HR Technology for 2018: More Intelligent than Ever


Josh Bersin By Josh Bersin February 6, 2018

​Almost every HR vendor I talk with claims to have artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions, predictive analytics, chatbots or some other form of algorithmic solution to make HR better. As I've learned about all these products and started to see them in action, let me give you tips on what to look for.

In the recruitment market, data is really driving our future. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of social networks and dozens of intelligent sourcing and assessment tools, our research shows, AI is creating significant value. As you search for new recruiting tools (sourcing, candidate assessment, intelligent chatbots and mobile recruiting platforms), ask the vendor to show you how its AI works. Ask to see how decisions are made and for examples of where it might apply to you. These vendors are well ahead of the learning curve, and the value will become clear to you.

In the learning and development market, many learning management system (LMS) platforms, learning experience platforms, and micro-learning platforms now use AI and an algorithmic solution to recommend content, curate content and guide learners through the most appropriate content to learn.  Many of these vendors have extensive experience analyzing the best path through content, the right time to view the next content and even the right learning module to view based on your confidence in your understanding of the subject matter. Learning activity data is now available through the Experience API, or xAPI (a way to record and track everything you click on while learning), so all these vendors are becoming "intelligent."

In the employee engagement and survey market, the same AI wave is coming. A flurry of vendors whose products started as engagement and pulse survey tools now provide text analytics, sentiment analysis, word clouds and intelligent assessment of employee sentiment. Several of them can measure trust networks and use organizational network analysis to identify trusted people in your network and even point out areas of potential fraud or bad behavior. While none of this software is perfect, it's better than trying to read every comment individually and can certainly give managers a better idea of how they stack up against their peers.

In the performance management market, software for continuous performance management now provides activity streams, public and private comments, and organizational network analysis by looking at the patterns of feedback you get on the job. In time, these platforms will recommend learning and coaching to managers, and some do this already.

In the area of employee self-service and case management, the platforms are also getting smarter. Not only can you now chat with your employee system online (or through your messaging system), you can send it messages ("Book my vacation day on Friday") and the system will perform a transaction. Soon, it will actually make recommendations to you on what courses to take, how to slow down and relax, and other employee benefits.

I could go on and on. It feels like the words "AI" and "intelligent" have been included on most HR tools in the market, and more and more of this is starting to work.

While all this is positive and definitely making our work lives easier, let me also give you a warning: AI is not magic; it is simply highly refined statistics and mathematical models that try to predict and recommend action based on a mass amount of data. If you don't have enough data, the AI may not be as useful. So as exciting as it sounds, I recommend you ask the vendor to give you a real-world demo and talk with as many references as you can.

There's no question in my mind that AI, predictive analytics, sentiment analytics, visual recognition and natural language interfaces are maturing far faster than we expected. All of this will impact our HR technologies. Just make sure that whatever you buy really fits your needs and that the "intelligence" you implement is intelligent in the areas of need for your organization. 

Josh Bersin is principal and founder, Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.  As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of our legal structure. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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