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CxO Stories: ‘Use automation to battle the Great Resignation’

‘How can we do a better job in HR using technology?’

by Marco van der Hoeven

In a recent webinar by CxO Stories four senior HR professionals discussed their predictions for the future of HR. Technology is an important part of the answer to the challenges HR professionals are facing. But there is still a lot of work to be done, both by HR and by the business, to benefit fully from automation like RPA and AI.

Moderator Hamish Taylor. Former CEO of Eurostar & Sainbury’s Bank and Former Head of Brands, British Airways, explains the subject of this webinar: “The business world has changed dramatically in recent years. We had digital transformation that was changing a lot of our working practices, and then came along the pandemic disruption. In many sectors that’s led to a change in the business model, with a much greater emphasis on online transactions, and an exponential growth of data. And of course for HR a new generation of employees coming in who have grown up in the digital era. So what does all of that mean for the current priorities and the role of HR moving forward?”

Great resignation

Kate Bishop, Ex. Group CHRO at FNZ Group, kicks off the discussion: “My main prediction is that technology needs to help us even more to battle the great resignation. This has become a little bit of a trendy phrase in HR these days, but the great resignation is real. It’s an employee market, certainly for the next little while. And so I’m curious about is technology can help us. How can it pull together all those elements of an ecosystem that exists within an organization: across employees, customers, stakeholders and impact on the environment, to name a few. How can we do a better job in HR using technology?”

Weronika Niemczyk , Chief People Officer at ABBYY, adds: “I don’t like the phrase ‘war for talent’, but that is definitely something we’re seeing. Obviously this is great for employees, but harder for employers. There is also a greater focus on organizations actually articulating the value proposition more clearly to their employees. The pandemic actually was a great testing period for that. Companies who have done that are probably seeing less of the resignation than their peers.”

Administrative processes

She continues: “As we try to automate a lot of basic administrative processes, technology has moved to the HR space massively over the last few years. We also need to customize, tailor and create more bespoke solutions for the individuals in the business. The same automation solution for everybody is not working anymore. It is all about employee experience. Many businesses for years have been obsessing over customer experience, employee experience was an afterthought. Now we need to focus on employee experience, leveraging the technology that we as HR professionals have available to us. Using data insights in HR has been on the forefront of a lot of innovation. But now the use of data to drive employee experience and engagement is key.”

Keep it simple

Ewen Macpherson,  Group Chief People Officer at Havas UK: “I was going to be a little bit controversial. I think companies will start to simplify their approaches to get back to their core principles and values to attract and retain talent. We as humans have this ability to overcomplicate everything. But I think most we should actively work to keep it simple for our people, For technology to integrate well, really work for us and support a business, we absolutely need this simplicity. That’s the only way you’re going to create meaningful value for people.”

A technology that has a lot of potential for HR is AI. Bishop: “There’s there’s massive opportunity for AI in HR, but I think it’s also getting it in the right places and not putting it in the wrong places. There’s nothing more frustrating than the AI or chatbot not being able to answer a unique question that is not programmed for. It gives an opportunity to create some standardization and automation where you need to. Then potentially it can evolve even further, with personalization for people.”


“But I haven’t seen it in use a lot in organizations, because it’s quite difficult for people to understand and have to trust AI to have a certain amount of control. So I’ve seen a it more around robotics and process automation. I’ve not seen as much AI as perhaps I would have hoped to by now.”

Macpherson: Going back to simplicity, the only examples where I’ve seen it is in a chatbot style approach. From an employee experience perspective this is not a particularly good experience. I would hate to replace the personal nature of an interaction with a bot. And I’m not just talking from an HR perspective, but also within the culture we could lose by inserting tech in what otherwise would be human interaction. But I’d love to see AI play a part in the engine room of HR. We talked about data before. We are obsessed with insight and data to drive our decision making. And I’d love to see AI drive more predictive analysis.”


And how do HR organizations evolve from automating a sample of processes to automating at scale? Bishop: “You have to bring the organization in. So instead of designing something in a dark room as HR people who think they know what they’re doing, you have to actually make sure that the business you’re working with is part of the initial pilot and design. You have to find early adopters within your organization, and actually use them to help you scale. This prevents people from thinking ‘HR is rolling out this new tool’, but realizing the business is adopting a piece of technology that’s going to help the to improve in the future. Involving the business and getting them in early is one of the critical factors moving forward.”

Macpherson : “I think there’s an amazing opportunity to leverage technology and automation at scale for a lot of the more mundane tasks that all organizations are going to have to carry out which, let’s face it, people don’t enjoy doing and could in theory be easily replaced by robots. So everything from simple reporting to dashboarding tools, even relatively easy things like that, could create huge amounts of time and space and goodwill amongst people.”

View the recording of CxO Stories on HR and automation here

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