workload, leaving them freer to focus on other work aspects that used to be neglected, thereby increasing production efficiency. Secondly, workers were given the opportunity to organise themselves independently, with positive effects on their relationship with the company - because empowered employees experience greater organisational trust.
How can new technologies and artificial intelligence be used to promote employee engagement?
Firstly, data analysis can simplify classic processes such as the assessment, organisation and management of activities and of time. This gives employees a clearer picture of their situation, their objectives, and of the potential impact of training on their work. It is an instrument that promotes transparency, helping people feel more secure and often increasing their efficiency.
Then, there’s also the fact that both artificial intelligence and new technologies can channel important information. Think, for example, of companies that adopt smart-working, but don’t give their employees enough information on how to sign up for it. When used to deliver information, these tools offer companies the chance to follow the latest trends, thus saving time.
Over the past two years, we have witnessed the democratisation of HR digitisation. Nowadays, it is no longer just large businesses that seek to innovate, but small and medium-sized enterprises as well.
What is the current situation in Italy? Are Italian companies moving in the direction of HR digitisation?
Italy always feels like its trailing behind, but that’s not the case. Italians are not afraid of change, and this helps.
Over the past two years, we have witnessed the democratisation of HR digitisation. Nowadays, it is no longer just large businesses that seek to innovate, but small and medium-sized enterprises as well. This strategy has been generally accepted as a means of improving competitiveness. The need to digitise processes, including those relating to personnel management, has become an integral part of the corporate culture of many companies.
What digital tools does Oracle believe will become fundamental in 2018 for HR professionals? And what interesting digital trends should candidates keep an eye on?
We only ever invest on trends that we think will grow in the coming years. Artificial intelligence is certainly one of these. Our customers have finally understood the importance of this technology. It is extremely useful for staff selection. Candidates have many tools at their disposal, and their approach to job seeking should become increasingly similar to that of recruiters. They should follow the latest digital applications, many of which allow candidates to have a proper conversation with the HR department, focusing on their profile and competences. After all, learning models are also changing considerably. Paris’s Ecole 42 provides an interesting example: it is the first school in the world to have neither teachers nor classrooms, and where everything is digital. It is a very open model, with a very broad training potential. As a candidate, I would invest time in strengthening the skills required by companies I would like to work for. Training on these technologies is a value added; it allows candidates to develop a unique profile - and in business, uniqueness is no longer something to be feared, but something on which to focus.