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Innovative Ways how AI can Enhance Employee Experience When we speak about artificial intelligence (AI), much of the industry is focussed on applications for customers. And while they are vast, companies who miss looking at innovating their employee experiences could be missing out

By Janet Teo

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Global investment in AI solutions is growing rapidly – accordingly to a 2017 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, investment in AI globally rose from US$26 billion to US$39 billion from 2016 to 2017. The report also indicates that in Southeast Asia there was a great potential for AI technologies that could automate about 50 per cent of the work activities performed in ASEAN's four biggest economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

A popular term in Silicon Valley, "Dogfooding" is a reference to eating your own dog food, which occurs when an organisation uses its own product. This is a great way for companies to test ideas and incubate innovation for customer-facing products.

A leading regional ASEAN bank, has been growing substantially over the years, with more than 8,500 employees where they are based alone. Much like scaling customer support, the bank had to build a large helpdesk team that required a substantial investment of time and resources by the Human Resource Department (HR), who handle over 23,500 (often repetitive) email & phone enquiries per day. Aligned with its "Digital to the Core" mission, they sought a solution that could optimise this part of their business and cater to an increasingly digital workforce.

Creating an Intelligent Assistant for Employees

In 2017, our team came on board and started working closely with the bank, understood the needs and challenges its HR team were facing and in a matter of months of running the beta version, hired an intelligent HR assistant to deliver both an amazing experience and improve HR productivity. Integrated into the bank's Human Resource Management System and trained to understand over 10,000 enquiries, the intelligent HR assistant was able to give personal responses to policy, benefit and other related HR questions, as well as automate core processes, like the creation of employment letters.

Within three months of going live in March 2018, the intelligent HR assistant established itself as a core member of the bank's HR Department. In 2018, the intelligent HR assistant assisted almost half of the bank's workforce, who exchanged over 60,000 messages.

Implementing an intelligent assistant for employees can measurably impact a firm's HR team's productivity. By automating core services such as their internal helpdesk, EA Form (year-end tax) retrieval and staff loan calculations, helps save hundreds of hours of monthly manual support and repetitive phone calls. This allowed the physical helpdesk team to focus on higher value work, that will benefit more employees – giving the opportunity to provide the necessary training to upskill employees to improve competencies for better productivity. With automation being implemented into more manual-processing services, this can allow for employees within a firm to take on a different function within the organisation, for example moving from helpdesk to a talent acquisition function.

Having a fully-operational intelligent assistant within an HR team can lead to exploring new and innovative AI solutions to further improve productivity for other HR processes such as candidate screening processes, training programs and employee satisfaction feedback.

Developing a "Smart' Process to Screen Candidates

As companies continue to grow not only in new capabilities to cater to an increasingly tech-savvy mass market, there will also be more pressure on a firm's HR team's talent acquisition methods and processes. In the case of this leading bank—for its Management Associate Programme—its HR team screens a pool of more than 1,500 candidates with the outcome to only hire 20, just for Malaysia. This situation is not unique only to them but also to several large multinationals who run similar programmes – where the need for having automation during the first level of screening for candidates.

Equipping the intelligent HR assistant with additional skills, we combined psycholinguistics with machine learning to create a powerful screening assistant for the bank's HR team. Built specifically for the bank's core requirements, the assistant efficiently detects a variety of fields such as whether a candidate is digitally literate, analytical, possess the right personality for the job amongst many others

Implementing additional skills to an existing intelligent HR assistant provides more versatility for companies to customise the required solutions in order to cater to the needs of their employees. For the bank, this expanded more roles for the intelligent HR assistant, which was embedded into the entire employee lifecycle – from recruitment to employee offering a seamless employee experience.

The concept of developing a "smart' process to screen candidate isn't about relying fully on automation, but to make it more human, or rather more objective by taking away the archaic way of hiring. In the case of the intelligent HR assistant's model, we've removed traditional biases such as GPA and degree, enabling the bank to widen their candidate pool. This, in turn, give candidates a better experience throughout the entire process.

Introducing such innovation flips the traditional recruiting process on its head, transforming a tedious process, for both candidate and recruiter, to a fun and highly efficient experience.

In a McKinsey survey of AI-aware C-level executives from over 3073 companies, 20 per cent cited labour cost savings as their primary motivation for adopting AI, while even more (25 per cent) said they introduced AI to help their business expand. However, in today's hyper-connected world, one of the core challenges for HR is not to allow technology to disconnect itself from what matters most – people.

According to Microsoft Asia poll, only 9% of business leaders say claim that "productive employees" are a top driver in their adoption of AI, while the primary reason for adopting AI was for better customer engagements.

Though improving the customer experience is important, companies who improve the employee experience, and subsequently their productivity, are also succeeding. In a study by Harvard Business Review, companies that give "employees access to consumer-grade technologies" enjoy four times higher profits on average.

There is a strong business case for businesses to look inwards and innovate how they deliver employee experiences using AI.

Janet Teo

Co-founder, Hyperlab

Janet Teo is the co-founder of Hyperlab and serves as the Senior Vice-President, Sales and Client Servicing. Her advertising experience started with OgilvyOne in Kuala Lumpur, where she worked as Business Director, before joining BBDO in 2008. Her entrepreneurial streak emerged in 2010 when she co-founded FutureLab, and in 2012 became CEO of Next Digital (that became APD) where she headed the Malaysian office.


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