It’s no secret that AI technology is becoming more prevalent within the corporate world. When implemented appropriately, there is an opportunity — especially in the HR industry — for AI to allow professionals to do their jobs more efficiently. In fact, a recent report by IBM found that 66% of CEOs believe technologies like this can have a profound impact on the work of HR.
However, the barrier to entry can often be the perception that technology prohibits human connection. Many people believe that AI will remove jobs and take away personal interactions with colleagues. In a recent study by my company, we learned that 53% of HR professionals were worried that the increased use of AI would take away their ability to interact with co-workers in the future. However, 79% did agree that using AI tools and technology will help them be more productive at their job.
So how do we marry the human factor of work with technology’s efficiencies? The answer is clear: empathy.
Here are three ways implementing empathetic AI technology can benefit HR professionals:
1. Empathetic technology evolves to meet human needs.
As HR professionals, one of our main objectives is taking care of our workforce. This comes in many forms, from supporting employees in difficult situations to developing a welcoming culture to providing best-in-class benefits. Often, this work is rooted in feedback that provides a window into employees’ minds, hearts and lives.
AI technology can capture data at a higher rate and more efficiently than humans, providing a more robust data pool to analyze and understand our workforce’s challenges, needs and wants. Additionally, AI will help organize and report that data into tangible, actionable insights that map back to caring for your specific workforce in the most impactful way. For example, my company’s virtual personalized benefits assistant Sofia uses AI and machine learning with natural language processing tools to learn and evolve with each human interaction. She builds capabilities, knowledge and human response recognition over time, which allows her to better understand the needs of each individual employee — and ultimately serve as a more human-like resource.
Gartner predicted that conversational platforms (such as assistants or chatbots) would be a top technology trend this year and would improve employee self-service. While an exciting trend, it’s also new territory for most employees and HR professionals in their day-to-day work. It can be intimidating for some to work with a predictive tool and worrying to others that the growth and evolution of AI technology could cost them their jobs.
As leaders, we need to alleviate some of these pressures by bridging the awareness gap between employees and technology, and showing them this technology is their partner in success, not their competition. By creating technology that is empathetic at the core, these AI applications will be more responsive to human needs and emotions, which in turn will increase the functionality of the technology, productivity levels of the business, and comfort and trust levels between the technology and employees.
2. Empathetically designed technology creates options for employees.
Implementing AI technologies can create choices for employees. For example, during annual enrollment, in addition to the traditional forms of communication such as email or phone support, AI technology provides more options for communicating with employees that are more convenient for them, such as the use of a chatbot.
Empathy involves meeting people where they are, and AI can help answer that call. Empathetic AI technologies can field simpler questions with no wait times, freeing up some of the call center volume for cases that need more support. Also, AI technology is capable of being available 24/7, providing a resource for those employees who need access outside of the normal business hours. For example, our virtual personal benefits assistant handled 12% of chats for clients after working hours during last year’s annual enrollment. This option saves your employees from the stress of finding time to call or live chat with someone during work and keeps the HR team from having to field a heap of simpler questions each day.
As we know, employee needs are not one size fits all, and empathetically designed technology can stretch across a broad range of needs while operating at maximum efficiency.
3. Empathetic technology frees up time for important human connections.
Whether it’s an extra 30 minutes to put through those expense reports or 15 more minutes at the park with their kids, everyone is looking for more time in their day. Many HR professionals, especially for smaller or one-person departments, spend most of their time on administrative paperwork or examining data. AI complements HR roles with the capability to assist with talent acquisition by sifting through resumes and onboarding new employees, as well as assisting during performance evaluation season.
The technology can also apply solutions faster, freeing up much-needed time to help employees with more complex needs and focus on the “human” aspects of the role. And at the end of the day, that is really the best part of the HR profession: the time spent with employees, leaders and partners to create a better workplace and being able to put the “human” back into human resources.
At SXSW, Google Empathy Lab’s founder, Danielle Krettek, said that it’s “time for technology’s EQ to equal its IQ.” As technology continues to advance its productive capabilities, evolving its empathy quotient is equally important to drive the business forward.
AI technology will never replace human interaction, but when combined with empathy, we can create valuable connections between employees and technology through careful design and meaningful communication while driving efficiencies. The opportunity to land this correctly is now; you must ask yourself, “How are we using technology to implement more empathetic HR practices?”