CIPHR is a privately owned business with over 650 organisations using its software and over 700,000 employee records managed on CIPHR systems. The Company has its head office in Marlow, Bucks UK. Computers in Personnel (CIPHR) provides software and services for people and data management.
Talking about this life stage and educating all staff will benefit your organisation and those experiencing symptoms
We all know someone who has been through, will experience or is currently going through it – but what do you really know about the menopause, and how it affects the person experiencing it?
Reproductive health is still a taboo subject in the workplace, yet the effects of the menopause can adversely affect performance. In fact, 59% of working women aged between 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopausal symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work, according to a recent study by the CIPD.
And, with women aged 50+ becoming the fastest-growing group in the UK workforce (there were 3.8 million women over 50 in work in 2015), it’s something employers cannot ignore.
Here, we’ll outline what the menopause is, common symptoms likely to affect workers, and how employers can give better support to staff during this time.
What is the menopause?
It’s when the menstrual cycle stops because the ovaries are no longer producing eggs. You have reached the menopause if you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
There are three stages:
Perimenopause (from when you first experience symptoms until you reach menopause – we’re including this stage when talking about menopause here)
Menopause (12 months after your last period)
Postmenopause (any time after that)
This natural process usually happens to women between the ages of 45 and 55 as oestrogen levels in the body decline. Although the average age that women reach menopause in the UK is 51, it can happen at any point once menstruation cycles start. The Daisy Network says early menopause is when it begins before the age of 45 and, if it occurs before 40, is known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). About 5% of the UK population is affected by spontaneous (natural) menopause before 45.
The menopause can also be brought on by medical procedures, some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Underlying health conditions may also prompt it to begin.
What are the symptoms, and how long do they last?
An early sign of the menopause’s onset is irregular periods – they’re either more or less frequent, and may have a lighter or heavier flow than normal. This will usually begin in your 40s, but can be earlier.
The range and severity of symptoms will differ from person to person: some may be largely unaffected, while others experience debilitating effects for years. A 2014 study by Nuffield Health found 10% of women consider giving up work because of their symptoms.
What support can we offer employees experiencing menopause symptoms?
There are three things you can do: talk, educate, and offer reasonable adjustments to those with symptoms.
First, stop making menopause talk taboo – this, says People Management magazine, is making people uncomfortable about raising the issue, or even requesting leave or support from managers.
The CIPD’s 2019 study found 30% of women surveyed had taken leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter had disclosed the real reason why – either because of privacy, embarrassment or an unsupportive manager. They felt they got more support from colleagues than managers, too.
So what can employers do? Start by checking out resources such as the CIPD’s guide to managing the menopause at work, which includes information for HR teams and managers to help provide better support. There are also printable resources that can help prompt conversations in the workplace (and educate about what the menopause involves).
“These sessions are a safe space to have a discussion forum about the menopause,” says Karen Wright, assistant director of workforce at the Trust. “It’s also a way to educate men about the menopause, about how it can impact home and work life, and enable them to better support their partners and colleagues.”
Organisations such as Menopause in the Workplace can help with training for employees and managers, plus HR and occupational health teams. It’s director, Deborah Garlick, says that it’s the menopause’s psychological symptoms that impact employees the most: “Women are saying they were not aware they could be affected in this way, and didn’t know what to do about it.
“When they understand menopausal symptoms and what they can do to manage them, it’s empowering,” she adds. “We have so much feedback from women saying that they’ve got their lives back, and are feeling back at their best.”
Reviewing workplace temperature and ventilation. Offer desk fans, plus the chance to relocate near an opening window and/or away from a heat source
Ensuing access to cold drinking water
Having convenient washroom and changing facilities
Allowing uniform flexibility, eg thermally comfortable fabrics, optional layers and other items
Providing rest areas and spaces to walk around on breaks, and a quiet room to assist management of more severe symptoms
Flexible working should also be offered, giving those with menopause symptoms the chance to remain in work rather than feeling that they can no longer continue in their role. Giving people the option to spend more time working from home, reducing travel, working different (or fewer) hours, reducing responsibility levels, and being understanding if they need to leave suddenly will make a big difference.
Overall, the most important action to take is to open up spaces for conversations, so those who have menopause symptoms – no matter their age or situation – are confident speaking with managers, HR professionals or occupational health teams about it. Providing everyone in your organisation with the education, policies and options to make living through this stage easier will benefit you and your employees.
Unilever CHRO Leena Nair urges HR professionals to work with ‘confidence’ and ‘swagger’ at CognitionX event
HR professionals need to “junk all the self-doubt and work with some swagger and confidence,” said Leena Nair, Unilever’s chief HR officer (CHRO) at the 2019 CogX festival yesterday (10 June).
