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ICYMI: AI, Machine Learning and Other Tech Trends from HR Tech 2019

Cornerstone Editors

Editor's Note: In today's fast-paced news cycle, we know it's difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest HR trends and stories. To make sure you're updated, we're recapping the most popular trends, events and conversations every month in our "In Case You Missed It" series.

Each year, the HR Tech Conference gathers HR experts and professionals to discuss how companies can use technology to drive more successful programs and improve the talent experience. At this year’s conference, speakers placed more focus on artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, and how these emerging technologies can optimize HR, recruiting and diversity programs. The conference also touched upon more recent trends like virtual reality and revealed how this technology can be used to train and engage today’s workforce. In case you missed it, we’ve compiled the top trends from HR Tech.

Trend #1: Don’t Be Afraid of AI, Embrace It

It’s easy for HR teams to be overwhelmed by all of the technological changes they are encouraged to adopt. But the future of work is no longer on the way—it’s here, and it will only continue to evolve. Tools like artificial intelligence should no longer frighten HR professionals; they should be championing this technology instead.

At this year’s HR Tech Conference, speakers came together to bust some of the myths surrounding AI and to help fellow HR professionals feel excited, not stressed, by the technology.

"As it relates to HR, I think AI stands for augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence," said Jeanne Meister, a founding partner at Future Workplace and speaker at the conference. It’s a common misconception that artificial intelligence will remove jobs or the ’human’ from human resources, but it will have the opposite effect, according to Meister.

And others agree: "I think it’s a myth that it’s going to replace so many jobs," said Andrew Saidy, VP of talent digitization at Schneider Electric. "AI is creating the jobs of the future, not destroying jobs."

And the implementation of AI can have a lasting impact on the candidate journey and overall talent experience. Take Hilton Hotels, for example. The hospitality giant uses AI to enhance its recruitment process. Hilton’s video-interviewing tools use predictive intelligence to quickly analyze and place candidates in roles where they will thrive.

"We took down our time to fill a class from six weeks to one week," said Sarah Smart, the VP of global recruitment at Hilton Hotels. "We have 400% more offers, and our turnover rate has declined significantly."

Trend #2: Reduce Recruiting Bias With Machine Learning

It’s the job of a company and its HR or recruiting departments to reduce bias and promote inclusivity in the workplace, and more companies today are beginning to adopt people analytics and machine learning to support these efforts. But these technologies are imperfect, and they can produce unfair biases. To avoid this, companies must be sure they are using comprehensive, diverse data that enhances the talent experience by touching on the needs and perspectives of each and every employee.

In his presentation at HR Tech, Dmitri Krakovsky, a vice president at Google, explained that while we may think of machine learning as an inherently unbiased process, mistakes still happen. Krakovsky recommended that companies try to proactively break their models or algorithms to be sure their data sets do not produce unfair outcomes in certain scenarios. By getting AI models right, Krakovsky said, organizations "have the potential to be transformational in promoting inclusivity and diversity in recruitment."

Trend #3: Use Virtual Reality to Upgrade Training Programs

Many employees today don’t feel like they are learning fast enough. In fact, 42% of millennials report that they are likely to leave their company because of slow learning and development. To keep up with these expectations, employers have had to find new and engaging ways to help employees learn more quickly and efficiently. At this year’s HR Tech Conference, one particularly exciting learning tool emerged: virtual reality.

Of course, virtual reality itself isn’t new. For almost four decades, military and pilot training programs have used it for soldiers and new pilots. But it wasn’t until recently, as VR became more accessible and popular as a gaming tool, that the technology was more widely integrated into other industries’ training programs.

At Walmart, for example, VR training is used to assess employees and new hires for different store roles. Through virtual scenarios, the technology studies an individual’s inherent skills like listening and problem-solving and uses this information to match them to a position.

Meanwhile, FedExGround is using VR to train new hires for warehouse jobs. According to Denise Abbott, a VP of HR for FedExGround, this technology helps both employees and employers avoid injuries, accidents and other worst-case scenarios in these strenuous and sometimes dangerous jobs.

"We have over 100,000 employees—we had a lot of immediate turnover among folks we hired, so we figured this training could give them a much more realistic sense of what warehouse work entails," Abbott said.

At this year’s HR Tech Conference, one thing was exceptionally clear: We have entered a new age of work, and HR departments no longer have the option of neglecting innovation. They must start advancing their systems with technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics and even virtual reality to keep up with a new generation of employee expectations.

Image: Creative Commons

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