It wasn’t so long ago that the notion of thinking, talking computers was largely science fiction. Now many of us have one in our phone, and more and more people are installing them on tabletops and kitchen counters in their homes.

This is cognitive technology ― essentially, various products equipped with artificial intelligence that enables the device to “learn” as it takes in more data and perform functions that, previously, only humans could do. For employers, one area in which cognitive technology is having an enormous impact is HR.

General uses

A few of the most widely used types of cognitive technology today are:

Computer vision. Since the advent of photography and video, human eyeballs have been required to analyze the information gathered by these two mediums. No longer: Now the cognitive technology of computer vision allows machines to extract, analyze and understand data within one image or a sequence of images.

Machine learning. For centuries, only human beings could learn new, complex tasks and concepts. Machines had to be built, adjusted and, eventually, programmed. But they couldn’t learn. Many types of software can now do just that ― “learn” by adjusting their responses and output based on all of the accumulated data received.

Speech recognition. Again, many science fiction movies have portrayed humans talking to computers or robots, and many of us (or perhaps our parents or grandparents) have laughed at the concept. Well, it’s now a reality. Through speech recognition, a computer can learn to understand human sounds, translate those sounds into language and respond accordingly. (Note: You may also encounter the term “natural language processing.” This is a subset of speech recognition that focuses on the language component.)

Robotics. From heavy lifting to fine motor skills, human arms and hands were historically necessary to perform so many tasks. Now manufacturing plants are filled with robots, and robotics is having a major impact on other industries as well (health care, construction).

HR applications

So let’s get down to specifics. How can cognitive technology, in one or more of its various forms, help organizations accomplish their HR objectives?

For starters, many observers and professionals within the field believe cognitive technology can drastically improve how organizations acquire talent. Why? Because the hiring process really plays into the strengths of cognitively enabled devices and software.

In the first few months of 2017, IBM’s Institute for Business Value and the Smarter Workforce Institute released a joint report entitled Extending expertise: How cognitive computing is transforming HR and the employee experience. The report revealed several key activities in which cognitive technology particularly suits the complexities of HR, including:

  • Making data-rich and highly complex decisions based on multiple inputs from different data sources,
  • Conducting frequent and varied user interactions and then interpreting and addressing these interactions, and
  • Processing huge volumes of unstructured data: for example, various forms of text, as well as images and even auditory recordings.

Think about the hiring process. An employer may receive hundreds of resumés and cover letters. These documents may be accompanied by writing samples or a portfolio of design work or examples of software code the candidate has written. From initial contact through various interviews, many types of interactions may occur. And all of this creates a huge volume of data ― texts, emails, notes, voice mails, images, etc.

The right cognitive technology can serve as a collaborative partner, assisting the organization in sorting and categorizing the information and arriving at the best possible hiring decision. And it can do so quickly and efficiently, speeding up the hiring process and putting those ideal candidates to work in a much more timely fashion.

And the potential HR benefits don’t end there. Employers can use cognitively enabled systems to create onboarding programs that more realistically interact with new hires and are smart enough to identify potential engagement problems before they get out of hand. Software imbued with machine learning functions can track an employee’s training progress and help direct them to career opportunities within the organization.

There are also operational capabilities of cognitive technology that many employers can use ― particularly larger ones. For example, a system using machine learning and speech recognition can answer questions via phone or computer about employee handbook issues and benefits matters. Doing so will free up actual HR staff to focus on more pressing matters and work toward strategic goals.

Reaping the benefits

How important is cognitive technology to the future of HR? According to the aforementioned IBM report, more than 65% of the CEOs surveyed believe that cognitive technology will significantly drive value in HR going forward. Meanwhile, 50% of responding execs believe that cognitively enabled systems will affect key roles in their organizations.

Don’t get left behind! Consider how this trend might affect your organization and what steps you might take to reap its benefits. For help, please contact us. Performance Dimensions Group is always looking to provide the latest, cutting-edge resources and skills to nurture organizations along the path to achieving high performance.