Cognitive technology is a derivative of artificial intelligence where computers employ predictive analysis to study and imitate human thinking patterns. Through extensive data mining and data matching, these computers can interact with users through natural language and help us in our day-to-day affairs. In HR particularly, cognitive technology helps enhance end user experience while robotics process automation, called RPA, can do away with high-volume processes in a matter of minutes. 

Fostering employee engagement and simplifying processes are top on agenda as HR increasingly shifts to cognitive applications and robots to replace traditional practices & systems. With disruptive technology at hand, HR practitioners can now depend on the definitive advantages that AI has to offer and focus on more strategic functions like recruitment, training, engagement and performance.

With IR 4.0 marching forward, firms are moving towards the ‘Future of Work’ and adopting RPA and digitization to bring substantial results. Today, the key conversation among business leaders veers around whether this will enable a convergence or collision of technology and how that would impact industries and the workplace going forward.
In short, what would this disruption/automation mean for operating models, employees and HR? Would bank tellers, for example, lose their jobs in the future? How efficient is technology at a fast food giant, like say, McDonald’s, compared to Grab Food’s new-age delivery model? Also, what opportunity does technology offer to HR to reduce healthcare costs, improve employee experience and so forth?

So far, AI has been widely used in recruitment, helping HR managers scour through large swathes of candidate profiles and skills through data-matching and key-word recognition. It has also enabled disruption in the way candidates are selected and screened, video interviewing being the most popularly used option. Additionally, AI’s machine learning capabilities can pick up smart patterns from sophisticated data sets and help formulate better policies within the HR framework.

When you have an employee population that is large, cognitive applications like online chatbots, auto reply in mails, user recommendations can help a great deal in improving personalized experiences for employees. Through the machine’s cognitive abilities, HR managers can handle the entire organization at one go; arriving at intelligent conclusions regarding employees’ career choices, education level and even gauging their gender, mood and voice, according to one particular study. 

AI also plays a vital role in goal setting and improving performance in areas that are denting productivity. Its access to large forms of data helps in determining gaps, addressing it through training, upskilling of staff and preparing executives for leadership roles.   

Although the talk around RPA is gaining traction, C-suite execs are a still a long way off from making it a mainstream reality. Research firm Deloitte’s 2018 study on HR Bots: The New Super Power for the Workforce reveals that the adoption rate of RPA is still lagging behind. However, organizations that have deployed RPA are by no means turning back. In a different report, the research giant points out how organizations used to RPA are likely to invest in those technologies every three years. 

Its Global Shared Services 2017 Survey Report shows that almost half of respondents surveyed believe that RPA will deliver 10 to 20 per cent of savings to their respective businesses. This is a huge benefit for companies pursuing scalability, operational benefit and quality. Contrary to belief, RPA software can run on all applications, thereby ruling out the need for overall migration.

Today, there is greater need to replace escalating people cost with technology. The capital expenditures involved with investing in technologies like AI will reduce variable costs including inflation in the long run. The cost of technology is reducing by the day and now firms can even invest in the Cloud on a subscriber’s basis (pay as you use) versus buying technology at a one-time price.

With the coming in of technology, fears associated with job displacement aren’t new. In a report on Impact of AI on Workers in 6 Asean countries, data from Malaysia shows that though some existing roles will disappear from the labour market, more jobs will be created in Wholesale & Retail, Manufacturing and Hotels & Restaurants sectors. 

There’s a looming fear that HR would lose its human touch if AI comes once in for all. However, HR roles become more pertinent in the face of automation. Like Doug Upchurch, chief learning architect at Insights Learning and Development pointed out in a 2018 report in Forbes, “…the real benefit of using more artificial intelligence is that our human leaders can put more time into bringing more of their emotional intelligence to their role. It’s time to let the computers do what they do best and let the humans do what we do best.”

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