Intelligent Automation (IA) has the potential to transform Human Resources (HR). While technology is the driving force behind IA, a proactive people-oriented strategy will define the success of your IA initiative. We explore the implications of Intelligent Automation in HR in this article.
As the HR function transitions from a business “cost center” to a “profit center”, technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Intelligent Automation (IA) will be crucial to bringing about this change. While the merits and applications of AI and ML in HR have been argued and documented extensively, Intelligent Automation (IA) remains a relatively unknown entity in the world of HR.
What is Intelligent Automation?
IA combines artificial intelligence with automation to enable machines to sense, understand, learn and act – either independently or with human assistance. What this means is that unlike traditional automation, or robotic process automation (RPA), IA enables machines to reproduce not only manual activity but also make intelligent decisions as a human would. IA can understand processes and their variations.
IA has the potential to transform the HR function by boosting efficiency, improving productivity, and fostering innovation. IA can help HR professionals make smarter decisions, help them get more done with less, and help HR shift its focus from manual, repetitive tasks to take on a more strategic role in the business – by innovating. This will help HR save time on non-value added tasks and focus on people activities like employee engagement, employee experience, and culture; transforming HR entirely so HR becomes an even more valuable business partner.
Implementing IA in HR
A recent KPMG survey on the deployment and perceptions around IA found that while executives have high expectations from the impact of IA, they’re not yet ready to implement it from the top down and at scale. “The impact of intelligent automation remains a huge unknown for many business leaders, despite their eagerness to implement these technologies. Nearly a third say they are unsure and unprepared for how these technologies will impact employees, according to KPMG’s Ready Set Fail study, and half are struggling to define clear goals and objectives for IA deployment and accountability. Despite recognizing the huge potential of IA in cutting costs and driving efficiencies, business leaders seem to be struggling with changes it will drive for employees,” says Cliff Justice, U.S. Leader, Intelligent Automation, KPMG.
He adds that “IA will undoubtedly have a major impact on society and jobs but within those changes will be several benefits beyond cost and time reduction. It has the potential to make employees happier by automating mundane tasks and redirecting their time to exciting and challenging projects.”
Cliff believes organizations need to document a strategy that clearly states the expected business outcomes and change-management plans before deploying IA. HR can play a central role in assessing the scope of IA-led disruption and accordingly design training programs to upskill employees and drive awareness about how IA deployment will affect their jobs.
“Once these considerations have been addressed, companies can pilot the technology within certain areas of their business. This test and learn phase will help them evaluate their progress and make the necessary adjustments before company-wide deployment,” says Cliff.
IA in Talent Management
One HR activity that stands to benefit significantly from IA is talent acquisition. A process that has historically involved tons of manual, repetitive tasks, IA can dramatically compress recruitment and onboarding processes to help talent acquisition professionals focus on what’s really important: business growth. By focusing their energies on crafting new engagement strategies, and delivering an exceptional employee experience, talent acquisition professionals can accomplish strategic business goals like improving retention and productivity.
“IA will free these teams from repetitive, routine tasks and enable them to focus on responsibilities that require a human touch. For example, automating administrative tasks such as tracking employees’ time off on a spreadsheet will give talent management teams the opportunity to focus on enhancing the employee experience such as redesigning recruiting and onboarding processes, or developing new rewards and training programs to attract and retain top talent,” says Cliff.
Preparing people to embrace IA
People are crucial for driving technology adoption; however, unfamiliarity and ignorance often lead to resistance to change. Developing training programs to help employees understand the implications of IA deployment will speed up adoption and could also help identify in-house talent to build IA capabilities internally.
“As IA is deployed throughout almost every business function, learning and development will play a critical role in ensuring employees have a deep understanding of how to work with these new technologies as well as identifying skills gaps. In businesses that see extensive implementation of intelligent automation, humans will find themselves working side by side with machines – a scenario many of us never imagined would happen in present day. Learning and development teams will be tasked with helping employees understand these new dynamics and upskilling employees, so they feel confident and prepared to lead as the workplace evolves. In addition to reskilling, redefining jobs and organizational structures will also require education on behalf of human resources professionals to ensure employees are aware and aligned with the changes,” opines Cliff.
Companies will only unlock the true potential of IA if HR takes a lead in developing an organization-wide IA people strategy.
As you embark on your IA journey, you will need a well-designed strategy to convert boardroom conversations into an actual deployment roadmap. Implemented strategically, IA will result in cost and operational efficiencies across the HR function.