Taking part in a ‘fireside chat’ with HR analytics guru David Green, Nair offered her thoughts on HR’s role in leading digital transformation, and its place in organisations.
“We make a huge difference and we’re good at what we do,” she told the assembled crowd, who were braved a leaky roof and lack of electricity to hear from the high-profile HR chief. “HR needs to be laying the road for the business [to follow]. And to do that, we have to digitise HR end-to-end: we have to disrupt HR. Digital augment human potential and enables us to do our job better – to do the stuff that humans are uniquely able to do.”
Making smarter use of technology requires a solid understanding of people data, she said. “We have to use data to talk tangibly about the impact of technology. No one will give you free money to play with if there is no business case.” For example, the HR team is able to quantify that for every $1 invested in health and wellbeing initiatives, they get a return of $2.50. That’s the sort of information that makes the board pay attention, she added.
Nair cited several arenas of HR in which Unilever is using technology to deliver a “more human” experience for its people. The global FMCG firm receives a staggering two million job applicants per year: “We simply can’t cope with that [with human recruiters].” So that it can deliver on a promise that every applicant to Unilever receives feedback, the HR team uses technology that includes games, quizzes and video interviews. Each candidate, she says, completes the hiring process with an understanding of whether they would fit in at Unilever, their strengths, and what career they might be best suited for. Together, these digital initiatives save 100,000 hours of senior leaders’ times, and $1 million, each year, said Nair.
Unilever has also focused on delivering more personalised, specific and timely learning interventions, she explained. It uses software that curates internal and external materials into a relevant, personalised daily feed for each individual, based on each person’s “purpose and passion”. Other HR-tech investments include a natural language processing (NLP) bot – ‘Ask Una’ – that is the first point of contact for simple HR queries, which amount to around a quarter of the one million calls that Unilever’s HR service centre answer each year. Listening tools that analyse internal and external sentiment about the brand are also used to understand how employees in different regions and departments are feeling, particularly around organisational change.
Collecting and analysing people data is all about making the intangible, tangible, said Nair: “[it means] I can actually show you the impact of good work.” It also means organisations are able to tailor and customise the employee experience at the crucial moments that matter, “and make those experiences seamless, effortless and frictionless,” she said. “Too often systems and clunky and don’t speak to each other; we need to choose applications that solve employees’ problems,” rather than make their working lives more difficult.
To succeed with technology, HR professionals must be systemic thinkers, she said: “You need to understand that everything is interconnected – you need to see end-to-end, and look ahead of the business need.”
Top HR professionals also need to have “a sense of purpose, service and resilience, and an appetite for failure. I want to know: how many times have you failed? It’s far better to try and to fail, than not try at all.”
We explain what ‘best-of-breed’ means when it comes to HR systems, and the pros and cons of this approach to software
Advances in technology inevitably – and unfortunately – bring with them baffling new jargon, which can be hard to decipher. Two of the hottest phrases in the HR software market at the moment are ‘best-of-breed software’ or ‘the best-of-breed approach to software’. But what do vendors really mean when they say that? And what are the benefits – and disadvantages – of working in this way?
What is best-of-breed software?
Although this phrase is just starting to creep into usage in relation to HR systems, it’s a common term that IT, procurement and finance professionals have probably already come across.
PCmag offers a clear, easy-to-understand explanation:
“The best product of its type. Organizations [sic] often purchase software from different vendors in order to obtain the best-of-breed for each application area; for example, a human resources package from one vendor and an accounting package from another. While ERP vendors provide a wealth of applications for the enterprise and tout their integrated system as the superior solution, every module may not be best-of-breed. It is difficult to excel in every niche.”
So, simply put, taking the best-of-breed approach means choosing the best possible software to meet the specific, distinct needs of different teams or challenges. If you’re applying this approach in an HR context, this means you’ll probably purchase your central HR system from one main vendor – and possibly a couple of bolt-on modules, too – and then specialist systems such as payroll, recruitment, learning, engagement, and time and attendance from other vendors who have deep expertise in these areas.
Taking the best-of-breed approach means you are in control of choosing the ‘best’ software for your individual organisation, so you need to be really clear about your requirements before assessing the market and selecting your chosen provider.
What are the advantages of the best-of-breed approach to HR software?
