HR Technology is Evolving Quickly, is The Function Evolving at the Same Speed?

Mike Bokina, Vice President, Head of Human Resources, Siemens USA

Mike Bokina, Vice President, Head of Human Resources, Siemens USA

We have all heard that technology is an enabler, not a solution in itself.   But what is it enabling?  Are we as an HR organization moving as fast as technology moves to ‘demand’ even more from the apps, chatbots and AI we say are transforming the function?  At Siemens HR, we are on this journey—to utilize technology as a catalyst for changing how HR better supports our businesses while elevating our own focus. 

But what does elevating the focus of HR mean?   For Siemens US HR, our goal is to create strategic talent advantage by building the workforce, empowering managers, and living a leadership culture.  We will realize our goal by expanding our own capabilities in the areas of consultation, organizational development and organizational effectiveness.

The ability to diagnose customer challenges, build a business case for action, ‘solution’ through co-creation and support the business on implementation takes time to grow in any organization, nonetheless one of over 200 HR professionals.  To help accelerate our progress, we are focusing on both the ‘top side’ and ‘bottom side’ of our HR value chain.

The ‘top side’ is the work in which we want to become more involved—business partnership and organizational development and effectiveness -(OD/OE) based interventions.  We recognize that to be successful we need some upskilling.  We have employed the support of a third-party provider who specializes in building consulting, OD, and OE mindset and skills.  We will soon launch a series of programs for our HR team to build out our organization-wide competence.

The ‘bottom side’ is full of topics that are still within the HR scope of services but do not benefit from having an experienced HR professional provide.  These are things like policy questions, basic tool guidance, and process or resource navigation assistance.  Any organization has various options to approach this work, with the most common outcomes being some version of underwhelming self- service or outsourced assistance.  At Siemens, we approached the challenge using a tool called CARL.

"To help accelerate our progress, we are focusing on both the ‘top side’ and ‘bottom side’ of our HR value chain"

Several years ago, Siemens HR made an investment in chatbot technology.  Partnering with IBM, we introduced CARL (Cognitive Advisor for interactive user Relationship & continuous Learning).  CARL is designed to support employees and applicants to solve ‘tier 1’ HR related questions.  CARL is only as good as how fast and what it learns, so teams across the globe have been spending time on educating CARL so it can be better suited to handle such inquiries in a ‘once-and-done’ manner with no limit as to what CARL can do over time.

The benefits that CARL will bring Siemens are numerous.  The HR team will be able to confidently hand off tier 1 inquiries to CARL, freeing them up to elevate their focus and fully utilize the training program.  Our employees benefit by having a reliable self-service resource that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  An additional benefit for employees is a single point of intake for all HR topics.  We have a wealth of worthwhile resources within Siemens HR, which with any large company creates some complications for access and retrieval.  One of our strategic goals over time is to position CARL as the go-to search engine for Siemens US HR inquiries.

The road to set up a fully functioning chatbot as a one-stop shop for all HR related inquiries is neither easy nor short.  Our question and answer sets number in the thousands, and we’ve only scratched the surface of content to include in CARL.  We are hosting employee hackathons to gain the employee perspective on question wording (HR jargon need not participate!).  We are being thoughtful in our overall architecture and decision trees, balancing between structure and a fluid and flexible experience.  We will conduct road shows to help with adoption and change management. 

CARL is a work in progress and is just one example of a tool we have employed in our journey to change the focus of what HR does on a daily basis—shifting from HR operational tasks to focus on a more consultative approach to ‘people’ topics.  Breaking the historical habits of managers and employees utilizing their local HR resource for all things people related and moving to a chatbot to answer HR-related questions is proving to be a challenge.  But we are committed to the journey and are committed to finding new technologies that support that journey and enable us as a function to better support leaders and managers to improve the organization’s effectiveness.

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