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Using Artificial Intelligence for Authentic Human Capital Management Problems

Technology is created to make our lives easier, but figuring out how to use new technologies or dealing with technological failures often creates the opposite effect. From a psychological perspective, dealing with hassles at work produced by navigating complex technologies can be more than annoying. Research has shown that these kinds of frustrating disruptions uniquely contribute to job stress, and over time can have negative impacts on employee health, performance, and satisfaction.

A few promising tech innovations and trends may help to substantially reduce technology-related disruptions of workflow. One of those innovations is cloud-based talent management. By moving large, complex, highly customized on premise solutions to the cloud, business and HR leaders can shed the burdens associated with such software by embracing the advantages offered by cloud-based talent management, including:

  • Standardized processes– options are a good thing; too many options are a time-consuming distraction.
  • Integration and simplicity– as modern jobs become increasing complex and intertwined, technology must complement these changes by enabling this integration, and doing so as simply as possible, so that those carrying out the work can focus on the work.
  • Access to innovation that keeps pace with the modern world- as an old boss of mine used to say, “if you don’t make dust, you will eat dust.”

With its new partnership with Slack, SAP SuccessFactors is seeking to knock down even more barriers related to technology by using artificially intelligent (AI) chat bots. This partnership is part of a move by SAP SuccessFactors to integrate greater intelligence into HCM technology systems, making them easier to use. This kind of technology has several applications. For example, have you ever wished you had a personal assistant to walk you through:

  • The process of completing an HCM related process such as setting goals or allocating compensation
  • Navigating complex health benefits programs, and selecting the appropriate options for you and your family
  • A new system or application, pointing out important functionalities, and answering basic questions about how they improve your work flow.

By anticipating our needs and communicating using more natural, text based language, AI chat bots remove a lot of the process constraints and frustrations associated with HCM methods. But could AI chat bots take the next step and actually perform managerial tasks such as providing feedback or assessing performance? To answer this question, let’s review a few key elements that contribute to a successful relationship between an employee and a manager:

  1. Trust– For feedback to be taken seriously, the receiver must trust that his/her feedback provider has their best interests in mind, will use the information provided by them for their benefit, or at the very least not to their detriment, and that these evaluations are administered fairly across the total workforce. Past research has shown that in general, people trust other people, more than they trust computers.
  2. Expertise– Research has also shown that feedback must come from someone possessing the necessary expertise. For many tasks, computer-based systems certainly possess as much, or much, much more expertise than any one person. However, for other tasks, like non-routine physical labor, or unstructured problem solving, computers are no match for the human brain-body duo.
  3. Empathy– Research has also shown that expressions of empathy within a feedback conversation improve a person’s willingness to accept and use the feedback. Because by its very nature, empathy requires feeling, and as promising as AI is, it’s nowhere near capable of processing and understanding human emotion.

Based on this research and the current state of technology, expecting AI to demonstrate and develop trust, expertise and empathy seems a bit far-fetched. In the meantime, lets focus on using AI chat bots for things we know they can do well: making existing HCM technology far easier to use.

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