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Q&A: The Efficiency Programme: maximising tech benefits for HR

08 April 2024

QandA-The Efficiency Programme

In March The HR World held a webinar examining the current and future role of technology within the function.

The Efficiency Programme: How HR can maximise technology benefits brought together Adam Bertelsen, Human-Centred AI Lead, PA Consulting and Kameshwari Rao, Chief People Officer of Publicis Sapient. The webinar produced some vital insights for HR going forward, and is well worth a look. It is also now available in podcast form too. Below are some extra questions, produced by the webinar audience and now addressed by our two speakers.

1: I very much agree that data quality and infrastructure are the backbones of using AI. How can we help HR managers understand this connection beyond the hype of AI?

Kameshwari Rao: It’s easy to get caught up in the AI hype but it’s imperative that HR professionals recognise that data quality and infrastructure ARE the very backbone of successful AI implementation. Beyond just collecting data, its essential to curate it meticulously, ensuring its accuracy and relevance. Robust technological infrastructure provides the necessary foundation for AI systems to operate seamlessly and deliver meaningful insights. 

Even before the hype of AI, it was important for HR managers to encourage data led decisions with their business stakeholders. For example, engagement data trends help to understand the impact of various actions over time. Traditionally HR managers seemed to shy away from data, but given our ability to collect and use data this has to change. What gets measured matters and creates confidence both for HR teams and the business stakeholders. 

In addition to data quality and infrastructure, fostering a culture of trust and transparency around AI is paramount. Employees need to understand how AI is being used, its limitations, and the benefits it brings to their work and the organisation as a whole. Investing in comprehensive employee training programs not only builds confidence in using AI tools but also ensures that individuals can effectively collaborate with these technologies to drive business outcomes.

Furthermore, maintaining data security is non-negotiable. HR professionals must implement strong security measures to protect sensitive employee information and mitigate the risks of data breaches or misuse. This includes robust encryption protocols, access controls, and regular security audits to identify and address vulnerabilities proactively.

By prioritising data quality, infrastructure, security, seamless integration and employee training, HR professionals can harness the full potential of AI while mitigating associated risks. This strategic approach ensures that AI remains an asset in ultimately enhancing organisational efficiency, agility, and competitiveness in the digital era. 

 

Adam Bertelsen: We’ve found that effectively cutting through the hype of AI requires first demystifying it. So to this extent we have briefed our teams on the latest advances in AI, providing simple definitions, such as how AI is effectively a sophisticated prediction and pattern modelling engine, and outlining key things our managers need to be aware of including ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’, around data quality, and how in real-world case studies this has translated into negative outcomes such as biased hiring. We also encourage and provide links to hands on AI tools, with guidance on where we think they can be used in real day-to-day tasks, to really help managers understand what AI tools can do well and what their limitations are.

 

2: When a company has remote working arrangements, it can be difficult to get them to engage in networking events – initiatives designed to bring employees together. How do you create and maintain that sense of a working community while using technology that can keep workers apart?

Kameshwari Rao: Creating and maintaining a sense of community in an organisation whilst adopting a hybrid working pattern involves being phy-gital – striking a balance between physical presence and leveraging technology effectively to bring people together. This can be achieved through fostering regular communication, facilitating virtual and in-person collaboration and team-building activities, both in the office and otherwise, promoting transparency, and prioritising inclusion and wellbeing for all employees, whether they work remotely or in the office, or a mixture of both as we do.

Some examples of how to use technology to create a sense of community spirit and keep the culture alive in a workplace is to leverage tools like virtual networking platforms, and collaboration platforms to facilitate face-to-face interactions, group discussions, and brainstorming for creativity. Additionally, companies can also utilise social media, online events, and virtual events on special topics to foster connections and community among its people. These efforts help maintain a sense of camaraderie and engagement, regardless of employees’ locations or working arrangements. This is particularly useful for dispersed teams in large, global organisations such as ours.

At Publicis Sapient, we give our people regular community updates through localised town halls, as well as quarterly global town halls. We have company newsletters that are published fortnightly, a monthly calendar of events published on our company intranet, tailored to each one of our 53 global offices. In the London office for example, we also have Publicis Sapient Clubs – a combination of remote, in-person and hybrid communities that our people from London can join and engage with their colleagues with a shared comment interest. Clubs include: PS Book club, Football Club, PS Music Club, PS photography club etc. There are many such examples across the globe happening across our offices for promoting engagements.

 

Adam Bertelsen: What we have seen across our clients, and which is generally effective at developing and maintaining community at work, is a focus on equipping individuals, teams, and leaders with the tools to do this. Virtually, this can be through community tools, which give colleagues the means to easily provide virtual recognition, such as through Kudos on platforms such as Teams, Slack and Workday. HR can take the lead in sponsoring the establishment of official online communities such as for working families or cultures, and can offer tools such as apps to support communal remote wellness initiatives which motivate employees to take care of their physical and mental health together.

For face-to-face community building, this can be through setting policies which empower and support people to run their own events. For instance, some clients provide managers with a budget to provide breakfast at the start of the day or lunch for a business networking event, to encourage people who can’t meet after work. Ultimately it is often local teams who are most likely to identify and run events which are most engaging and relevant to their colleagues. HR can further support such events though by actively encouraging senior leaders to lead the charge and participate in networking events, set up encouraged office days for their team, and establish programmes to assign mentors and buddies for new joiners to increase network strengths.

 

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