Individual departments’ needs are more likely to be met because you have the flexibility to choose specialist software, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution that may not do everything you need it to
Because individual software development companies often deploy new advances in technology – such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) – than large HCM vendors, you’ll likely end up with a more sophisticated set of tools than if you procure all your software from a single supplier
You are free to choose the best technologies that meet your needs at that time – if your needs change, you aren’t tied into a single HCM suite provider, and can remove or replace software in your HR tech stack as requirements evolve
You can react to changes in your requirements, your budgets, or the technology available on the market more quickly – you can swap out one piece of software for another without causing widespread disruption
There’s less risk associated with changing vendors or products
Upgrades to one system won’t affect your other systems, so the risk of any potential problems is minimised
It’s easier to take a phased approach to systems selection and implementation when working with different vendors
There’ll be greater user adoption and a better experience for your staff, because you’ll have been able to implement the tools that best fit with their requirements
You have the flexibility to purchase systems that satisfy country or region-specific needs
Overall, a suite of best-of-breed software is likely to be cheaper than procuring an HCM suite through a single vendor, because there’s more market competition. You also won’t end up paying for modules you don’t actually need
What are the disadvantages of the best-of-breed approach to HR software?
Systems must be integrated properly to function at their best: look for systems that are connected via API, or else you might have to manually transfer and update data between systems
You will need a clear picture of your systems architecture before adding on each additional system: which application do you regard as the ‘source of truth’ for all your people data, and how does data flow from and to each connected system?
The selection process can take longer as you will need to meet multiple vendors (partner recommendations can help speed up this process – see below)
You’ll need to do thorough research into the products that could potentially solve the various organisational challenges you are facing, or you risk selecting the wrong products
You will be liaising with multiple vendors and may have multiple contracts and service desks to deal with
Training for system administrators and end users may be more complex
The user interfaces in each system will vary, so the user experience will not be seamless
How to make the most out of best-of-breed HR software
The best-of-breed approach will only succeed if the systems you implement are connected, so data is always accurate and up to date. Look for vendors and products that have proven integrations, or are in the process of integrating their systems
Choose vendors with a close, strategic relationship: their teams and products will be used to working well together, and they’ll have been through the joint implementation process before. Ask if they have plans for joint development work in the future
Ask for recommendations to speed up your decision process, and help you make sure that you’re getting a group of systems that really make your needs. A good HR software company should be confident recommending its partners, and putting you in touch with customers who already use the same or a similar network of systems
If your switching from an all-in-one system to a best-of-breed matrix of systems, be prepared for organisation-wide disruption. You’ll need plans in place to help staff gradually transition from one system to the new, integrated software. A robust communications strategy will be essential to your success
Be sure to analyse and refine your processes alongside implementing new technology. Failing to do so will just make your bad processes slightly more efficient, rather than solve your problems
CIPHR works closely with a number of strategic partners to make it simple and easy for its customers to select and implement best-of-breed HR software. Click here to view our list of partners, or call us on 01628 814242 to find out more
These workspaces encourage colleague collaboration – but there are plenty of reasons why employees struggle to be productive in these ‘default’ office layouts
The radio is on. The work is flowing effortlessly like the tunes I’m listening to, and I’m swiftly ticking items off my to-do list. But I’m sitting here with my headphones on, so I can concentrate on my work and better ignore distractions.
And I’m not alone: with the near-ubiquity of open-plan offices, many people complain these layouts are loud, lack privacy and cause constant interruptions. Headphones offer a modicum of solace for those desperately trying to find their ‘flow’.
So why are open-plan offices if employees seemingly don’t like them? And is there a better alternative?
The office environment has evolved greatly over the past century as technology and workplace ideals have shifted. As the Efficiency Movement of the early 20th Century gradually fell out of favour, offices progressed to the mid-century Bürolandschaft concept: it encouraged conversation and collaboration as desks were grouped together, with managers now in the same area as other employees rather than in their own private rooms.
That evolved further to the Action Office idea, which afforded a bit more privacy with larger, more enclosed workstations, but still offering the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues. And while many of us will be familiar with this layout, some firms advanced it and created the ‘cube farms’ favoured in the 80s and 90s – there was even more privacy, yes, but collaboration and interaction were affected as staff were more likely to speak virtually than in person.
All these concepts have one key element in common: workers sitting together in large rooms.
For many, that’s one of the open-plan office’s biggest advantages. A 2016 study from the University of Queensland found open-plan offices did work for certain groups of people – for example, if you all have a shared goal and you need to interact with other team members frequently.
The employees in the study valued getting instant feedback from colleagues, and saw any interruptions as opportunities to help others. Being in the same space also means everyone has access to the same resources, such as charts and drawings, and will aide team productivity.
Your ability to work well in an open-plan office may also depend on your job role and business sector you’re in. The same study said engineering teams working on process improvements found it helped to be together in one space – ditto business performance teams looking at initiatives.
“From an HR perspective, there are a number of positives to open-plan offices,” says Clare Lassiter, senior HR consultant at business consultancy Pure Human Resources. “They facilitate conversation and collaboration, they lend more inclusivity and transparency to the workplace, and individuals naturally absorb information and knowledge when sat alongside each other.”
