Trends in EX | Combining Employee Experience and AI: considerations and pitfalls for HR leaders

Combining Employee Experience and AI: considerations and pitfalls for HR leaders

By Laura Harding, XM Scientist, Qualtrics

In the face of economic strain and internal HR challenges like talent retention and diversity, UK businesses are leveraging AI to enhance operations and make data-driven decisions to improve the employee experience. But what is the best way to use it?

As we kick start 2024, UK businesses are facing a range of external economic pressures including high inflation and concerns about historically low UK productivity. Inside organisations, HR leaders are dealing with employee experience management, talent attraction and retention, mental wellbeing, and DEI.

To help manage these factors, organisations want to be more efficient and scalable. CEOs are doing this by driving their organisations to be more digital and data-driven.

After a year of almost non-stop debate about ChatGPT, AI technology is also being considered as a way to help HR better understand employee experience (EX).

Two front runners for AI in HR have emerged. Could AI-driven functionality help make more connections and offer a deeper understanding of EX? And by gathering more sophisticated people data than has been possible so far, could we better guide managers about the true lived experience of people in their firm?

There’s recognition from leaders that if used in the right way, AI technology can help to enhance these human connections. At the same time, how CEOs interact and communicate with their workforces is also changing – becoming more interactive and connected; is there some link between the two?

I was interested in the reactions to these ‘needle movers’ after hosting a discussion with HR practitioners. This is what stood out for me:

1) AI as your company-wide ‘ear’

Traditionally, an organisation would look to gather insight and make EX decisions based on surveys. Now, so much of our working lives happen online. As well as the ‘actual work’ we may also talk about our commute and discuss our feelings on the latest company benefit or policy. All these components of work life are being shared online.

That means lots of data is available to organisations to understand more about the employee experience than can be captured in an annual survey. There's also the behavioural element of data that's potentially available. So, not just the sentiment in our Slack or Teams messages, but how many messages are we sending, when are we sending them, and how full is our calendar? Do we have enough time for breaks?

Many organisations are starting to gear up with AI, using it to collate all these different data sources. It can mean summarising all this anonymised people data and sharing it back to the organisation. Leaders get a real-time understanding from multiple sources of the experiences people are having.

But practitioners also know this can only take off if employees see value in it for them such as making their work easier, or opening career opportunities. They will also be wary of a supervision exercise. So, AI yes – but only with clear privacy and ethical guard rails which are clearly communicated.

2) Using AI to help the C-Suite

Even the best-meaning senior manager can struggle when presented with a mass of employee engagement data, or when asked to navigate an unfamiliar dashboard of key HR KPIs.

That means leaders can struggle to understand the most significant areas to focus on, as well as follow up with an action plan. Here, AI can help by acting as an intelligent interface or translator of important EX data and suggest tailored recommendations for positive, targeted action.

The verdict’s clear. There is some nervousness from HR professionals about using AI – but if used in the right way, with the right safeguards, it can absolutely support HR to listen more effectively, take better actions, and support more people across the business.

For more details on the latest trends in EX, click here to download Qualtrics 2024 EX Trends Report.

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Acting on employee feedback is the number one way to attract, retain and engage top talent, with leaders reporting 3x more revenue per employee and 40% lower turnover. But here’s the catch: only 19% of UK employees say their organisation listens to their opinions. Qualtrics helps brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Barclays to close that experience gap, enabling them to design and improve experiences across the employee lifecycle - from recruitment through to exit.