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HR in the Digital Era: Opportunities and Challenges

May 15, 2018

opportunities and challenges for hr in the digital era

"In response to the rapid acceleration of globalization and technology, organizations today are recognizing the need to 'go digital.'"

In the session at SIOP 2018, Due for an Upgrade? The Future of I-O Psychology and HR in the Digital Era, several experts from major companies reviewed challenges and opportunities facing the Human Resources and Industrial Organizational Psychology fields in the digital era. Here are the highlights from their session: 

Allen Kamin - Google

Allen spoke about the importance of consumerization. Here are a few ways that HR/I-O can borrow concepts from the consumer space:

  • Similar to Amazon and Netflix, organizations can recommend related learning experiences, comparable jobs that people were interested in, and suggest popular learning modules.
  • Many websites now offer conversation assistants (instant message windows) that are available almost all the time. We can offer similar chat bots which could answer common HR questions and more via machine learning or by following intelligent or rule-bound decision making.

  • HR Artificial Intelligence (AI) is almost here. Soon you could be talking to a recruiter bot or virtual learning assistance/coach.

Raphael Prager - PepsiCo

Raphael emphasized the importance of conceptualizing and identifying digital leaders, as new data is needed all the time, but little research exists. He referenced the 2015 Russel Reynolds study on transformational leaders, suggesting that digital transformation leaders are innovative, disruptive, bold, socially adept, and determined. The key takeaway here was to consider these competencies when assessing future leaders and organizational culture needs.

Rick Pollack - Previously IBM

With digitization, we can now "see" the data, allowing us to actually work with what exists. But, he states that there's so much data across so many channels (e.g. over 1 million gigabytes of data for each employee), most of which is unstructured (writing, social media, etc.) that only 1% of data is currently being used. His suggestion? The answer may be "cognitive data solutions" like artificial intelligence, recommendation engines, predictive analytics, and robotics.

Related: Why Big Data Needs Good Science

Rob Silzer - Baruch CUNY

Rob believes that machine learning and AI will never replace human judgmentTheory must drive analytics, and employee data must be treated and used ethically. In other words, analytics cannot replace us!

Jessica Kane - Accenture

Jessica took a similar stance, stating that HR is a digital partner and we need to make sure we're taking an employee-centric approach when using big data. And we can’t forget that at the end of the day we’re using data interpretation to drive business decisions that impact people. 

Related: 3 Ways to Use HR Metrics to Create Positive Change

With so much to digest, here are my takeaways from this dynamic session. With digitization, user experience becomes more important; we should consider the employee and candidate experience as we introduce digital advancements in the hiring process and HR procedures. HR professionals and leaders should be cautious of big data in the Digital Era leading to “over-processing” when making a decision. AI and automation cannot (and should not) replace human judgment; some aspects of leadership are more important when it comes to the Digital Era, like risk-taking, learning, empowerment, and being customer-driven.

Remember: data analytics is just one source of information. Big data is a tool, but cannot be a leader.

HR Analytics

Amber Thomas Amber Thomas is a Consultant at PSI. In her role, Amber provides custom solutions to a variety of industries. Her contributions include project oversight, day-to-day client support, and on-going consultation.