HR Management & Compliance, Technology

Using AI at Work: A Q&A with Emily He

Artificial intelligence (AI) can humanize the workplace, perhaps the opposite of what most of us would think. Emily He, Senior Vice President of Oracle’s Human Capital Management Cloud Business Group recently joined us to discuss how AI can improve your recruiting and candidate experience.


Source: JoZtar / iStock / Getty

Prior to joining Oracle, Emily was Chief Marketing Officer of DoubleDutch, a leader in digital marketing solutions for events, conferences, and trade shows. She has 18 years of experience in various enterprise software roles including marketing, corporate strategy, and business development at companies such as Siebel Systems, E2open, and Saba software.
Emily is known for supporting business growth with highly differentiated corporate branding and product positioning as well as innovative digital marketing, demand generation, and customer experience programs. She is a recognized thought leader on digital transformation, engagement marketing, talent management, and authentic leadership.
Her perspectives have appeared in a broad spectrum of business publications including The Economist, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, and the Huffington Post.
Recruiting Daily Advisor (RDA): Let’s start out with a general look at the increasing role of technology. It’s no secret that the workplace is going through fundamental shifts because of AI. Could you share some examples of what your customers are interested in and what they’re looking for when it comes to technology?
Emily He: Technology is a huge topic for our customers. The consistent theme we’re hearing from our customers is the ever-accelerating pace of change driven by technology and its impact on the workplace.
As you know, technology has a huge impact on business models, just look at what Uber and Lyft are doing to the transportation industry, what Airbnb is doing to transform the hotel and hospitality industry, and how Amazon is having a huge impact on the retail industry. These are topics our customers are thinking a lot about.
The other thing is, our customers are thinking about how to use technology to adapt to change quickly. For example, how can they use technology to introduce new products, assess consumer demands, expand to new geographical areas, launch new business models, and how can they proactively manage their workforce to accommodate these changes through recruiting talent management while also mitigating risk?
The other thing that is very much top of mind for HR professionals is the impact of technology on the workforce. By the year 2020, 40% of the workforce will be contingent workers, so the gig economy is something that our customers are talking a lot about.
There are going to be remote employees who will be much more mobile, and robots that will be working alongside humans. In this context, what’s going to be the definition of the workforce and how do we balance humans and machines to get the work done? How do we attract, manage, and retain top talent to maximize productivity? Technology is very much becoming an integral part of the employee experience, which is very closely linked to customer experience, employer brand, employee loyalty, and business success. The question for HR is, how do you deliver to their technology needs and deliver a superior employee experience?
RDA: With the technology shift, what are the particular impacts that you see for HR?
Emily He: My perspective is that technology is no longer just a digital enabler of the HR process. It needs to be HR’s core competency and it needs to be their competitive advantage.
HR is now held accountable for delivering superior employee experience, delivering to employee happiness of which technology is a huge part, for example, Millennials or Gen Y. As you know, the unemployment rate is as low as it’s ever been, so attracting and retaining the right workforce is more challenging than ever.
These days, employees bring their whole selves to work and part of that is really using the same technology they’re using in their daily lives to connect and collaborate with their coworkers, partners, and customers. If they can’t do that at work, they’re not going to see the company they’re working for as innovative and engaging, and potentially they’re going to leave.
More than ever, employees are able to voice their opinions and sentiment about the company. They are demanding to use the same technical technology at work as they’re using in their daily lives. If they can’t do that, then they’re going to go to social media and voice their concerns, not just internally but also externally. There’s a huge convergence between consumer brand and employer brand and companies must care about their employer brand and therefore the employee experience.
When we talk to customers about improving employee experience, that’s rising to the top priority for many HR organizations, they are working on implementing continuous feedback, personalized learning, career development programs, and improving wellness.
We’re simply allowing employees to use the same technology they’re using in their lives to connect, communicate, and collaborate with their coworkers to get work done.
RDA:  Following up on that idea of using the same technologies at work as they use at home, how do advances in consumer technologies impact the technologies that we use in business and in HR?
Emily He: This is still a huge topic for HR organizations. I remember a few years ago when people first started using mobile and social technology, there was a lot of talk about the consumerization of it and people were like, “Are we really going to allow people to use Facebook at work?” That seems unthinkable, but now this is a pretty standard practice.
As a matter of fact, many applications have been building social capabilities to allow employees to have that social connection, whatever the business process is they’re executing. When the first wave of consumerization of IT happened, the business functions were leading the revolution, whether it’s the sales, marketing, or services organizations, and they really lead the change of using digital, social, and mobile technologies to listen to customers and engage with customers the way they want.
After that, HR followed suit and started deploying mobile and social at work, as well. Now, what I see is a new revolution that has begun, and AI is providing a new way of interacting with technology in a much more fun, enjoyable, and human way. The reality is that today, consumers are already interfacing with technology in this new way using conversational user interface (UI), chatbot and AI.
For example, the other day I came home and heard my son talking to somebody. He said, “What is 365 times 430”? I heard this woman’s voice answering the question and when I went to his room, there’s nobody there but him and he was talking to his iPhone. Then I realized he had been using Siri to do his math homework, which is very concerning, so that’s another topic altogether, but this is how people are interfacing with their technology.
We use Alexa, we use Google maps to navigate our daily commute, and this is the reality. Employees are expecting to use the same type of technology to interface with enterprise applications at work.
It’s interesting, we recently did a survey of 1,320 U.S. employees and HR leaders, and according to the results of our survey, 33% of the employees are willing to take orders from bots. While 70% of the people surveyed said they’re already using AI in their daily lives, and all the respondents agree that AI will have a positive impact on the organization.
When they are asked about the biggest benefits of AI, people were citing things like increased productivity, improved operational efficiency, faster decision making and cost reduction, better customer experience, and better employee experience.
Having said that, the organizations are not doing enough to prepare their workforce for AI. Almost 90% of the HR leaders we surveyed are concerned that they will not be able to adjust to the rapid adoption of AI as part of their job, and to make matters worse, they’re not currently empowered to address the emerging AI skills gap in their organization.
The survey also found that 71% of the employees believe AI skills and knowledge will be important in the next 3 years, but 72% of HR leaders noted that their organizations do not provide any form of AI training.
With the rising importance of employee experience in attracting and retaining the right employees and ensuring company brand loyalty, I think HR must lead the next wave of consumerization of IT, and they must do more. There are many things they can do to advocate to their employees and be the voice of the employee experience and really use the employee experience as a testing ground for companies to adopt AI in the way they engage with their customers or partners.
We’ll continue this conversation with Emily He in part two of this interview.