Transforming HR through AI insight

Photo by Franck V.

Realising that business transformation in the post-COVID world is inevitable, companies are turning to AI platforms and technology to accelerate their transformation. Beyond digital payments and online retail, internal business processes are also being enhanced by new technology.

One such company is CrimsonLogic which partners governments globally providing products and services that focus on Trade, Legal, Digital Government and Cyber Security. Working together with JobKred, an AI-driven HR Tech company, they have developed their HR capabilities in ways that provide better insights into the career development of their employees. 

SMEhorizon talks to Sylvia Koh, CPO of CrimsonLogic and Gary Gan, CEO and Co-Founder of JobKred, on how the HR landscape has changed, how AI brings both productivity and insight, and how technology can build the resilience a company needs to weather crises.

Improving HR manual processes

According to Gan, traditional and manual methods of employee transformation and deployment take a lot of time and effort. This does not only affect productivity, but can also hinder the elevation of a company’s Human Capital.

“Often times, companies have a sense that they need to transform their business and elevate their workforce, but are not quite sure how to begin to close those gaps,” says Gan. “They struggle to identify the direction of change, and may have to do manual market research, which is time consuming.”

“They may not have the full picture of the Human Capital that they currently have. They may turn to manual surveys or focus groups, which are slow, expensive, not data-driven, and very painful to organise and carry out.”

“Finally, even if companies know the direction in which they want to transform and elevate their workforce, there is often no existing tool or process to carry out the transformation process. Supervisors are typically tasked to guide workers on their career and skills development, and more often than not, the supervisors lack the time and skills to help, resulting in a very slow and ineffective transformation process.”

Echoing this sentiment, Koh shared how the repository of skills and capabilities of their technical workforce – information used in career planning and resourcing – was previously managed manually through Excel spreadsheets. In developing their system, they worked together with JobKred’s tools for automating the entire workforce transformation process.

Not just productivity, but vital insight

The JobKred AI solution transforms talent development practices by embracing a data-driven and predictive-analytics approach. “Our system powers a career development platform that learns from public market data, to provide digital career guidance, skills gap analysis, education recommendations and job matching,” explains Gan.

“A simple way to think about it is we take in millions of job data points as input, pass it through our AI, and produce tailored recommendations related to careers, skills gaps, and training courses that help employees to close that gap.”

The team that runs this comprises not just technical talent and developers, but also incorporates data scientists that continually takes in customer feedback to improve the features of the platform. These work in tandem with mature HR and Learning & Development professionals who bring decades of experience to the team.

“By combining technical expertise with industry experience, we ensure that the platform is conclusively meeting the current and future needs of clients and users, and that JobKred platform deployments are effectively carried out with support from our team’s practical experience in the HR field,” says Gan.

Implementing these systems has provided CrimsonLogic with a structured approach to measure the technical bench strength of its staff. “Each technical staff populates his/her competency level, measures these against national and CrimsonLogic’s benchmarked levels at each job grade,” shares Koh.

“The respective line manager assesses and evaluates, then validates these competency levels via the JobKred platform. Through the platform, we are able to obtain great insights and a realistic view of competency levels.  

“This insight provides the anchor for career discussions and individual development planning between the Manager and the technical staff. The platform also serves as a repository for company’s technical competencies that enables resourcing for projects.”

Commenting on how AI approaches enhance existing HR practice, Gan says that companies today “spend a large amount of money on acquiring manpower, but they lack the data and bandwidth to identify the right areas for its employees to continuously develop their skill set as job titles evolve.

“With Big Data crawled from multiple online sources of labour market information, and incorporating local data such as Singapore Skills Frameworks, JobKred is enabling a tech and data-driven approach to help companies strategize their business and workforce transformation in a quick and agile manner.

This not only benefits the company, but also the individual employees. “By utilising AI and workforce analytics, we are able to help employees generate a personalised learning roadmap,” Gan continues.

“This creates talent mobility, and ultimately allows the employees to do their best work by focusing on skills needed to be successful in their work, or to even allow career conversations with employers to craft a role that harnesses their skills to their fullest.”

Resilience in crisis

As in other areas of business management, companies which have striven to digitalise early have seen benefits during the pandemic in the form of greater adaptability and resiliency. CrimsonLogic, as an IT company, “moved very swiftly through the new norms imposed,” shares Koh.

