How to Maximize Workforce Performance: Creating a Culture of Growth?

IBM-Art_0917Ever-evolving technological capabilities, new business models and digital transformation of companies are all driving market disruption at a rapid pace. Today, companies across most industries are investing heavily in transforming themselves to become digital enterprises. Unless this investment is accompanied by a parallel talent transformation and move to digital HR technologies, though, it will not bring them the business outcomes they are looking for. Furthermore, the talent transformation needs to include the following aspects: Developing existing talent to meet the new job and skill demands of the future, attracting new talent in a competitive market through irresistible experiences, and knowing what “success” looks like in every job to make better hiring decisions.

Do the people they have already hired or are hiring have the right cultural and skills fit? How can they map their current team skills to future requirements? How can they bridge any gaps in existing skills/roles? Can internal talent help fill any of the new requirements?

The first article in this series discussed factors that are ultimately reshaping the workforce and the way people work, and the changes that companies are having to contend with: changing workforce demographics and expectations, ever-changing talent needs, new technology and data, globalization of workforces, virtualization and continuing cost pressures. The technology and processes that the HR domain has traditionally used are no longer enough for the transformation they need to achieve. Let’s talk now about the strategy companies can use to drive this talent transformation and how cognitive innovations can help.

What is cognitive computing technology? 

A cognitive system can fundamentally change your competitive advantage, help you scale your best thinkers and enhance their absorption and application of knowledge. It learns and reasons from interactions with humans, from information and data on any subject matter and from online interactions and from its environment, building a deep and broad knowledge base that is always up to date. In the HR world, where there is a constant stream of changing policies and new regulations, this capability is critical.

Our research shows that, increasingly, business leaders recognize the transformational benefits of cognitive technologies, especially their “ability to dramatically scale human expertise in a cost-effective manner, significantly improve business decision-making processes, and produce deeper, sounder business insights.”1 And 89 percent of the cognitive early adopters are more profitable and more innovative than their industry peers.2

Building on existing HR investments in technology and process, including core HR platforms, cognitive solutions offer an opportunity for companies to make talent acquisition very precise, improve the overall employee experience, reduce costs, and enhance the accuracy and quality of HR services.

Cognitive talent management enables talent transformation 

Let’s begin with talent acquisition. Companies must put a process in place that allows them to identify success profiles for key jobs in a variety of job families (leaders, managers, sales, and key contributors in other areas).? A cognitive system can help build these data-driven success profiles for candidates by benchmarking the key competencies, skills, traits and behaviors of high performers in the role and quickly update them as business needs evolve. This removes both the need to use old keywords to focus on attributes that are indicators of success, and all bias and guesswork on the part of recruiters. Next, it can sort through huge numbers of resumes and profiles very rapidly, showing the recruiter who is the best match and most likely to succeed by scoring the candidates against the success profiles. It even has the potential to tell them who to recruit based on the company’s distinct success profile, enabling recruiters to make faster and better-informed decisions. Third, the cognitive tool can prioritize each open job requisition based on historical data, and data like the current pipeline of candidates. This helps recruiters focus on the area where they can have the most impact – on hard-to-fill roles or on convincing the right candidate to join and completing the hire. All this enables a shift to a skills-based system where the competencies and how they are evolving over time is fundamental, as is assessing not just candidates’ existing skills but their personality, behaviors, and propensity to learn and change and fit into the culture over time. It also enables onboarding and learning to be personalized, to help ramp up faster and get to desired business impacts sooner.

Another important aspect that cognitive solutions address is the candidate and employee experience. People prefer to join companies that offer a hiring and employee experience that takes into account not just their skills, but their needs and aspirations and cultural fit as well. While cognitive can help optimize the recruitment process, improve the match and assist the recruiter, it can also help provide a memorable experience for the candidate. Our research has shown that people who are satisfied with their candidate experiences are 38 percent more likely to accept a job offer, while candidates who have a positive experience are twice as likely to want to become a customer of the hiring organization compared to those who had a poor candidate experience.3 The virtual assistant features of cognitive computing can provide a high-touch candidate experience while working within a limited recruitment budget – to interact with the candidate, understand them, and match them with a job that is the best fit for them and that optimizes their skills. Suddenly, rather than the candidate having to hunt and search, the system is recommending roles and openings that are potential matches. Once the candidate accepts the job offer, the virtual assistant can help ensure onboarding is smooth and seamless, helping accelerate the new hire’s time to productivity.

Engaged employees who are inspired by the company’s vision and aligned to it are a huge advantage while driving the talent transformation. Knowing what they think and feel – and acting upon the knowledge gleaned from this collective “employee voice” – is crucial to its success.4 Cognitive technology helps you listen to your people through census and pulse surveys, as well as see what they are saying on social media platforms and forums, analyze responses and act fast on insights.

Cognitive systems can also be used internally to help employees move along a planned career path by assessing their skills and aspirations and recommending learning options that will help them get there. Opportunity for development and growth within the company is a huge driver of employee engagement. Research has shown that 74 percent of high potential employees indicated they would join an organization for better career development opportunities.5 Many companies, however, tend to invest in training more for succession planning or organizational performance than on the career progression of every employee. Using cognitive systems offers them the ability to offer career pathing to all employees. For the individual, cognitive technology offers personalization, contextualization, engaging design, anticipation of learning needs, and timely content. For the company, cognitive computing and predictive analytics can provide an understanding of how the system is performing and how it can perform better, and enable a more guided approach toward customized training recommendations that help people in their chosen career path while aligning to organizational goals. In addition, the company can determine the right information for improving business performance and achieving goals or development plans that will support an employee’s transition to other roles in the company, based on the progression of other employees. Employees who are most engaged with their organizations are five times less likely to be searching for a new job.6 Show them a future where they can grow and evolve along with the company and build a solid career; this will motivate them to stay and actively support the transformation. If they need to learn new skills, empower and help them to do this. Give them a line of sight to work toward.

Cognitive systems are creating a new partnership between humans and technology by enhancing, scaling and accelerating human expertise. Just imagine the possibilities of people and systems being able to draw from one another, build on each others thinking, look for specific areas of improvement, find what it takes to get there, and take informed decisions based on data rather than gut feel. The possibilities are endless and the good news is, all of the cognitive solutions discussed in this article are available in the market, are already in use by early adopters and are already showing robust results. It’s up to companies to harness the potential of cognitive solutions to drive their talent transformation and achieve business success.

1. Fast start in cognitive innovation: IBV report summary

2. Analytics: Dawn of the cognitive era

3. The far-reaching impact of candidate experience

4. Amplifying employee voice: How organizations can better connect to the pulse of the workforce

5 & 6. Should I stay or should I go? Global insights into employees’ decisions to leave their jobs

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Workflow.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

A technology veteran with more than 30 years of experience creating, building, and running businesses for leading Silicon Valley companies, Robert Schultz is general manager of IBM Talent Management Solutions. Schultz is responsible for the strategy, product development, consulting, cloud delivery, and customer service for all of IBM Talent Management solutions.