Being together can help foster relationships – personally and professionally – that might not have emerged otherwise, says Shazia Mustafa, co-founder of family-friendly co-working space Third Door. “Being able to share amenities, such as the printer, kitchen appliances and not having to pay for other overheads, is also beneficial – especially if you are a start-up,” she adds.
So while there are positives points about how open-plan offices can work for teams, there’s evidence that it may not work for individuals.
With so many people working in close proximity to each other, and all in essentially the same (very large) room, noise can be a problem. Earphones, headphones and earbuds are the universal signs to ‘do not disturb’ in offices. They’re seen as essential items by some office workers: this article from The Atlantic relates the tales of people who have returned home or even bought new headphones if they’ve forgotten them, such is their inability to face a day at their desk without some form of noise control.
Workers can also get distracted by colleagues physically moving around. As Sally Augustin, an environmental psychologist, put it to The Wall Street Journal: “If we see a bunch of people gathering in our peripheral vision, we wonder, ‘What are they talking about? Did somebody get laid off? Are they coming to lay me off?’” It’s these unpredictable movements in our peripheral vision that distract us, says Sabine Kastner, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Princeton University. Individuals’ ability to filter out visual stimuli varies, making it tricky for some to concentrate in a bustling workspace.
And the more often we are interrupted, the less productive we are. One 2018 survey says 70% of workers feel distracted (jumping to 74% for millennials and gen Z-ers – that’s anyone born between the early 1980s and the early 2010s), and it can take more than 25 minutes for some to then return to work. Even short interruptions of just 2.8 seconds can double the number of errors we make.
“In my opinion, open-plan offices kill productivity and efficiency,” says Liza Andersin, HR director at findcourses.co.uk. “Employees have a huge amount of visual and oral distraction in such a busy, noisy, open-plan space – which can elevate a person’s stress levels due to the lack of peace and privacy.”
So how can we make these office spaces work for us? First, it might be worth seeing if your set-up is actually working or not. Heather Myers, chief psychology officer for personality science company Traitify, says leaders should ‘rethink their hyperfocus on teamwork’ – people may not say anything in case it seems like it goes against company culture, or may make it look like you aren’t a team player.
Private areas might be something to think about. A 2013 study by the University of Sydney – which looked at more than 40,000 workers in 300 US office buildings – concluded: “Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues [when people are uncomfortable in close proximity to others].”
Except there’s a problem: most organisations can’t just move to a building that’s got a better setup, or extensively reconfigure what we already have. And money is one of the reasons why open-plan offices are used – have a look at this analysis of real estate savings of larger US companies, as square footage per employee has decreased.
But there are some workarounds. Rachel Morrison of the Auckland University of Technology offers numerous suggestions, such as areas of free desks, bookable offices, and collaborative workspaces for group work, and breakout areas for more informal team discussions.
You can also try positioning plants, panels and bookshelves strategically to help mitigate the distraction caused by the workplace’s usual hustle and bustle. And yes, even use your headphones to counter distracting noises.
However, as Morrison says, some spontaneous interactions with our colleagues is essential – we just need to strike the correct balance in open-plan offices to make sure the collaborative benefits don’t outweigh the distracting drawbacks.
HR expert Kerri Constable, from RSM UK, discussed the most common gender pay gap reporting problems in a recent CIPHR webinar
Two years on from the first mandatory gender pay gap reporting round, UK organisations are still grappling with the challenge of reporting their gender pay gaps accurately and on time.
In a recent CIPHR webinar, Kerri Constable, associate director at RSM UK, explained the challenges that employers faced in analysing their pay gaps, and offered advice on how to make the reporting process more efficient and accurate.
Challenge 1: determining whose responsibility it is to compile reports
“It’s quite a large administrative burden, and you need a very good understanding of your payroll, and the makeup of your payroll, to compile the report. You will need to liaise with many difference parts of your own organisation, plus your outsourcing partners – such as your payroll bureau – to complete the report.
“Understandably, we have come across some reluctance to take responsibility: is it a task for finance, HR or payroll teams?”
Solution: Be clear about which team and which member/s of staff are responsible for the report, and give them plenty of time and support to help them complete it. “For a lot of people, it’s a new task, thrust upon them, that’s outside their usual role. So it can take much longer to finish it than they expect.”
Challenge 2: accuracy
“Accuracy is a big challenge for employers who have to report their gender pay gaps. It’s been estimated that up to 15% of reports submitted to the government contain errors.”
