IT Leadership Opinion

Technology & Automation Makes HR More Human: Emily HE, Oracle

Gone are the days when human resources was a customary recruitment and management function only. Today, with millennials joining the workforce and productivity being a top ask, the demands from HR have increased manifold. Also, the employers now look for a bigger technology push to transform HR into a function that delivers bang on attracting, developing, engaging, retaining and managing people. In its modern avatar, cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) solution has emerged a clear winner. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of global mid-market and large enterprises will have invested in a cloud-deployed HCM suite for administrative HR and talent management. Emily HE, Senior Vice President, Oracle Applications Product Development spoke to dynamicCIO.com about the emerging global and local HR trends and how is technology making an impact on the function.

Below are the excerpts:

DynamicCIO (DCIO): Owing to the increasing focus of organisations on developing their people/workforce to cater to changing business needs, Human Capital Management has gained wider traction. Tell us about the contemporary trends that you see in this space?

Emily HE (EH): In past, technology was used to digitise information, quantify business processes and connect people. Today, technology is being used to create new business models. Grab (Singapore), Uber (globally) are technology companies than transportation companies. They have disrupted and shaken the technology industry. Similarly, Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry. That’s just one trend. The other important trend is unprecedented pace of change. While it took Television 13 years to reach 50 million households whereas voice devices took only two years to reach 50 million households. By end of 2019, in the US alone, there will be 85 million households using voice devices. Technology has started reshaping the way humans connect with machines and is redefining their relationship.

There are a couple of ways we are using the emerging technology to transform Human Resource (HR). The first is user experience. We see employees increasingly use conversational User Interface (UI) in their daily lives whether it’s Siri, Alexa or any virtual assistants. In future, more people will use voice and text to access HR information and execute workflows. Similarly, technology is no longer about executing business processes. The systems can now recommend insights and next best actions. For example, my iPhone tells me when I should go to work because it has integrated the traffic information with my meetings. Technology and automation, in the future, will have immense impact on how we develop and manage employees, how we provide feedback and how we retain them.

DCIO: The human element has always played a predominant role in HR/employee life cycle management. The technology disruptions have changed it fairly. How do you envision the future of tech-based HR?

EH: True, historically HR has been a very human-centric function. But after all the evolution that has taken place, we’re finally at a stage where technology can truly make relationships look more human. The way we interface with technology now with natural sensory systems, voice etc. the day is not far when people can use their thoughts to direct the software/system. Virtual Reality is a great example. People are using very natural ways to connect with technology. The new digital assistants is very revolutionary. An article in New York Times says: For many kids, who grow up in New York, their first three words are mama, dada, and Alexa. That’s how technology is revolutionising the lives. We see digital mentors, digital coaches, digital advisors, digital assistants who can do things for you. That makes me believe that technology will make work more human.

It is true technology will replace jobs, but new jobs will also be created. HR professionals will have go through this decisive shift where they need to think through what jobs are being created, how do they help employees cultivate new skill sets to embrace new jobs etc. These are the things we’re jointly exploring with our customers.

DCIO: When we talk of technology-enabled HCM, mostly it’s for the white-collar jobs. However, there’s a large blue-collared workforce which is not as tech-savvy. How do concepts like AI or Conversational UI take help them adapt tech?

EH: It’s a fantastic question. I think concepts of Conversational UI and digital assistants are going to make enterprise software more valuable and friendlier to the blue-collar workers. Simply by giving a voice command to the digital assistant, they can access the HR software anywhere through mobile phone, without having to log into the HR portal. We’ve recently launched our first purpose-built, HR-specific digital assistant, which allows employees to seek resolution to their typical HR questions. With these digital assistants, the response time to mundane HR queries have reduced drastically and has freed a huge bandwidth. Using this new paradigm, we envision a future where business processes will be happening in the background, so people no longer have to log into a system and go through the workflow. They can use voice to access information, and get approvals. The required data is directly connected to the UI for usage.

