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Fully aware of their competitive strengths, organisations have immediately made talent retention their competitive spearhead. “People first”, the development of employee experience has gradually become the recurrent theme in the division of human resources management. The quality of this experience encourages employee commitment, builds loyalty and performance. By Nathalie Fontaine, professor and pedagogy developer at NEOMA.

 A strangely smart manager!

Standing almost paradoxically in contrast with the old-fashioned image of human resources management, the promotion and oversight of the employee experience, now a new feature in the managerial landscape, has quickly become digitalised. Is not the particular purpose of major advances in the standardisation of onboarding and mobile learning apps to retain talent through the optimisation of the employee experience?

HR managers have turned into employee coaches 2.0. How reassured they are that their story has not truly come to an end since artificial intelligence has arrived to lend a helping hand…

In fact, recruiting chatbots* are already used in industrial groups and more recently in auditing firms. While their use optimises the pre-selection of applicants and lightens the recruiter’s workload, it also optimises the applicants’ experience:  the immediacy and relevance of the responses given to the applications, which then shines better on the employer’s image.
*Chatbot: Software simulating conversations in natural language

Much like recruiting chatbots, smart software is now used to help internal communication management. The HR chatbots use artificial intelligence technologies (including automatic learning algorithms: deep learning) to “communicate” with each employee in a personalised and individual manner upon his or her request.

Employees can thus ask their employer any question that concerns them personally, whether they relate to the management of their careers, their skills, the financing of their training and education, and generally speaking their rights… The formulation of a personalised, relevant and nearly immediate response by the HR chatbot is offered as a guarantee on the fluidity and communication between the two parties.

Furthermore, through the magic of Big Data and HR analyses, the semantic analysis of questions posed by employees is used to understand their concerns, and not just for what they are but also for what they tell about the social climate. Consequently, managers who wield this knowledge will always be able to focus on continuously improving the employee experience.

Moving towards the dehumanisation of human management?

HR managers 4.0 have thus already arrived. Despite everything, there seems to be a certain wait-and-see approach to using artificial intelligence for human management purposes.

Spurred on by post-apocalyptic science fiction novels by eminent authors like George Orwell and René Barjavel, we continue to express our fear of abandoning our humanity to accursed technology. And so, we now see that human management finds itself… completely dehumanised! Incredible!

But, the fact remains that artificial intelligence relieves the manager from repetitive, insipid data processing tasks that have little use in human management. Indeed, set free from the daily drudgery of spreadsheets, like recurring requests that are never processed, HR managers can finally devote themselves to human questions, which are their profession. They are then fully ready and able to listen and assist. Furthermore, it is managers who are responsible for determining in what way and how these technological revolutions will be most helpful to them in returning humans back to the core of their managerial attention.

Key recommendations

1.      Inquire – before its introduction into the organisation – about the real use of the technological innovation

As Philippe Geluck had the character in his famous Le Chat comic strip say (Le Chat, opus 21, Chacun son chat, Casterman editions 2017): “Running doesn’t help anything. Especially if it’s in the wrong direction…”. It is worth emphasising that it is of no use to introduce artificial intelligence in a managerial approach if it cannot shift practices in the right direction.

2.      Make sure that the innovation helps bring people back into operations rather than pushing them out

If it falls on managers to inquire about the usefulness of introducing a piece of technology to their employees, there is good reason to make sure that it will promote human involvement rather than removing them from operations. To the question, “Is this technology useful and will it be used by employees?” add the following: “How will this technology help restore all the cognitive energy needed for us to focus on the men and women who make up this organisation?”

3.      Introduce the technological innovation to the teams in a collaborative and participatory way

. Managing innovation should involve bringing in as many employees as needed to help in the effort if only to end the practice of introducing new technology to a company all at once. To do this, conducting interviews could prove useful in analysing interest in the innovation in light of the needs, defining different usage scenarios, moving on to possible tests and asking about the first wave of feedback. In this specific case, participatory management affirms itself as a vital criterion for success.

4.      Develop and enhance their human management soft skills

Managing the introduction of an innovation with your teams in no way requires becoming an expert in artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, big data and blockchain! On the other hand, because they see people as their primary concern, managers 4.0 would do better to develop their soft skills, namely critical thinking skills, solid listening and empathetic skills without which they might be “running in the wrong direction” away from human experience.