Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:28:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Humanology: The Future of Humans, Technology in the Workplace https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-smarter-technologies/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-smarter-technologies/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2018 12:13:51 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1477 by Janine N. Truitt From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation […]

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by Janine N. Truitt

smarter technologies hrFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, and “disruption” is the theme. The World Economic Forum reports that this revolution, “includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology.” All of which are supposed to not only disrupt how we do business, but also usher in the need for an entirely different labor market within the next five years.

According to a MIT Technology Review article from 2016, the White House stated, “that it believes future presidents should try to shape how AI technology evolves and is deployed.” This sentiment was echoed in a recent Q&A with Mo Gawdat, former chief business officer for Google X, at UNLEASH 2018 in Las Vegas. In this discussion, Gawdat shared a similar sentiment: we are at an “inflection point”—you may even say, a reflection point. His sense and mine is that we need to reflect on who we are and what we have become in the past five decades or so. It is from that point of view that we need to envision the world we want. The inflection point, in some regard, is already upon us, but from some reflection we can start to think of some ways that working with smarter technologies can improve our way of life and work. Part of the concern Gawdat has expressed is cognitive technologies such as AI will be (and are currently) learning from us based on the information that lives in our systems and on the Internet. If we look at that information objectively, there are far more data points filled with fear, discrimination, poor practices, and anger on our servers than positive examples for the world we want for the future. The good news here is we have the ability to change it—by changing the way we do things now, instead of waiting for a prime time in the future.

“HR can’t afford to have change happen to it.”

I am encouraging my fellow HR practitioners to see this turning point in humanity and history as a prime opportunity for our profession. Yes, we will need to reskill and adapt to new expectations, but that’s true with every technological evolution and previous industrial revolutions. In return, we have also gained many degree fields, jobs, and sectors people couldn’t have dreamt of 30–40 years ago. The emergence of cognitive technologies is no different. We will gain new jobs, sectors, and ways of operating in business. In fact, the same World Economic Forum report states that, amidst the loss, we will add 2.1 million jobs in more “specialized” job families, such as computer and mathematical or architecture and engineering.

By the way, did you forget that these technologies are being developed by us humans? Remembering this fact means that how the emergence of cognitive technology proliferates is largely dependent on the latitude and capabilities we give them. In other words, we ought to define the moral and ethical limits to meet our expectations. Although, according to Gawdat, with smarter technologies, it’s not a matter of “if,” but rather “when” machines exceed human intelligence, which is reported to happen in 2029.

Here are some reasons why HR should be driving change as we continue to explore how we can best work with technology:

  • Assessing human capability. Do you know what the collective and individual capabilities, interests, and motivations of your workforce are? Chances are your answer is “no,” but this is a great place for us to start engaging AI products to assess organization-wide sentiment, so we can start solving for some of the more pressing workforce issues.
  • Clarity and efficiency. If we’re honest, we have never been able to control human behavior, nor have we been great at predicting it. All we really have success in is creating the best possible circumstances for our workforces to thrive. Our imminent partnership with smarter technologies means we can finally be better at using the data we have to predict, forecast, and model workforce outcomes.
  • HR and humanity still have a purpose. The human touch is still needed in everything we do, because humans haven’t altogether stopped being human. Let’s face it: many of the technologies reported to shift the way we work are not going to be great or reliable for a long time to come. That said, while they are becoming great and exceeding our ability to cognate, there is still time to decide what is best left to the machines to do and where our real value proposition lies in the future as an industry.

In a lot of ways, the things we fear about robots and AI are misguided. What we fear are not the actual technologies, but the change it is ushering in and the perceived lack of control we have to change the trajectory of humanity. You can’t manage what you don’t acknowledge or keep record on.

Here are some more ways to participate in the shift:

  • Educate yourself and your teams as much as you can on AI, natural language processing, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. It’s less scary when you’ve assessed them yourself rather than relied on others’ fear-based anecdotes. The more you know about the technologies you will be interacting with, the better.
  • Speak up. Presuming that you are using technology in the way of an applicant tracking system or HCM solution currently, it is safe to think your respective vendor will start to implement any one of these smarter technologies as part of your current product suite. Be sure to communicate how they can continue to serve you best. It should not be about implementing smarter technologies for the sake of being cool—it needs to be applicable to the organization and practitioner’s needs.

There are no right or wrong answers in how we best partner with technologies going forward. The goal should be to move forward together for the better of everyone involved.

