Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for HR


Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for HR

Introducing you to a three-part blog series discussing the relevance of AI and Robotics in HR

Innovation within HR is increasingly fueled through the application of AI and robotics. Over the next three months, we will be releasing a short blog series in which we aim to address AI, robotics and automation in HR: what is it, why should you use it and how can you use it? The first blog will introduce the topic and explain why it is relevant to you.

72% of c-suite executives see AI and robotics as important

The possibilities are tremendous and have the capacity to be major disruptors in the HR domain.
AI and Robotics may:

  • touch on all aspects of HR service delivery, 
  • impact on the value proposition of Shared Services or HR Operating Model investments
  • transform the customer experience and
  • be an enabler to drive adoption of HRIS Self service

It is no surprise that it is top of mind for many c-suite executives. According to the latest Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, 72% of the respondents believe that AI, robotics (and automation) are an important trend in their field. Yet only 31% of c-suite executives believe they are ready to address this technology1.
There is a clear gap that needs to be addressed and it is our goal to give executives and HR teams the confidence to explore and discover how AI and Robotics may play a part in their future HR teams.
The first step is to understand the different aspects of the AI, robotics and automation technologies disrupting the industry.

Cognitive Advantage - What are we talking about?

The type, complexity and use of AI, robotics and automation technologies are diverse. These technologies can be captured in three categories;

  1. Robotic & Cognitive automation, 
  2. Cognitive Insight, and 
  3. Cognitive Engagement. 

Together, Deloitte calls this the Cognitive Advantage2.

1) Robotic & Cognitive automation enables machines to replicate human actions and rules-based judgement with robotics and cognitive technologies6. Technologies of vastly different levels of complexity and maturity are included in this category. From the relatively simple Robotic Process Automation (RPA), up to more complex cognitive technologies such as Natural Language Processing.

  • RPA is one of the most accessible technologies in the cognitive spectrum. RPA is defined as “the automation of rules-based processes with software that utilizes the user interface, and which can run on any software, including web-based applications, ERP systems and mainframe systems”3. RPA is software that mimics human interaction with cross-application processes. While RPA is not always appropriate, it is highly suitable to automate high volume, repetitive, rules-based processes. Since RPA can work with your existing IT landscape, there is no need to invest in a large-scale overhaul of dedicated systems.
  • Natural Language Processing can be used to transform unstructured data into structured data. Structured data can accelerate further automation and is often a prerequisite for other technologies such as RPA. For example data extraction from emails or email attachments.

2) Cognitive Insight can be generated by using machine learning and complex algorithms to bring analytics to the next level. This technology can be used to identify opportunities for growth, diversification, and efficiencies by creating large-scale organizational intelligence with pattern detection and the ability to analyze multiple data sources. This enables you to make more accurate predictive analyses and aids in the process of becoming a truly data driven HR function.

3) Cognitive Engagement gives us the opportunity to use intelligent agents and avatars to deliver mass consumer personalization at scale and smarter, more relevant insights to amplify end-user experience. Next to their increased quality and applicability, chatbot technologies are becoming simpler and more cost effective to implement. The days of frustrating, non-responsive chatbots on online-retailer websites are behind us, with great examples such as Siri, Alexa and IBM Watson showcasing the current possibilities.

Early indications from the market suggest RPA is the starting point for many

While there are opportunities for each element of the Cognitive Advantage in the HR domain, the technology that presents the most immediate advantages falls under the first category, RPA.

Ideal candidate processes for automation are high volume, transactional, rules-based, operating across multiple systems which do not require subjectivity, value judgements or other complex decision making. Examples of this include opening emails and attachments, completing forms, extracting structured data and searching databases. Within HR we see potential to successfully implement RPA in a variety of process areas, such as payroll, reporting, recruitment and administration, just to name a few.

We have also seen increased usage of Cognitive Insight technologies.
Various innovative vendor solutions are gaining traction in the market for talent attraction and assessment (e.g. Hiring Solved, IBM Watson Recruitment, and HireVue). Solutions like these are helping HR to become more data driven, while increasing the ability to effectively match candidates to the company and specific positions.

Relevant facts and figures

Based on a recent Deloitte study2 on cognitive technology projects, 47% of projects currently being implemented fall within Robotics & Cognitive Automation. Following closely behind is Cognitive insights, with 38%. Cognitive Engagement is a distant third with 16%. However, with the rapid advances in this category, don’t be surprised if this figure grows significantly.

Let’s have a closer look are the first category, Robotics & Cognitive Automation. The numerous benefits, broad application areas and relative ease of implementation has led to high adoption rates for RPA. According to a recent Deloitte survey3, 53% of the respondents have already started their RPA journey. It is expected that RPA technologies will have near-universal adoption within as little as five years. Another testament to the disruptive power of RPA is the finding that 78% of those who have already adopted RPA expect to significantly increase investment in the technology over the next three years. These figures are not HR specific since all business functions were in the survey’s scope.

The adoption rate of RPA in HR is lagging behind compared to the figures above5. The good news is that companies who have taken the leap by implementing RPA in HR tend to be high-performing organizations. Twenty-two percent of high performing HR organizations have already implemented RPA, compared to only 6% of the low performing HR organizations.

Concluding remarks

Despite the proven benefits, HR is still hesitant to adopt RPA. If you want to be a bold and daring HR organization it is time to take the leap, the benefits are there for the taking. For the best results it is encouraged to incorporate your AI and robotics strategy into your holistic vision for HR and its Target Operating Model.
As the great writer Mark Twain put it: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Our next blog in the series – Making the case for AI and Robotics in HR

Are you eager to learn more about how to take the next steps? Our next blog in the series will provide you with a glimpse of the benefits and we will take a closer look at how you can kick-start your AI, robotics and automation journey in HR.


1Human Capital Trends Report 2018, Deloitte Insights, 2018
2Artificial Intelligence for the Real World, Harvard Business Review Thomas H. Davenport & Rajeev Ronanki (Deloitte), 2018
3The Robots are ready. Are you?, Deloitte, 2018
4Deloitte Cognitive Advantage,
5HR bots: the new super power for the workforce, Deloitte, 2018

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