nullHuman-like intelligence is increasingly being used in the next generation tools and applications used by HR. Data-driven cognitive systems are offering an alternative to human intuition to select employees and determine their working styles. And, HR leaders are using cognitive systems to support workforce decision making.

Susan Steele, Executive Partner, Global Talent & Change Center of Competency at IBM discusses how cognitive computing is impacting HR.

Cognitive computing, and its application in HR, is one of the most interesting and important areas of professional development for HR professionals. The tools available, and the speed in which they are developing, will change how HR delivers the basics to the business, as well as redefining the strategic value we add.

But what is cognitive computing?

Susan Steele, Executive Partner, Global Talent & Change Center of Competency at IBM puts it in layman’s terms as: “Simply defined, cognitive computing can analyse and learn from structured and unstructured data including photos, tweets, emails, natural language, both written and spoken.” And the applications of this in an HR setting are huge. “Cognitive computing could answering pressing employee questions and requests that might be currently undertaken by a contact centre or HR administrator, for example.” It could also capture the expertise of top performers and then use this knowledge to accelerate the performance of other employees, which could have a ripple effect across the business, enhancing the speed and accuracy of data-heavy work.

The key drivers for a move to cognitive solutions fall into two broad categories for HR. First, with top talent at all levels in high demand, there is only going to be an increase in the need to have the right skills, at the right time, in the right place. Secondly, as the day-to-day business of HR is becoming increasingly information-heavy (in both a data and a data source variety), there is an increasing strain on HR to deliver information-based solutions into the business.

Steele says, “Cognitive computing provides new tools that create a more efficient and effective HR function and workplace. It can be used to improve the employee experience and to customise employee touch-points.” She foresees the role of the HR manager will change as employees will be able to receive personalised advice and information from either a stand-alone cognitive HR system or human advisor supported by cognitive tools. With business managers now provided with real-time employee insights embedded in easily accessible tools such as apps, HR will be freed-up to focus on providing more strategic-level advice and build business relationships.

And the same can be said for talent acquisition. The data-driven search aspects of recruitment can be run by a system which as a far greater ability to search for and track talent. Again, this does not remove the need for HR, it changes the nature of the recruitment role. It places far more emphasis on building relationship with candidates and marketing organisations and opportunities to candidates over a longer period of time.

There are, of course, a few challenges for companies to implementing cognitive into any function. Steele says, “Capturing the process and documentation required by an organisation, and developing change management strategies to educate and train the workforce on how best to use the power of cognitive computing will be ever-present hurdles to overcome. And, of course, time. This takes a lot of time to learn and implement.”

The future of HR and the impact of technology is an increasingly 'hot topic' for the profession. Cognitive computing, and the HR solutions it offers, has the potential to profoundly change HR and the way the profession interacts with the business. Every HR leader and business professional needs to learn more about cognitive computing from both an operational and external client perspective. They at least need to understand as it almost certainly will be part of the function or business we're involved in.