Solution: First, you need to ensure that the quality of your pay and job data is up to scratch. Make sure the information in your HR and payroll systems is accurate and match. If these two systems aren’t already integrated, you’ll probably want to connect them so they are always in sync. Once your data is correct, you can work on compiling the report. Be sure to start well ahead of time, just in case you need to run the report more than once. Using an HR system with specific gender pay gap reporting functionality – such as CIPHR – can greatly speed up this part of the process, but you’ll always want a human (or two) to check the data manually as well. You might also want to employ the services of specialist HR consultants to help check and confirm your report is spot on.
Challenge 3: falling foul of the government requirements
You must make sure that you comply with the relevant requirements for your organisation. This means reporting on seven specific elements of gender pay, including bonus payments, for staff employed by your organisation on the snapshot date. Common hurdles include whether or not to count overtime pay in the calculations (you shouldn’t), if non-executive directors are included (if they are on your payroll, then yes) and if agency workers should be included in your report (generally speaking, they shouldn’t, because they should be part of the agency’s report).
Make sure your report is in the correct format, and loaded onto the government portal before the snapshot date. One of the most common pitfalls, said Constable, is failing or forgetting to make your gender pay gap report available on your organisation’s website – so don’t miss out this important final step.
Solution: Educate yourself on the reporting requirements, and make your own checklist so are confident that you have completed each necessary step. If you need additional help, consult your HR system provider, payroll provider, or an external HR consultant with specific gender pay gap reporting expertise.
Want more information about the lessons learned from gender pay gap reporting, and how pay gap reporting requirements might evolve in the future? Watch our webinar (below), now.
CIPHR webinar: How to improve your gender pay gap reporting process - YouTube
From cutting plastic use to rethinking your office space, discover how you can reduce your business’s effect on our environment
More and more of our decisions as consumers are influenced by the impact of our choices on the environment, as the negative impact of human life on the natural world is becoming clearer and more better understood. For example, scientists have discovered single-use plastics in deep-sea trenches, while the World Health Organisation has reported that more than 90% of the global population is affected by toxic air.
So far, less consideration has been given to the impact of our working lives on the environment. But, given that we spend half our waking hours working on a work day, shouldn’t we be doing more to make work more eco-friendly? Here are six ways to improve your green credentials at work, from easy-to-implement quick fixes to longer-term strategies for change.
1. Remove single-use cups and plastics
Our over-reliance on single-use plastics has been under fire for a number of years, most recently after 2017’s Blue Planet II contained hard-sitting scenes of the damage caused to marine wildlife by plastic.
Employees at accountancy firm KPMG questioned its reliance on plastic cups in the wake of Blue Planet II, leading it to ban plastic cups from water coolers in its UK offices – saving an estimated three plastic water cups a year. The ban began as a trial in KPMG’s Manchester office, where staff were offered a reusable water bottle provided by the company instead, and the option to ‘rent’ a recyclable cup for 50p a day if required.
The UK government will introduce new limits on single-use plastic straws and drink stirrers in England from April 2019, so if you aren’t already planning to match a switch to reusable straws, and reusable or biodegradable stirrers, you will need to do so soon. When making changes, be sure to consider the needs of your disabled workers, some of whom may still need single-use plastics. For example, alternatives to plastic straws may be unsuitable because they’re too strong and may cause injury, or can’t be used above a certain temperature.
2. Cut paper use – or even go paperless
Thousands of office workers’ email signatures have, for years, invited recipients to “consider if you need to print this email”, but we’re still using too much paper at work: it accounts for half of all business waste.Cut down on your usage by:
If you don’t already, make sure you have recycling bins in your office. This can be either one central place, or bins in areas where they’d be used the most (eg paper recycling by the printer). Also ensure bins are emptied regularly, so staff aren’t put off recycling if they’re (seemingly) always full.
Accounting firm PwC has signed up to the Peas Please and Veganuary campaigns to help encourage employees to sample different plant-based dishes, as well as to educate staff on how to have a healthy diet.
Just eight months after signing up to Peas Please, sales of fruit and vegetables hit the 20% target. And during its ‘celebrate the seasons’ promotion, 9% of all meals were either vegetarian or vegan – jumping to 18% for Veganuary 2019, helped by offering lanyards that gave staff a 10% discount on vegan dishes. In fact, PwC says sample data indicates the Peas Please campaign may have helped reduce the company’s carbon footprint for by around a fifth, and water footprint by around 25%.
Have you got separate heating and cooling systems in your office? You may want to replace them with a single unit – nearly 50% of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from building heating and cooling.
Some newer offices are built with reverse cycle units that absorb heat from external air to warm a building, then absorb warm air from inside in the summer – making them efficient to run, and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
If you’re planning to construct your own building, why not take inspiration from class-leading facilities such as the Co-Operative Group’s London HQ, which has a heat and power generation source that goes back into the National Grid, plus a system that uses heat from IT equipment to warm the building.
