Electronic Art's global head of future of work chats with HRD on the most impactful ways tech has touched HR
From ChatGPT to AI assistants to robotic CEOs, the world of technology is growing at an exponential rate. For employers, this growth is something of a double-edged sword – presenting both unlimited opportunities and challenging compliance issues all at once.
For Amanda Cennon, global head of future of work, employee experience and employer brand at Electronic Arts, the technology that’s had the biggest impact on HR to date is talent analytics – specifically in regard to them becoming more accessible.
“That’s both in terms of ease of software use and in democratizing data,” she says. “If an HR team has these tools in place and has invested in the change management to build the data and business acumen for HR teams to use them effectively, it can be a huge unlock. This can be even more powerful if you can put data driven insights directly in the hands of leaders.”
“Traditionally, HR teams have been somewhat confined to systems that didn’t go much beyond headcount and attrition reporting - and this has been manual, time intensive and not very impactful,” says Cennon.
“This means a lot of decisions around talent strategy, HR priorities and investments have been based on gut - both on the part of the business and by HR. And HR is full of gut hypotheses that deserve to be tested given the impact on the employee experience and the business outcomes that are driven by that.”
Investments in HR tech boom post-pandemic
According to data from CB Insights, investments in HR tech have been growing steadily in recent years. In 2021, the total amount of VC funding for HR tech companies globally reached $5.5 billion, up from $4.5 billion in 2020. In other words, it’s big business.
And this sudden surge in popularity for HR tech was driven in part by necessity. The pandemic and subsequent “work from home” mandates meant that employers have to pivot to overnight digitization – and quickly. What was once a “nice to have” in people tech became a core, strategic need, cementing technology as the right arm of HR.
In her world right now, Cennon is looking at tech-driven questions such as;
- Are there correlations between our different engagement metrics and hybrid, remote or on-site work model types? What are the impacts to how employees rate eSat, connection, belonging, manager satisfaction and being on track to meet goals?
- What’s the voluntary attrition rate of employees in our different work model types? Are there other trends in our talent metrics?
- Are there differences in demographics in terms of which employees are more likely to opt for different work models? How geographically dispersed are our teams?
“With the changes to how people work that were driven by our shared experience of the global pandemic, we have the opportunity to take this experience to reimagine work and deliver both better business outcomes and a better employee experience,” she tells HRD.
It’s this focus on employee experience that is set to dominate 2023. In the current tight labour market, where all the power rests with the candidates, employers are having to go the extra mile to hold on to their top-tier talent. Investing in technology to help supercharge the employee experience will be a must in the coming months – especially where retention is concerned.
Streamlining HR tech to match expectations
At EA, Cennon says that they have a mature people analytics function already in place to support them in testing hypotheses, making data driven decisions and taking data informed actions to deliver a better employee experience.
“I can’t imagine working without this team of experts and the suite of tools - we wouldn’t be able to deliver what we do without them,” she tells HRD. “Additionally, like a lot of large organizations, we have a suite of software tools that enhance the employee experience. We leverage technology tools to support employee engagement surveys, manager satisfaction surveys and pulse surveys.
“We have performance management tools to help support our annual pay for performance processes for managers. We have a tool that reviews our job postings to ensure our postings are inclusive. We also have payroll software that makes it easy for employees to access pay and tax statements – and employee experience software that allows employees to make direct access service requests.”
Employees today expect streamlined, easy to use services. There’s a current proliferation of tech that can overcomplicate the process – and if employees aren’t able to access information in real-time they’re likely to hop ship. In a study conducted by Paychex, 93% of HR professionals said that they believe it is important for their HR technology to be user-friendly. What’s more, stat from Glassdoor found that 60% of jobseekers would avoid a company that uses outdated and difficult to use tech.
Will generative AI help or harm HR?
It's important that HR leaders keep their eyes on the ball when it comes to advancements in HR tech – especially with the rate that it’s evolving. Cennon believes that generative AI has great potential to transform HR even more in the coming years.
“I know there’s a lot of buzz, similar to the buzz on the metaverse, that might make people skeptical,” she tells HRD. “But the difference between the business applications of the metaverse and generative AI, is that generative AI has a much lower barrier to entry. You don’t need to be tech savvy or to have special hardware to use a tool like ChatGPT. It’s very intuitive, no different than using a chatbot that many of us are familiar with through our online retail experience.”
Cennon cites generative AI as an interesting development for HR - looking at its use in business applications with the benefits of data protection and the ability to link across multiple applications.
“This impacts both the types of work we do within HR and the types of work done outside of HR, in areas that thus far, haven’t benefited from automation,” she says. “As some examples of HR work specifically - the most obvious one is augmenting employee help desk support that’s more sophisticated than the chatbots of the past. When you can load a large number of artifacts into your tool, the quality of answers and the sophistication of the types of questions you can delegate to your chatbots is large.”
Beyond that, Cennon says she’s excited about the general augmentation of knowledge work.
“If readers haven’t had the chance to watch the Microsoft 365 Copilot demo event, it’s publicly available and gives some practical use cases,” she tells HRD. “For example, with hybrid and remote meetings, many teams record these as a standard practice and also already have the technology to auto-generate meeting scripts. With generative AI, you could take that meeting script and ask for a summary of the conversation and actions, essentially automating minute taking.”
Cennon will be speaking at HRD’s upcoming HR Tech Summit – book your tickets here.