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How AI is Making Managers More Human https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-people-management-hcm/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-people-management-hcm/#comments Fri, 26 Jan 2018 21:38:30 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1227 Note: This article from Adam Rogers originally appeared on Forbes. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been around for decades, but its capabilities, interest, and funding has skyrocketed in recent years. Machine learning functionalities are disrupting nearly every industry and our everyday lives, from self-driving cars to Facebook’s facial recognition. According to CB Insights, funding for […]

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Note: This article from Adam Rogers originally appeared on Forbes.

ai hcmArtificial intelligence (AI) technology has been around for decades, but its capabilities, interest, and funding has skyrocketed in recent years. Machine learning functionalities are disrupting nearly every industry and our everyday lives, from self-driving cars to Facebook’s facial recognition. According to CB Insights, funding for AI startups reached a record high of $5 billion in 2016. Further disruption is almost guaranteed as the exponential acceleration of AI technology continues.

This rapid progression is driven by advanced machine learning, systems that continuously consume and apply knowledge to improve accuracy and analysis. AI has already proven its potential for expediency and efficiency, completely redefining the way we live, work, and relate to each other. The prospect of AI actually improving human-to-human interaction, especially within the business environment, is particularly intriguing.

Human innovation paired with technological development is a powerful force. I’ve had a front-row seat to what that can accomplish in the HCM space, where technology has evolved from simply performing basic HR processes, to predicting future outcomes, to fundamentally restructuring how employers manage their people. Smart technologies powered by machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and distributed data-collection interfaces are poised to completely transform the workplace for HR leaders.

Big Data Fosters Understanding

Running a business requires a substantial amount of data.

The term “Big Data” broadly refers to the staggering volume of information available at any given time. Today’s technology can digest these data mines with superhuman capacity and speed, applying advanced mathematical algorithms to find patterns, trends, and outliers. This insight can transform how managers approach everything from turnover to overtime, and provides an opportunity for leaders to better understand their teams and how to strengthen them.

Automation plays an important role in the data consumption process and is responsible for unparalleled advancements in convenience and productivity. Complex administrative functions have often plagued employers, particularly in HR, and these solutions alleviate the potential for human error while dramatically increasing completion speed. What used to take dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of human analysis is now achieved almost instantaneously.

This laid the groundwork for the game-changing power of prediction. Today’s leading HCM solutions leverage Big Data to forecast everything from performance success to flight risk, and these self-taught systems are incredibly accurate, extremely adaptive, and constantly learning. Rather than simply reporting on past trends, they predict future ones, empowering leaders to drive continuous improvement within their organizations.

Consider retention, for example. Turnover is a top priority for today’s leaders, as it can contribute to increased business errors, negatively impact culture, and cost up to twice an employee’s annual salary, according to Deloitte’s Josh Bersin. By automatically processing and analyzing a wealth of HCM data, predictive AI tools can identify the employees most at risk of leaving and alert their managers to proactively address the situation—before it’s too late.

This brings us to the next frontier for disruption: prescriptive analytics. Once again building on past innovations, prescriptive systems pull from predictive functions to suggest specific, personalized actions at key decision points. These AI-based recommendations can make managers better leaders, applying unbiased data to solve difficult decisions. The prescriptive functions can inform not only who to talk to and why, but how, based on what’s worked well in similar situations. Using the above example, the manager of a high-risk employee may be encouraged to take their employee to lunch, thank them for their continued contributions, and initiate a conversation about their career goals and aspirations. The additional support helps leaders coach and engage their people, leading to improved business outcomes, but the process also relies on the innate human traits of intuition, empathy, and kindness. It’s symbiotic, people-first AI.

Leveraging the Voice of the Employee

According to a 2016 study by The Center for Generational Kinetics, the best way for leaders to improve retention is listening to and addressing employee concerns. This seems basic, but it’s actually quite difficult to scale listening to the voice of the employee (VoE). Organizations have traditionally relied on annual performance reviews to accomplish this goal, but once-a-year discussions don’t always suffice (especially when tied to salary negotiations).

Employee satisfaction surveys are another alternative, but poorly designed (or executed) surveys won’t deliver impactful results. The most effective surveys offer a mix of qualitative and quantitative prompts, but these take significant manpower to analyze.

Fortunately, recent AI developments are solving this dilemma and improving employee-manager relations in the process.

Speaking Our Language

Despite the remarkable advancements AI has made in learning and prediction, users are often frustrated by its failure to understand the true meaning of words. Google Translate can instantly convert text from one language to another, and even basic Web-based chatbots can provide reasonable responses to basic queries. But until recently, these systems relied on literal translations and interpretations. Human language is incredibly complicated, brimming with context and subtleties, making it challenging for machines to decipher.