If those options aren’t available, you could just keep the thermostat low in winter – an increase of two degrees Celsius creates enough CO2 in a year to fill a hot-air balloon.
You could also consider downsizing if you have office areas that are frequently empty, as having a smaller facility will reduce your carbon footprint. Or even have no office at all, if your team can work remotely.
6. Encourage different commuting methods or remote working
Work-related travel has a huge impact on the environment, so consider car sharing, using public transport, or working at home more frequently to reduce vehicle emissions. When it comes to transport, small steps have the potential to add up to big differences: The Rideshare Company estimates if you cut just 25 miles from your total weekly commute, you will save 680kg (1,500lbs) of CO2 per year.
Carpooling is growing in popularity, with programmes such as West Sussex Car Share putting people in contact with others who go to the same work sites. Liftshare, which manages the programme, says regular sharers can reduce their carbon footprint by 10% and save £1,000 a year. Why not set up your own lift share initiative?
Too often we can default to cars for journeys that can easily be done by bus or train: public transport could replace 21% of urban car journeys in the UK, according to sustainable transport charity Sustrans. If you live really close to your workplace, try commuting by bicycle or foot: as well as helping you to stay health, a three-mile round trip will save 1kg of CO2 emissions compared to taking the car.
And if employees can work from home, encourage tele-communting: this will help you reduce your carbon footprint further, and take more vehicles off the road. The tools available to workers means you can all easily keep in touch – look at our tips for remote managers for ideas.
These are just a few of the many ideas you could implement but putting any of these in place will help your organisation reduce its effect on our environment. Which will you try? Tweet us @CIPHRHRsoftware.
Automation isn’t a threat to HR’s role; by using technology to hire better candidates and communicate more effectively, you’ll have more time for the human interaction that matter
If you believe the media hype, it won’t be long before humans will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI), thanks to the advent of driverless cars and increased levels of job automation. But, counters the World Economic Forum, a 2017 McKinsey study found that just 5% of US jobs could be automated fully, and that two-thirds (60%) could be partially automated. “In other words, automation does not mean that human work must disappear, only that it could become more productive.”
The prospects for the continued existence of HR roles also looks bright. A 2019 study by the CIPD and PA Consulting found that HR is the business function that is least likely to be involved in investment decisions and systems implementations related to AI and automation. Other departments – from IT to production, operations, procurement and sales – were found to be far more likely to be involved in decisions related to AI projects, suggesting that HR, so far, is least affected by workplace automation.
AI can be categorised as either ‘strong’ or ‘weak’. You might not yet use strong AI systems – which can find a solution to an unfamiliar task without human intervention, such as self-driving vehicles or even C-3PO in the Star Wars films – but you have probably made use of the weak AI in your smartphone or smart speakers, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant.
You might be using AI at work, too: a January 2019 study by Gartner found that the number of organisations implementing AI systems had risen 270% in the past four years. More than a third (37%) of organisations it surveyed have already deployed AI systems or plan to do so shortly.
How can HR use AI?
Established technology firms and small startups alike are still grappling with how far AI can be applied in an HR context. So don’t expect AI to change the nature of AI completely; it’s more realistic to expect that it will automate, augment and amplify the way we already do things.
Cognition X, an AI research company, estimated in 2018 that around 60 companies were developing HR-related AI products in spaces as varied as candidate sourcing and selection, employee engagement, HR management, career management, and organisational effectiveness. While many of these products might take a few more months to come to market, here are three ways that you could apply AI to your HR initiatives now.
AI can help employers more effectively navigate some of recruitment’s most significant challenges, including more accurately comparing candidates’ abilities, reducing bias, and streamlining time-consuming processes.
Let’s start with candidate assessment. Erica Hill of HireVue, a developer of video interviewing and assessment software, told Personnel Today that AI “can help assess candidate and speed up time to hire.” She says that a 15-minute video interview can generate 20,000 data points related to facial movement, intonation, and word choice, which can be aggregated and used to compare one candidate against another.
Other AI programs can scan CVs to automatically match candidates for positions based on keyword searching and matching – making hiring faster and, hopefully, more successful.
“Using algorithms to determine what characteristics are required to succeed in a certain role has allowed companies – such as ourselves – to massively evolve their recruitment strategy,” says Richard Hayes, CEO of Mojo Mortgages. “AI enables us to make [a] far more informed decision about a candidate over and above our gut feel of whether they’re the right candidate or not.”
Employers can also deploy AI to help reduce conscious and unconscious bias. Google’s internal recruitment program, qDroid, gives hiring managers a set of questions based on attributes they want to test, helping them to better predict how a candidate might perform in a role. The best candidates stand out because of better examples and reasons for decisions they’ve made, rather than answers to questions that may trigger the hiring manager’s biases.