“Work from Home and telecommute begun as early as February 2020, and we were well organised to leverage technology for work, virtual meetings, e-learning etc. With JobKred (or “My Skills Bank” as internally named), we continue with resource planning and career dialogue with staff as such data has been well represented within the portal.

“The embedded framework for each job level provides reference for learning & development needed, and also provides recommendations for digital learning directly,” she continues. When recommended, staff were pointed to specific development through courses with Udemy.

“COVID-19 has shown us that businesses need to incorporate resiliency into their business models,” says Gan. “Human Capital is still the ultimately driver of value creation, and we want organisations to be able to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and to be agile to pivot their workforce and business in not just COVID-19, but any future crisis.”

Enhancing the role of HR

Gan thinks that COVID-19 has accelerated the need for all sectors, not just HR, to adopt new technology to adapt or improve their situation. “That said, we have seen that the HR sector has been rather quick to respond to technology adoption this year,” he continues.

“The HR sector has been forced toward an environment where virtual and remote processes are now business-as-usual. Technology has become the heart of human resources, and usage of tools like video conferencing and online communication tools are widely accepted. Previous generation platforms like HRIS and HRMS systems are also quite widespread in most organisations.”

Although the sector is generally receptive to new technology, there are still areas where it can move forward. “The challenge would be for HR to use technology tools beyond simple automation of operational work, and move towards strategic tools that can also provide value in analytics, strategic decisions, human capital allocation and development,” shares Gan.

“This would enable HR to have the data insights and evidence to show their strategic impact on the organisation, and have a seat at the table for strategic planning within the company.”

Embracing AI in the HR sector

In this vein, Gan feels that his job is not done. “There is still some need to educate on what AI and Big Data can and cannot do,” he explains. “Any Artificial Intelligence is only as good as the data that drives it, so often times there is a need for customers to be prepared to collect, store and manage data about their people, to make the most of our platform.”

“Clients are also  starting to see the potential use cases and impact of AI and Big Data in their area of HR, and tend to need to be shown direct use cases as well as other successful case studies, to understand the value that the technology is providing.

“That said, there is definitely interest in the area, and it’s the job of HR tech companies like ours, to share best practices, so that they can utilise technology to automate HR work, enable strategic value, and elevate HR themselves.”

Explaining his own company’s approach, Gan shares that “JobKred typically presents the use of AI in HR to the stakeholders and decision makers of the company, before and during our project kick-off, to ensure everyone is on the same page in understanding the value and potential impact of AI in HR.”

Getting employees on board is crucial in ensuring that the technologies work to their full potential. In CrimsonLogic’s case, shares Koh, colleagues were responsive and readily populated their experience and skills into the tool.  

“We did some internal activities to promote this initiative early in the process, and the take up rate is encouraging at 80% of our total global technical population. The small gap is due to new staff we have recently recruited, and overseas colleagues who have hybrid roles and are not able to populate their competencies as yet.”

Into a technological future

For CrimsonLogic, their digital transformation continues as their company explores various new tools. These include ImpressAI on their Recruitment Bots, which they brand as TARA.

“TARA facilitates the screening of candidates and connects them to the technical assessment site,” shares Koh. “ Not only does it help us to screen candidates, it also supports our Diversity and Inclusion agenda, as the results focus on competency levels and no other sensitive information.”

Chiming in on developments in HR outside of AI, Gan suggests that the next development is likely the rise of marketplaces to serve the needs of HR.

“We are starting to see aggregators of services and solutions to provide one-stop solutions to HR. This opens up more choices to HR, and reduces costs for them, but introduces the complexity of horizontal or vertical integration of different platforms and marketplaces.”

Augmented reality, particularly in the areas of training, is another likely area of development, adds Gan, in this moment when the future of work is being rewritten.

“The traditional ways of working, 9-5 in an office, may be a thing of the past. We have seen new approaches like shared jobs, fully remote teams, or separated teams in the office.

“As the workplace changes, the way human capital is managed will also change. HR professionals will need to be expert in not just HR skills, but also technology skills in understanding technological use of platforms, data analytics, and other tech applications in HR.”