Enter natural language processing (NLP). This technology has improved incredibly quickly, and NLP solutions are learning to think and speak like humans. It’s the difference between a French 101 student and a native Parisian — the AI is actually speaking our language, not translating it. Machines can now discern emotion recognizing differences between sadness, anger, even sarcasm. It’s a breakthrough with incredible implications.

There are many potential opportunities to leverage NLP in the workplace, such as advanced customer service bots or email summarization software, but employee surveys are an obvious start. By applying NLP and machine learning algorithms to open-ended, text-based surveys, leaders receive feedback on what their employees are saying as well as how they’re actually feeling. Managers can keep a pulse on their team’s health and use these metrics to arrange one-on-one conversations, evaluate opportunities to increase satisfaction, and drive organizational change.

Improving Human Connection

Truly understanding how people are doing their jobs, what they care about, and what inspires them can improve nearly every aspect of the employee experience. Developments in automation, analytics, and NLP are making these insights possible and fostering authentic connection and understanding between managers and their employees.

In this way, AI has accomplished perhaps the last thing we expected: it’s making managing more human.

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2018 HR & HCM Technology Trends: Three Forces Reshaping the Future of Work https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/2018-hcm-trends/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/2018-hcm-trends/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:58:31 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1219 Rapid advances in technology—from the distributed computing reality of the  Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) to increasing workforce fluidity (as described in our 2017 Trends Blog)—are combining to reshape today’s workplaces. In addition, there are some broad cultural trends that are impacting HR technology, pushing us well beyond the automation of traditional […]

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2018 hcm trendsRapid advances in technology—from the distributed computing reality of the  Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) to increasing workforce fluidity (as described in our 2017 Trends Blog)—are combining to reshape today’s workplaces.

In addition, there are some broad cultural trends that are impacting HR technology, pushing us well beyond the automation of traditional manual tasks and redesigning performance management processes, to rethinking the way we manage employees.

First, AI is everywhere, but not without its challenges (for example, machines learning from biased data)—so its newest incarnation will have to be focused on not just mastering the science of AI, but also on the art of collecting better, more accurate data. Cloud-based AI, machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and virtual reality experiences have already been changing the dynamic among people, work, and communication—and we’re going to see more application of these technologies in the workplace in 2018 and beyond.

Second, hyper-personalization—from designing your unique, one-of-a-kind Nikes, to M&Ms with personalized messages, to online shoppers for clothes and groceries that remember your preferences and customize recommendations for you—is coming to employee management in 2018, and HR must help its managers lead with a higher degree of personalization and understanding of each of its direct reports.

And, finally, with technological advancement comes the risk of becoming removed from the “messy” human work of fostering belonging and shared purpose for our teams. Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture requires knowing a lot about people, empathizing with them, and sustaining that commitment long term. Current diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts need to be redefined and updated to bring ongoing positive change for people organizations.

With this in mind, I believe there are three pivotal trends that must be of interest to HR and senior business leaders in 2018, each interconnecting with the others to transform the near-term future of work.

Megatrend #1: People-First Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning and Human Intuition Combine Forces

In 2018, businesses will migrate from AI focused on automating tasks formerly performed by people to more complex AI technology that augments and amplifies human intelligence and capability. This next evolution of AI underlines the assistive role of the technology to enhance human performance, by allowing people to scale and undertake more rather than replacing human skills and experiences. The application of AI in the world of HCM reinforces the role of human intelligence in solving problems individually and collectively.

People-first AI means organizations and managers using machine learning to better understand what motivates employees, how to more effectively recruit and retain talent, and how to improve on the employee experience at work by using both their own skills and knowledge combined with the near-instantaneous analytical power of AI. This type of AI supplements the work that HR and managers already do, rather than replacing them—for example, by alerting managers to increasingly negative sentiment in employee feedback from one particular office that may have a morale issue, or by suggesting ways to reword a job posting to be more inclusive.

Megatrend #2: Hyper-personalization: Individualized Leadership Replaces “One-Size-Fits-All” Management

An astonishing 95% of people want to feel whole at work—free to be their authentically unique selves. Prior corporate leadership models frequently embraced a rigid, hierarchical “command and control” structure based on an employee’s perceived skills and capabilities, or encouraged managers to manage everyone on their team in the same way in order to be perceived as fair and equitable. Today’s workers prefer a culture in which leaders seek to develop the whole person, with a deep understanding that one-size-fits-all management is not an effective approach—and that different people need different styles of management to best motivate them. Some employees prefer public recognition and others prefer a private thank you or a handwritten note. Some employees thrive in complete autonomy while other employees work best when they receive confirmation from a manager or co-worker on each step of a project.

