HR Query

HR Query: How AI Fits into the People Experience

In today’s digital world, digital transformation has grown from just an IT strategy and now is increasingly tied to people strategy. According to recent research, remote working, collaboration and productivity are the top priorities for business leaders’ enterprise technology strategy.

AI people experience

Lisa-Moné Lamontagne, PsyD, SHRM-CP, People Experience Leader at Unit4, believes HR leaders can help their organizations realize more value from emerging technology by shifting their mindset from digital transformation to “experience transformation.”

In this week’s HR Query, Dr. Lamontagne shares insights on how organizations can prioritize the people experience with digital transformation.

Here’s what she had to say.

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen more organizations undergoing rapid digital transformation. Traditionally, digital transformation has been associated with technology implementation. How have you seen digital transformation efforts evolve to focus more on people experience?

LL: Leaders used to view digital transformation as a technology-driven initiative – focusing heavily on technical aspects like architecture standards and IT system integration. Then, the pandemic caused a shift in priorities for digital strategy. Many businesses were forced to abruptly adopt remote work, which accelerated the pace of digital transformation.

Yet, leaders realized that technology alone could not drive change. As workforces became more fluid and the Great Resignation challenged talent retention, more leaders recognized a people-led approach was critical to the success of digital transformation.

Organizations are now focusing more on “experience transformation,” an approach that prioritizes securing employee buy-in with technology adoption by gearing transformation towards creating straightforward working environments and freeing up people’s time to focus on value-added work.

There has been widespread skepticism around the use of AI in the workplace, with some employees concerned AI could replace jobs. What are some of the benefits AI can offer in terms of people experience and HR management?

LL: From a people experience perspective, the greatest benefit of AI is that it can automate the repetitive, mundane tasks that take away from more strategic work. This increases efficiency and gives teams more time to spend on passion projects. 43% of employees say they want automated processes to help them deliver more high-value work, according to Unit4’s Business Future Index.

Focusing on this type of work is not only more fulfilling for individuals, but also drives an organizational culture built on creativity and innovation.

From an HR management perspective, the labor market has become increasingly competitive over the past few years. Organizations that don’t embrace emerging technology could have a harder time attracting and retaining top talent.

According to Gartner research, 76% of HR leaders believe that if their organization does not adopt and implement AI solutions in the next 12 to 24 months, they will be lagging in organizational success compared to those that do.

How can HR teams help employees realize the benefits of AI and emerging technologies?

LL: While many employees recognize the potential benefits of increased automation and efficiency, it’s easy for the fear of the unknown to outweigh the positives. HR leaders should emphasize that AI is a complement – not a replacement for jobs.

In fact, AI presents an opportunity for reskilling and upskilling. When HR teams take the time to understand employees’ career goals and the skills they’re most interested in learning, they can then map out how new technologies and productivity gains can create space to cultivate those skills.

What advice do you have for HR leaders considering the use of emerging technologies and how to best implement them?

LL: For organizations just getting started with emerging technologies, focusing on people experience and retention is a good place to start. Automating back-office tasks is a quick win to improve employee experience.

Having a clear understanding of your needs is crucial when considering the use of emerging technologies. HR leaders should educate themselves and their teams on the latest in trends and technology, as well as identifying gaps within their current technologies.

HR leaders should also work closely with CTOs and CIOs to encourage people-led transformation and ensure technology initiatives have broad buy-in across the organization. This collaboration across functions is essential because the success of any new technology hinges on people success.

We’re seeing a trend of more U.S. companies wanting employees to return to the office. Do you believe building company culture requires a physical presence or can it be shaped in a remote setting?

LL: I believe offering flexible work is critical to attracting and retaining the best talent. According to DDI’s 2023 Global Leadership Forecast, employees under the age of 35 were more than twice as likely to want to leave their companies when flexible work was not supported.

That said, building a strong company culture remotely requires HR leaders to be intentional about consistently implementing flexible policies and proactively fostering collaboration. HR teams need to play an active role in implementing the right digital platforms and tools to keep employees connected virtually.

It’s easier for people to lose sight of the organization’s purpose in a remote setting. HR teams should connect training and team-building activities back to company values – for example, facilitating a virtual scavenger hunt for a charitable cause to tie to an organization’s “giving back” value. By infusing purpose in company initiatives, HR teams can build a culture that transcends office walls.

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