All of these AI applications will help HR teams work more strategically, rather than eradicate their roles entirely. “If aspects of the recruiting and HR job can be automated, the HR workers can have the freedom to directly work with people in the business or potential hires, spending the quality human time necessary for a great HR department,” said Xavier Parkhouse-Parker of PLATO Intelligence in 2018. “It might seem paradoxical, but the more AI a company deploys in HR, the more ‘human’ a company it can be.”
2. Communications and administration
We’ve already seen how AI can potentially be used to speed up hiring. Broaden out these time-savings to other areas of a traditional HR role, and busy HR teams could soon find themselves with a lot more time on their hands to work on long-term, strategic projects.
How often, for example, are you asked how many days holiday employees are entitled to a year? Or for the name of your organisation’s pension provider? Or when the office will be open during the Christmas holidays? Plug these questions and answers into a friendly, approachable chatbot, and not only can your staff get answers instantly, they can do so without needing to call on you.
Sparkhound – a US business and technology consulting company – is just one company using chatbots to inform staff about their employee benefits. The switch has been met with positive feedback from staff, especially around its responsiveness and ease of use, says director of people strategy Sandy Michelet. “Many believe that AI will reduce human contact in HR but I believe it will do the exact opposite,” she says. “Instead of an HR generalist answering the same questions again and again, [they] can use that time to discuss an employee’s development or internal process improvement.”
Consider also how much time you spend pulling together data about salaries and performance rankings – while it might take you a couple of hours to compile this information, an algorithm could do it in a matter of moments.
3. Talent management
Last but no means least is talent management, a space that many of the emergent HR AI tools sit in, as they seek to not only improve the timeliness, but also increase their relevance and effectiveness. In fact, a 2019 survey by Alexander Mann Solutions found that almost a third (29%) of HR managers believe AI and process automation will be the greatest talent management opportunity their organisations will be presented with in the near future.
It’s the breadth of potential AI applications that has got talent management professionals so excited. Algorithms can predict the likelihood of an employee leaving by looking at employee data such as pay, performance, time in role, and overall staff attrition levels. Being forearmed with this knowledge enables talent managers to proactively address problems before they become too serious – potentially preventing you losing valuable staff.
AI can also be used to improve your corporate training and coaching: it can assess existing skills and qualifications, and make intelligent suggestions about what further training is needed to help an employee succeed in their chosen career path.
“Through AI apps and large datasets, it’s now possible to identify possible tracks based on work experience and career paths of previous employees,” says Neil Cains, CTO of Allegis Group’s Innovation Lab. “This capability helps companies navigate through inconsistencies in language (ie titles don’t always indicate real job duties) and see potential paths.” These programs can also analyse what job moves will yield positive results, he adds, and support conversations you have with employees about their career direction and development to maximise their value to the company.
And that’s the ultimate benefit of using AI in an HR context: some of the more time-consuming, tedious tasks you have to deal with every day can now be done by a chatbot or algorithm – faster and more accurately than you are able to. If you think of AI as enhancing, not supplanting human HR, there’s nothing to be afraid of – not until Skynet takes over, anyway.
Visit us on stand D100 to discover CIPHR’s HR software, and hear experts’ views on the future of work
CIPHR is delighted to be exhibiting at the inaugural CIPD Festival of Work, which runs from 12-13 June 2019 at Olympia in London.
Not only will visitors to the conference and free exhibition be able to experience CIPHR’s HR, recruitment and learning solutions for themselves on stand D100, we’ll also be running a series of 10 free learning sessions on our stage. There’s no need to book a place for these free learning sessions, although if you want to see CIPHR in action, it’s highly recommend that you reserve a slot with one of our experts.
Learning session highlights
Rob Oehlers and Claire Williams from CIPHR will present a technology experience of two halves: rapid advancement and adoption in the consumer sphere, and slow development and change in our use of technology at work. They’ll showcase how CIPHR itself has approached integrating business and social systems to enhance its employees’ experience at work.
Former games developer turned HR tech guru Marcus Thornley of Play Consulting will explore and compare our experiences of technology as consumers and employees: what makes one joyous, and the other painful? How does that experience of workplace technology affect engagement? And what message is poor HR technology really sending employees?
Andrew Drake from PES will explain why Strava, Instagram and employee benefits technology have way more in common than you might think – and why you can’t afford to ignore employees’ wants and needs when it comes to HR initiatives.
CIPHR’s Megan Hope will explore how we use digital technology to solve traditional L&D problems, how to transition from a training team to continuously evolving learning team – and the challenge and opportunities along the way – and the secrets to encouraging and motivating learners.
