Amidst the frantic warnings that automation may take the jobs of human workers, it is vital for talent management leaders to be a voice for a more nuanced approach. The advance of technology is inevitable, but rather than an "either-or" choice between humans and machines, innovative talent leaders are finding creative and optimal combinations of human and machine interaction.
Such combinations reveal new sources of value for both people and organizations, and they represent a formidable opportunity for savvy talent leaders to expand the value proposition of learning—as well as ensure the sustainability of their organizations.
Working With the Supercomputer
Consider the savvy combination of humans and machines that is embodied in IBM's work on "cognitive" computing—best exemplified by IBM's Watson, a combination of algorithms, interfaces, hardware and software that was capable of winning the television game Jeopardy over its human opponents.
Now, Watson interacts with physicians researching oncology treatments for cancer, scanning thousands of research studies and conversationally interacting with physicians about the implications and findings. The supercomputer's algorithms can digest thousands of scientific articles much more efficiently than biochemists, producing promising hypotheses for the scientists to study.
The advantage of a machine like Watson in medicine is undeniable. The U.S. Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center estimates that only 20% of the knowledge doctors use to diagnose patients is based on published scientific evidence, while IBM's Watson computer can thoroughly scan medical literature on certain cancers, as well as search up to 1.5 million patient records, in order to present doctors with verbal opinions about the best treatment. For humans, it would take at least 160 hours of reading a week just to keep up with new publications.
This is not so much machines replacing humans, but architecting work to optimize the combination of automation (in the form of the Watson supercomputer) and human physicians.
Fading Boundaries in the Workforce
The same principle applies to improving Watson itself. Making Watson "smarter" requires more than simply feeding it more information or making it more conversational. Some of the biggest advances will come with improving Watson's ability to work with humans—and building that capability requires human insight.
Not only does improving Watson require thinking beyond the computer, it also requires thinking beyond the traditional IBM workforce of regular full-time employees. Some of the best talent for this work lies beyond IBM's organizational boundary. How do you get a cadre of workers—inside and outside of IBM—motivated and qualified to invent new applications for "cognitive"?
Obed Louissaint, the Vice President for HR, IBM Watson, Watson Health, Research, Technical Talent & Corporate Functions described how IBM's answer was to create "IBM Watson Academy," a virtual hub for training on a massive scale, including global challenges and thought-provoking idea exchanges, such as, "What do you think should be the next Grand Challenge in computer science?" The Academy's focus is on cognitive training accessible to employees of IBM itself, but also to employees of IBM's clients, IBM's development partners, and students in schools and universities around the world.
Building an Ecosystem of Talent
For example, upon its launch, Watson Academy piloted an IBM-made MOOC, adapted from a Columbia University graduate-level course taught by an IBM Watson researcher, which included students and faculty from 19 universities in 10 countries. In addition, the Academy launched an online interface that delivers learning in a broad variety of media, ranging from mastery modeling videos through hands-on guided practice.
This creates flexible learning mosaics that appeal to learners and are at the same time easy to maintain and update. The idea is to make IBM's best tools and lessons about cognitive available to the entire ecosystem of workers inside and outside of IBM, to rapidly create a qualified workforce ready and willing to develop the next big thing for Watson.
The Academy has also used contests to get attention and motivate these current and future workers to train themselves on cognitive using tools on the website and then compete to showcase their best solutions. Contests expand the rewards for learning beyond money to include reputation and the thrill of winning against the best in the world.
The future of learning will rely on a mix of algorithms, cloud-based data and human-machine interfaces. Optimizing that brave new world will require that leaders reframe how they think about the work, the workforce and the fundamental relationship between people and automation. As IBM has found, even the smartest machine can benefit from some help from the human mind.
Photo: Creative Commons
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock