Enabling productivity and a positive workforce experience

One of the four shifts for the Future of HR

Posted by John Brownridge, Gary Cole, Arthur Mazor, and Michael Stephan on March 13, 2019.

As three futures converge—future of enterprise, future of workforce, and future of how work gets done—the Future of HR is shifting into place as well. We’ve already explored three of the shifts HR needs to make in mind-set, focus, and lens. Today we’re focusing on the fourth shift, enablers. These are technologies that enable HR to go beyond the advancements that cloud solutions have delivered to create a truly differentiated, worker-centric, productive, and Simply Irresistible™ workforce experience. And even more, these enablers give HR the power to not only take charge of its own digital progress but also model and drive “being digital” for the rest of the enterprise.

HR deserves credit for being ahead of the game in terms of its early adoption of cloud/SaaS technology, which has given it access to a continual source of innovation with each new release. Yet, cloud isn’t a silver bullet on its own. Where HR has recently lagged behind other functions—both back-office (finance, IT) and customer-facing (sales, marketing)—is in adopting other types of enabling technology like robotics and cognitive automation/AI. With the notable exception of talent acquisition, where we’ve seen a flurry of tech-fueled innovation and increasing use of machine learning and AI, HR is too often leaving other opportunities, such as Cognitive Assistants to support services, on the table.

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

Take HR typical operational services for example. Already, many have evolved toward a High-Impact HR Operating Model that elevates the role of “traditional” HR shared services into an operational service to deliver higher-value services and play an instrumental role in curating the workforce experience. In doing so, they identified and optimized repeatable, predictable, high-volume transactions that are well understood and can follow a script. This makes HR operational services an obvious starting point for robotic and cognitive solutions to reduce the manual intensity required to complete their scope of services and further elevate the role of HR operational services within the broader shift in how HR works for the future.

That’s not to say that all transactions and interactions are suitable for automation: Where HR can really create meaningful impact and value is by considering enabling technology through the lens of its customers, striving for the right balance between productivity and empathy. This worker-centric focus is the basis for a Simply Irresistible workforce experience.

Augmenting humans with digital inside the world of HR is absolutely not limited to the HR operational services component of the HR organization. Rather, advanced digital technologies present tremendous opportunity as enablers of all roles in HR and provide the path by which HR can reach toward becoming Exponential Professionals—HR, partnered with new ways of working and empowered by automation, shifts from a supporting or partnering function to a leading function for the enterprise.

Enabling exponential
Consider two scenarios from a worker’s point of view. Scenario 1: A sales rep traveling for business is heading home on a Friday night when her flight gets canceled. In that moment, she wants a tool that can quickly find other alternatives so she can get home as scheduled. Talking live with someone and getting empathy for her situation is not as critical as efficiency/effectiveness in finding another way home, making an automated solution appropriate.

Contrast this with Scenario 2: A senior manager is returning to work after a 12-week family medical leave. He needs to reconnect with the organization and his co-workers, and may need HR assistance to transition back into his job. This is time where information is important, yet humanity and empathy count in a big way, as he may be returning from a difficult situation. Here, the human touch is essential to creating a positive experience, and the experience can blend the benefits of human touch with automation to achieve the kind of experience that drives positive engagement, productivity, and better business outcomes.

The Future of HR depends on thoughtfully navigating these very different Moments that Matter in the life of workers, blending the use of enabling technologies and human-centered approaches across functional lines. This cross-functional emphasis is important. Onboarding is a good example.

Certainly, starting a new job is a Moment that Matters to any worker. But many enterprises we talk with struggle with their onboarding process and the need to blend the “experience” of starting a new job with the nuts-and-bolts (often admin-heavy) aspects. This is where a worker-centric focus can help: When you onboard workers, you want to help them become as engaged as possible in the enterprise, you want to educate them as best you can before and as they join, and you want to them to be productive as soon as possible. So, if those are the goals of onboarding, where can enabling technology help and where is the human element important?

A Cognitive Asistant can cross functions to provide a holistic and smooth onboarding experience— assisting in HR processes involving benefits, payroll, and learning, and also IT and purchasing processes for activities like setting up a workspace and getting a computer and phone. Removing some of the legacy busy-work and duplication that infuses many typical organizational processes and procedures is where enabling technology can really make a difference. It can also help new-hires assimilate into the organization and start building a network—for example, suggesting groups they may want to join or connecting them with other recent hires.

Of course, not everything about onboarding is appropriate for automation: a Cognitive Assistant isn’t going to take you to lunch on your first day (although it may help you find the cafeteria or the closest deli). The point is, new-hires still need a human touch: The goal should be to determine, through the lens of the worker, where that touch is most useful and meaningful in the onboarding experience and where machines can be most effective.

Building the enabling layers
Today, no one technology solution can provide this seamless, irresistible experience. Enterprises should build an ecosystem of technologies and vendors to accomplish their goals, using a layered approach:

The Engagement layer is where workers interact directly with the technology, and it delivers multiple capabilities, including transactional, cognitive assistance, case management, and knowledge management. It does not need to be built on a single software solution, but the experience is one that creates a Unified Engagement Platform experience.

The Platforms and Applications layer includes both cloud-based and vendor-managed systems—some custom built—to serve broad range of needs, from core HR to payroll to learning management to rewards to performance development to wellness, and beyond.

The Enterprise Data layer pulls together HR and enterprise data, both structured and unstructured, from multiple systems and from external sources and sensing. Having this data available and accessible is what makes advanced workforce analytics and predictive modeling possible and powerful.

The Cognitive layer is the engine that powers the others, through robotic process automation (RPA), chatbots, and machine learning.

An exciting Future of HR
These technologies are changing the way we work, live and connect every day. Enterprises are realizing the power they yield to solve problems and deliver results. With so much rapidly evolving, it will feel like the Wild West for a while, though that brings energizing opportunity for adopters of these powerful enablers.

The positive effects of a Simply Irresistible experience on the workforce, productivity, and business outcomes are tremendous. Those that deploy enabling HR technologies in a thoughtful way are the best positioned for the Future of HR and to lead their enterprises to win in the market. We expect to see more and more examples of market leaders driving value through HR technology. Will your enterprise be one of them?

John Brownridge is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP. He is a thought leader in digital transformation and leads Deloitte’s Digital HR offerings in the US.

Gary Cole is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s HR Technology Strategy practice. He is an active speaker and blogger on HR-related technology trends, and has deep industry experience in financial services.

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, Deloitte’s Human Capital practice digital leader, and the global practice leader for HR Strategy & Employee Experience. Art collaborates with complex, global clients to drive business value through transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.

Michael Stephan is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the US and Global HR Transformation Leader. He develops and integrates HR service delivery models across the operations and technology spectrum, with a targeted focus on optimizing the delivery of HR services around the world.

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