This obligation to lead and develop the whole person at work requires that leaders understand the needs, motivations, concerns, challenges, and goals of people in many dimensions. Leaders must nurture the cognitive and emotional development of people, beyond the typical physical-wellness offerings of many organizations, to help their people achieve meaningful, purposeful, and productive work and careers. The most effective managers will be able to flex and adapt their personal management styles to the individuals they manage in order to help their employees put forth their best effort and succeed at work.

Megatrend #3: Humanizing Work: Breakthrough Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Modern Age

A workforce culture in which all people can feel they belong and be themselves—and one that taps into the most powerful combinations of talent and experience—requires a broader consideration of the tapestry of human diversity, and a mind shift from compliance-driven D&I models. Many organizations recognize that human diversity generates unique perspectives that foster greater innovation, sustainability, and cultural competence. But today’s D&I must go farther than categorizing and measuring to more broadly recruit for differences in opinion, experience, lifestyle, and background, and to also ensure concrete actions and follow-through to drive progress.

Rather than consider D&I merely as a must-do initiative or a socially responsible action to become an employer of choice, modern diversity, equity, and inclusion will apply advances in virtual technologies and neuroscience that allow organizations to move beyond the talk and numbers, to evaluate and overcome unconscious bias in the entire work experience—from recruiting to performance management to pay equity—to help companies create workplaces that are truly inclusive beyond traditional categories of diversity. Impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion effort requires attention on individual, team, and company levels—not just looking at an organization as a collective whole, but analyzing and assisting the company at all levels and providing concrete guidance beyond just static reporting—to result in better business performance.

These three Megatrends—people-first AI; individualized leadership; and  diversity, equity, and inclusion—intersect in powerful ways. For instance, people-first AI is an enabler to leadership that is tailored to every person individually, allowing leaders to break out of the one-size-fits-all approach to development, and ensuring employees remain engaged in their work, feel good about their place in the organization, are physically and emotionally healthy, and are able to collaborate freely, openly, and confidently.

People-first AI also empowers leaders and organizations to gain an entirely new understanding of people and how their diverse perspectives come together to solve business problems. This new technology is poised to help organizations create more innovative and effective teams, as well as understand and respond to the needs of their diverse customers.

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Xander: It’s People-First AI – #12DaysofHCM https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/xander-people-first-ai/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/xander-people-first-ai/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 11:00:17 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1170 Ultimate Software’s #12DaysofHCM is back by popular demand! During the next two weeks, we’ll recap some of the most talked about topics from 2017, and preview what’s ahead for 2018. First up: AI. Xander: It’s People-First AI by Armen Berjikly Technological innovation is compounding rapidly, with emerging technologies reinventing everything from how we drive to […]

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Ultimate Software’s #12DaysofHCM is back by popular demand! During the next two weeks, we’ll recap some of the most talked about topics from 2017, and preview what’s ahead for 2018. First up: AI.

Xander

Xander: It’s People-First AI
by Armen Berjikly

Technological innovation is compounding rapidly, with emerging technologies reinventing everything from how we drive to the way we diagnose disease. Advancements in human capital management (HCM) are happening just as quickly, and the impact on human resources—and the workplace as a whole—is considerable.

Artificial intelligence (AI) holds profound promise. Earlier this year, Ultimate Software unveiled Xander™, our own AI platform, which is powering an increasing number of UltiPro®’s solutions.

Uniquely, Xander can understand practically any type of HCM data – be it numbers like tenure, or free text from survey responses, to help leaders predict their team members’ behavior, including performance potential and flight risk. These predictive and prescriptive analytics also encourage continuous development, helping leaders become better managers by providing personalized suggestions at key decision points.

Using advanced natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning algorithms, Xander is also capable of sophisticated sentiment analysis. By regularly soliciting feedback from employees and deciphering their true emotions, leaders learn how their employees actually feel and can take steps to facilitate proactive change.

A breakthrough technology that is as sensitive to emotions as it is to statistics, Xander helps our customers better understand their people and ultimately drive organizational results.

It’s people-first AI.

To learn more, check out Ultimate’s interactive guide to Xander.

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