The remote workplace has ended more than just rolling your chair over to your favorite coworker’s desk. Interaction levels with HR have “basically fallen off a cliff,” says Robert Toole, a partner at Kona HR Consulting
There’s AI for that
Large corps often have internal HR tech tools, but many small and medium firms are adopting them for the first time during Covid-19.
Historically, HR’s go-to employee pulse-check has been a lengthy annual survey. But in these…less-than-certain times, employees’ lives are changing too quickly for a yearly questionnaire.
Enter: machine learning. Tools like ServiceNow, Qualtrics, and WorkHuman allow companies to run daily surveys to gauge employees’ moods. In some cases, algorithms can “prescribe action,” says Jason Averbook, CEO of HR consulting firm Leapgen—like flagging which employees might benefit from check-ins, then using recent data to recommend + refine communication strategies.
Other tools work in reverse, letting employees reach out themselves.
One of these startups is Bravely, which provides on-demand, confidential advice/coaching sessions. It’s seen a ~300% increase in new business since the onset of Covid, says president Sarah Sheehan.
“It’s a combination of… everybody shifting to working from home [and] the stress related to that, which is a very individual experience,” says Sheehan.
How it works: When an employee books a session, Bravely uses an algorithm to ingest data—identity, role description, support preferences, experience, and urgency—and then pairs them with a coach.
Session survey results are turned into structured data, anonymized, and delivered to Bravely’s client companies via trends across teams that are “benchmarked against industry standards,” says Chris Johnson, head of engineering.
It’s clear this kind of tech can help vulnerable workers in a time of isolation: “The core of what HR does hasn’t changed at all,” says Tony Lee, a VP at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “There’s technology emerging every day that helps them do that core job better.”
But, but, but: HR tech could unwittingly discourage workers who are less tech-savvy from being open about their concerns. Plus, as more employees become fully remote, cybersecurity threats loom large.
“You’re going to start to see major HR security breaches…in the same way that large department stores got taken down for credit cards,” says Toole.
Looking ahead: We’ll likely see HR tech competition heat up further. Larger workplace task management and communication companies (think: Microsoft, Slack) might move in.