HR agent Edgy: the future of Human Resources

Case study

HR agent Edgy: the future of Human Resources

Case 4 out of 16 projects of applied AI

It sounds futuristic: a robot that eases the workload of the Human Resources department by resolving employee queries and supporting recruiters at events. Yet a team at Deloitte has shown that it is possible. Its smart robot, named Edgy, has demonstrated a number of areas of application for robotics-based automation within HR.

Doing and thinking

There are numerous processes within HR that lend themselves especially well to robotics-based solutions, says Henri Drogulski, Human Capital business analyst at Deloitte. He describes them as “processes with a high volume of identical transactions and few exceptions,” such as checking the documents submitted in a job application, and subsequently forwarding them to the correct department. Drogulski: “Those types of repetitive tasks performed according to fixed rules are easy to automate using RPA, or Robotic Processing Automation,” says Drogulski.

Rob van Werven, senior consultant in Strategy & Operations at Deloitte, agrees: “HR is also the ideal field for cognitive robotics solutions, in which a robot makes its own assessments and initiates interactions.” For example, a software robot can analyse a CV and determine whether the applicant is open and sociable, or is more of an introvert. Drogulski: “These technologies have matured in 2018, and are accessible enough for our clients to also benefit from them within HR,” adds Drogulski.

A cross-functional Deloitte team, with members from Human Capital, Strategy & Operations, and Technology, began working on combining RPA and cognitive technologies into a single robot. Van Werven: “We wanted to produce a robot that demonstrates state-of-the-art technologies, while at the same being fun and appealing,” says van Werven.

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More than a gadget

The end result of their efforts was Edgy, a cognitive chatbot within a humanoid robot. Edgy has speakers, cameras and microphones, and is able to interact with employees and potential candidates. It recognises faces, and welcomes people it has met previously by name. It also answers all manner of questions using a wide variety of cognitive cloud services, such as speech recognition, computer vision and natural language processing from Google and IBM Watson. Van Werven: “And to add the personal touch, Edgy can make jokes and cool gestures, like the dab,” says van Werven.

“A walking, talking robot can easily be regarded as a gimmick,” adds Drogulski. “That is why we are only using Edgy to explain the application of robotics in HR.” Edgy is therefore used to record employees’ sickness and recovery reports, or to assist them with entering expenses claims. Edgy can also tell you everything about working at Deloitte. Drogulski: “It can even match candidates to an existing vacancy during an interview,” asserts Drogulski.

Inspiring

From this spring, Deloitte is using Edgy for robotics demonstrations and inspiration sessions. Drogulski: “We want to encourage our clients to think about how they could use robotics,” says Drogulski. An initial demonstration of Edgy is followed by a deep dive session on the subject. “We look at which of the client’s HR processes could be suitable for a robotics solution.”

Drogulski does not expect that the HR department will be operated entirely by robots in the future, though: “What we actually want to do is to free up employees to do the tasks that can only be done by humans.” Recent research by Deloitte confirms this idea: directors reported that they intended to use software robotics primarily to make sustained improvements to quality and service-orientation, rather than to make cuts to staff.

Edgy the Cognitive HR Agent – Robotics in HR

*) This case is part of the series of 16 Artificial Intelligence projects from Deloitte. Other cases in the series are in random order:

  1. TAX-I: A virtual legal research assistant
  2. AI Benchmark 
  3. SONAR: Find labelling errors in databases
  4. Transaction detector with regard to the Dutch work cost regulations
  5. GRAPA: assistance with risk strategies
  6. Chatbot as a handy search tool for the online technical library
  7. Argus: an eye for detail
  8. PostNL: optimising delivery times
  9. Virtual assistants: beyond the hype
  10. HR agent Edgy: the future of Human Resources
  11. Using machine learning to assess risks for insurance policies
  12. Predicting payment behaviour
  13. DocQMiner: contract analysis performed in no time at all
  14. Combating welfare fraud with machine learning
  15. Using machine learning and network analytics to search for a needle in a haystack
  16. Clustering unstructured information in BrainSpace

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