Cognitive Computing in HR: The Evolution

Cognitive Computing in HR: The Evolution

Anyone with a flair for technology must have heard about the seemingly miraculous feats that have been accomplished by IBM’s Watson; a question answering super computer system, which relies on the power of artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms to replicate a high-functioning human’s ability to answer questions and with a greater accuracy.

Watson has found its applications, possibly in every imaginable way, right from predicting a future health emergency for patients to creating recipes for any taste to guiding people around a resort like a concierge, to fighting cybercriminals. IBM Watson is just an example of what cognitive computing is capable of.  But what does this technology entail for HR?

What is Cognitive Computing?

Cognitive computing refers to the usage of computer algorithms to imitate human cognitive capabilities and find quick solutions to complex problems. Some of the technologies used in cognitive computing include neural networks, robotics, expert system and virtual reality. Computer systems with cognitive capabilities can synthesize data from various information sources while considering the context and evidences to come up with the best possible answers to any problem. At the center of a cognitive system is a huge database and powerful processor that can access information at ultra-fast speeds. Cognitive computing is a combination of analytics, data and a powerful infrastructure. The technology ultimately uses AI and machine learning to understand, learn and grow. IBM Watson is the most popular example of cognitive computing in action.

There are mainly three areas where cognitive computing is affecting HR:

This article is a brief and simplified analysis of the IBM report titled, “ How cognitive computing is transforming HR and the employee experience”. 

Cognitive Computing in HR: Ongoing evolution

Applications of cognitive computing are pretty much endless. HR, which is now looking towards technology with an unusual fondness and expectations as compared to, say, five years ago is also hopeful about the possibilities and impact cognitive computing can create in the future. IBM’s research shows that 66% of CEOs believe cognitive computing can drive significant value in HR while 50% of HR professionals acknowledge the power of cognitive computing to drive transformation in HR.  The goal of cognitive computing is not to replace the HR, but to expand the HR’s capabilities by processing the truckloads of data available, that humans would possibly take months to process and retain, and provide a potential solution.  Therefore, cognitive technology is one of the key HR trends in 2018.

(Also Read: Need for HR Digitization)

cognitive systems

cognitive systems


Here are the three areas in which cognitive computing are evolving HR:

  • Talent acquisition using cognitive solutions

The IBM research reveals around 46 percent HR professionals maintain that cognitive computing will positively impact talent acquisition and onboarding. This particular area of HR functions requires a lot of optimization in terms of operational efficiency and cognitive technologies will help achieve just that. With the current crop of recruiters juggling multiple responsibilities from creating job descriptions to posting them on different platforms through their choice of ATS and completing the acquisition.

With the aid of cognitive technology one takes on the approach of a marketing strategist where the recruiting efforts are optimized with better talent targeting and time utilization. Armed with analysis of millions of profiles the cognitive systems will help recruiters identify the right talent much more rapidly and with greater accuracy. From speculative hiring, the recruiter turns to predictive hiring.     Plus, you can also improve the onboarding process as IBM did when it launched in 2016, CHIP a cognitive onboarding assistant that is a one stop source of knowledge for every new hire.

Also Read: Chatbots In Recruitment: How Do They Help?

  • Talent development through cognitive technologies

In addition to talent acquisition, talent development is another area where cognitive technologies can provide an enhanced experience. 48 percent HR believe that digital skill gap is one of the major challenges while 40 percent believe cognitive computing can help address this challenge effectively. A personalized learning path where content is tailored to employee needs and continuous feedback through continues social analytics are just two of the benefits of a cognitive-enabled talent development program.

In a global organization where career conversations are relegated to once in a year performance review discussion, cognitive tools can provide the managers with great insights right at their desk which can help them have an ongoing dialogue with the subordinates to help them grow better.

  •  Optimizing HR operations through cognitive solutions

HR policies change often and so does the workflow related to those policies.  The research shows that 39 percent of CHROs believe cognitive solutions can help overcome the complexities of HR operations, especially when there is a sudden process change.  For instance, if new benefits are introduced then HR would use the official email as a channel to communicate this change. However, in most organizations HR emails are often overlooked due to lack of engagement or time constraints.

When an employee needs to know such a change his only option remains to locate the information on company’s HRMS or ask his manager about the same. These different channels may be inconsistent with each other and instead of helping might end up confusing the employee. On the other hand, a cognitive solution will use natural language processing to understand the employee query and tap into every available resource through intelligent algorithms to come up with an answer to even the most trivial or novel queries.  Reduced runtimes of HR operations and payroll management is a huge benefit of cognitive capabilities.

While this is a high-level impact analysis of cognitive capabilities and their applications in HR, we will later see how an HR department can take its first step towards utilizing these solutions to their benefit.