HR analytics expert Nigel Dias from 3n Strategy will reveal how organisations of all sizes should approach their analytics journey, focusing on people questions and decisions – using examples and research based on the work of 3n Strategy and the HR Analytics ThinkTank.
Wagestream’s CEO Peter Briffett will share quick facts and industry insight on the financial health of UK workers, and open up discussions about the link between financial wellbeing and employee stress and productivity. You’ll leave the session with an action plan to improve workforce productivity to take back to your organisation.
Starting a network of former employees is simple, and a cost-effective way to fill roles. So why don’t more organisations have an alumni programme?
Many of us have got a job through people we know, with studies estimating that between 60% and 85% of all roles are secured thanks to our professional contacts.
The traditional way of networking is usually candidate to company, but that’s changing as employers build their own alumni networks. But why don’t alumni networks matter to organisations in the same way they do to universities and schools?
Four reasons why alumni networks should matter to employers1. They’ll grow your talent pool
Look at a list of ex-Paypal employees and it’s a who’s who of Silicon Valley: alumni include founders or senior management for innovative brands such as LinkedIn, YouTube and Tesla – and that’s no coincidence.
PayPal’s former workers are an extreme example of alumni talent pools, but the same principle can be applied to your organisation, too. Betsy Strickland of Harvard Business School cites an HBS alumni event she attended, saying: “We witnessed alumni offering their time, energy and resources to support one another in a way that made it feel like a group of old friends getting together.”
She said many shared updates on current roles, what they’re working on and potential future opportunities – and having such a forum to build relationships and connect with those looking for new opportunities is exceptional. “By encouraging current employees to connect and engage with candidates from their alma mater, your company’s talent pipeline will inevitably expand,” she adds.
2. They’ll encourage ‘boomerang’ employees to return
It’s good business practice to re-hire quality ex-employees. The cost to re-hire a former worker is estimated to be a third to two-thirds cheaper than recruiting someone new to your company, and you also don’t have to spend money on external recruiters. One study says 76% of firms are now more likely to hire a previous employee than before.
These boomerang employees will not only have a more diverse experience than their peers, but will also know how your organisation works and are likely to be more productive, more quickly, than brand-new hires.
She cites a point made by LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman about how important it is for alumni to build brand values: “If they promote a product or initiative on social media or respond to the tweets of customers or prospects, alumni have a credibility that current employees simply can’t duplicate,” he said.
4. They’ll help you secure new clients
The trust between brand and client is already established if a former employee returns with new business – you don’t have to spend time building it. “I consider my alumni folk to be one of my most important constituencies from a marketing perspective – someone we have a lifelong relationship with,” says Miki Tsusaka, senior partner in Boston Consulting Group’s Tokyo office and head of the company’s global alumni department.
But, despite these benefits, organisations are currently under-investing in alumni networks, according to MIT’s Michael Schrage. “Companies without such networks, whether large or small, can be said to be disadvantaged,” he says, adding that even smaller, more budget-conscious employers can build an effective alumni network.
How to start an alumni network
If you’ve got little or no budget, concentrate on using LinkedIn and Facebook to develop your network, because they’re the cheapest and most effective way of keeping in contact with this group of ex-employees, says Mike Halloran, who set up Proctor and Gamble’s alumni network in 2001.
Halloran also recommends getting more than one person involved, and to devise a way to fund the programme, such as through fundraising events, a membership fee or getting a company contribution.
To keep members engaged, you need to be engaging. Alison Collins of law firm Linklaters suggests extending employee incentives to alumni, and to set-up a dedicated website with regularly published content.
If you’ve got more money to play with, you could take inspiration from LinkedIn’s own alumni model, as outlined by Nina McQueen, the company’s vice president of global benefits and employee experience. She recommends:
Forming a cross-functional team
Picking an alumni network manager
Deciding which alumni groups to invite (should it include former employees, contractors, interns and current employees?)
Looking for unofficial alumni groups – then inviting members to join your network
Updating your exit process so it’s more like a ‘warm send-off’
Appointing an internal community moderator to get feedback, create content and highlight alumni achievements (among other tasks)
Creating a candidate referral programme
Telling current employees, so they can use the network as a resource
Hosting alumni events
Deloitte’s alumni network is one of the largest and most successful, with more than 14,000 members and over 6,500 subscribers to its alumni group on LinkedIn. It maintains relationships by sharing information about vacancies with its ex-employees and their connections, as well as by inviting former staff to several events a year.
Not all of these steps may be appropriate for your organisation, but time and a little bit of money in your own alumni network will enrich your employee experience, enhance your reputation as a great employer, and might just broaden your client base, too.