DCIO: You spoke about an HR-specific digital assistant. How does it work? What’s the AI platform that it uses?

EH: Oracle has the HCM cloud that includes global processes, recruitment, on-boarding and talent management. We have a chatbot platform that allows companies to build their own chatbot. They can do it irrespective of which cloud – HR, CX or supply chain – they use. For the HCM cloud, we have built something out of the box to give our customers a head start in building digital assistance. They don’t have to build the chatbot from scratch. There are about 20 questions that employees generally ask e.g. pay-check, leave balance, on-boarding process, promotion policies etc. The data comes from the HCM cloud. We get both the HR data and the workflow data. Actually, we don’t have a voice devices per se; you use whatever voice you have on your iPhone or Alexa, or Slack – whatever platform you want to use.

The other interesting thing we’ve understood is that to make the digital assistant do right stuff; the machine also needs to learn over a period of time. Machines have started knowing various questions coming from the employees and understand the nuances of how they are asking questions. Over time, as the system gets smarter, more questions will get added.

DCIO: There was an AI-LinkedIn integration that was announced sometime last year. How does it work to provide an enhanced employee engagement or talent acquisition/retention?

EH: The LinkedIn partnership is very exciting piece of news. I was the one who (sort of) crafted this last year. It is revolutionary in the talent industry. Having partnered with LinkedIn for years, we leverage the LinkedIn API to bring in its data when people apply for jobs through LinkedIn. Over the last few years, what we realised is that a growing number of people use both LinkedIn and Oracle recruiting solution to manage their recruiting process and it’s become quite cumbersome. Customers suggested us to have a deeper integration so they can have a more streamlined candidate experience, and finally employee experience.

To enable that, we’ve worked on a few integrations.

The first one is related to the recruiter. If you’re a recruiter and you’re using LinkedIn recruiter connect, you can import the transactional recruiting data from Oracle, like requisition details, position details etc. That helps in streamlining the recruiting process. If you’re using Oracle solution, we have now embedded search, so without having to leave Oracle you can do LinkedIn search resulting in a seamless experience.

For candidates, when they apply for jobs using Oracle, they can see the LinkedIn members in their network who are already working for the same company. It is great for candidates to familiarise with the company. They can reach out to them directly for referrals.

For the employees, there are a couple of things we’ve done. The first one is the talent profile integration. Today, when you apply for a job using Oracle recruiting, unless you apply through LinkedIn, you don’t have any data about your prior experience. So, when you are working in the company, unless you tell us specifically, your experience and skill sets and competency, we have no idea. But now employees can import LinkedIn data into Oracle recruiting or into Oracle HR/HCM cloud and they can select what skill sets, what competencies, what experience they want to surface within the company. Every time they update their LinkedIn profile, they can import that data into Oracle HCM cloud. By doing so, we’ll have visibility into everything they bring to the table and surface job opportunities.

The last thing for employers. With the acquisition of lynda.com (a leading online learning platform), LinkedIn has now become leader in that space. Today, continuous development of employees is a vital requirement. You can’t stop at just developing their function-specific skills. They want to develop their skills in all areas of their career. With this, you can access all the learning resources on LinkedIn, assign them to your employees, and more importantly, track the progress of how they’re consuming the content.

So those are the integrations we are doing with LinkedIn.

DCIO: Which industries are more susceptible to adopt Oracle HCM cloud and is it a customisable solution?

 EH: The Oracle HCM cloud, compared to (for example) supply chain is a more horizontally applicable product. While we have customers in every key industry, the dominant industries using it are professional services because it’s very knowledge-worker intensive. The second one is financial services. The third one is retail. However, higher education and healthcare are also prominent sectors.

The product is highly configurable, so you can extend the product with our PaaS solution to build vertical-specific functionality. Globally, companies JP Morgan and Wells Fargo are using the Oracle HCM cloud. In India, Genpact and Apollo Hospital are few of the customers.

Image courtesy: hr-innovation.co

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