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Cloud-based HCM and AI called game-changing talent combo

Hilton, IBM and YRC Worldwide shared ambitious plans for becoming talent-centric and AI-driven, with improved employee experiences, people management and productivity.

As more companies move their human capital management systems and data into the cloud, they don't just want to tap into economies of scale, offload some of their IT operations to a third party and enable anytime-anywhere access to data. They are also increasingly looking to pair cloud-based HCM with AI to enable real-time decision-making, elevate customer service and improve the employee experience.

The payoff? Those that are able to combine AI and cloud-based HCM effectively may just find themselves enjoying a significant competitive advantage.

During a well-attended session at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, Duke Daehling, a partner at IBM Global Business Services Talent & Engagement, told attendees that the dominant companies of the future will be talent-centric and powered by AI. The way Daehling sees it, there's simply no alternative if companies want to keep pace with the accelerating evolution of business, technology and work.

"We're entering a new era," Daehling said. "Things have never changed as fast as they do now, and they will never be as slow as they are now."

Four main advantages of AI-driven talent management

Specifically, Daehling said the talent-centric, AI-powered organizations of the future will enjoy advantages in four key areas:

  • They will reimagine how people work, allowing them to address such time sinks as the 60% of managers' time that Daehling said is spent on tasks that aren't related to managing people.
  • They will transition decisions from the subjective to the objective by using real-time data to predict performance (of employees, of the business) and putting the resulting insights in the hands of decision-makers.
  • They will future-proof their talent strategies by using data to better target their hiring efforts and invest in bringing in the best employees.
  • They will use all of this improvement to create a more people-centric experience for their employees. For instance, if they know that consumers are more likely to buy something if they're also learning at the same time, why not bring that same thinking into the hiring process?

Daehling was joined in the session by executives from Hilton Hotels and Resorts, which is based in McLean, Va., and freight shipping holding company YRC Worldwide, based in Overland Park, Kan. All three companies shared a bit of their visions for how they will leverage this combination of AI and cloud-based HCM systems.

Hilton, for instance, is working on a global HR and talent acquisition system, running in Oracle HCM Cloud, that will launch for 80,000 employees at more than 1,000 properties in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland later this year.

I think we have a big opportunity.
Kellie RomackVice president of digital HR and strategic planning, Hilton Hotels and Resorts

Kellie Romack, vice president of digital HR and strategic planning, told the OpenWorld audience that the system, which is replacing much of the on-premises PeopleSoft environment Hilton has long depended upon, will eventually be injected with AI capabilities to help the company sort through the mountain of resumes it receives as it attempts to fill more than 70,000 positions every year. Hilton also hopes to use AI to free call center employees from having to provide answers to oft-repeated questions, allowing them to focus on more complicated support inquiries.

"I think we have a big opportunity," Romack said.

Similarly, the freight shipper, YRC Worldwide, intends to bring elements of AI into its own cloud, which it's been rolling out in chunks over the past year. CIO Jason Ringgenberg told the conference audience that the company went live on Oracle's cloud-based HCM and ERP applications this year, and in 2018, it will add payroll and talent management.

The decision to migrate most of its IT footprint to the cloud was made necessary by two things: the aging of YRC's data center in Kansas City, Mo., and clear evidence that IT was spending way too much time writing interfaces to link front-end apps to the back-end PeopleSoft system.

Eventually, when YRC has finished its cloud deployment, the company will look to AI to address two HR-related objectives: employee retention and driver safety.

For the former, Ringgenberg said YRC's executive leadership wants its cloud-based HCM system to help it stem employee churn.

"Can you use the data in the HCM cloud to predict the likelihood of that driver staying with you for a long time?" he asked. It's a question the company plans to explore.

Meanwhile, Ringgenberg also believes using AI to analyze data could help the company to do a better job of determining whether road conditions warrant changing trucking schedules to protect drivers. By assessing those conditions, the company can make real-time decisions about whether to pull trucks off the road or simply have terminal managers go over safety protocols with drivers.

Fewer accidents mean fewer potential injuries and fewer headaches.

"These are two areas we want to push into as we go forward," Ringgenberg said.

IBM's internal use of Watson tools seen as model

As YRC and Hilton attempt to establish themselves as the kinds of talent-centric, AI-powered organizations that Daehling expects to dominate the future, they can look to IBM as a model.

With 380,000 employees in 172 countries, the big provider of IT services, hardware and software has been at the forefront of using AI internally. Daehling mentioned a few examples, including IBM Job Finder with Watson, which helps job seekers find positions that are good matches; IBM Watson Recruitment, which helps those filling jobs find the highest-impact hires; and Myca (for My Career Advisor), which helps IBM employees switch jobs internally without looping in managers who may want them to stay put.

Daehling suggested that using AI to improve the work experience is one of the most powerful ways that the business world can ease the concerns of those who see AI as pure evil.

"We don't want to turn people into robots or remove humanity," he said. "We want to understand what predicts performance."

And hopefully get a leg up on the competition in the process.

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