Best Buy Is Making Its HR More Human with... Machines?

brought to you by WBR Insights

As digital technology permeates almost every corner of every industry, the modern workplace is a very different animal from the one that existed only a decade or two ago. Now, Best Buy is using AI, machine learning, and other leading technology to - somewhat counter-intuitively - put the human touch back into human resources.

Digitization in Human Resources

So, just how can digital technology make the HR process seem more human? After all, wouldn't handing work over to computers have the inverse effect? Apparently not. What digitization in HR achieves is this: By handing over administrative and bureaucratic tasks to machines, flesh-and-blood HR staff are freed up to spend more time on the personal aspects of their role, which relate more directly to employees.

These days, too many HR employees are swamped with so much busy work that they have little time left to devote to speaking and interacting with the actual people they're supposed to be responsible for. With so many administrative tasks easily handled by technology, it's simply not necessary for this disparity to occur any longer.

For example, AI-powered chatbots can be used to vet candidates in the first stages of the employment process. When enquiring about positions, job seekers can talk to the bots and get information about the role, and even request application packs.

Ask any HR person about the time which must be dedicated to recruitment and you'll understand why so many dread the process. Reducing the amount of time human resources staff must spend answering the phone or emails to provide basic information is likely to be greeted with rapturous appreciation.

"As with any evolution, we need to ask important questions and listen to employee feedback before implementing changes," said Best Buy Canada's Chief Human Resources Officer, Chris Taylor. "For instance, how do we continue to evolve the employee experience so the best and the brightest not only choose to come and work with us, but also stay and grow? This is of particular importance with respect to retention in the retail and technology sectors."

Employee Satisfaction

It's not just the process of hiring new staff which can benefit from the implementation of digital technology. Employee happiness and satisfaction is a huge priority for employers, especially at the unskilled end of the spectrum. Staff in these roles have little problem finding alternative work and are therefore more likely to seek out a different employer if they find themselves dissatisfied with their present one.

Technology can be used to help facilitate these needs by giving employees more ways than ever before to manage their career development and reach out to colleagues and superiors. Online platforms can be used by employees to track, share, and meet career goals, and gamification features such as achievement badges or leaderboards can help foster a sense of friendly competition which motivates everyone to reach their potential.

In addition, digital technology can allow staff to contact helpdesks and support in a variety of ways, even anonymously if necessary. Staff feel far happier with an employer if they feel their wellbeing is a priority and they have somewhere to turn if there's an issue.

Final Thoughts

Today's workforce, especially millennials, value the ethics of a company far more than traditional rewards. They want companies who care, and technology, such as that being incorporated by Best Buy, is a really good way to achieve that. Not only does it increase the job satisfaction for regular employees, but it lightens the workload of the HR staff and makes it easier for prospective employees to connect with your brand.

"This is at the heart of Best Buy's agile methodology," said Taylor. "We've completely re-imagined how we approach and execute projects to adopt new ways of doing business. Work is self-driven in an environment of accountability, with team coaches there to help staff members along the way. Adopting leading-edge innovations for modern workplaces isn't without challenges, but the dividends can be astronomical. If you're not actively engaged in finding ways to harness the power of technology, you risk being left behind not just by your competitors, but by your brightest talent as well."

The opportunities presented to HR by digital transformation is set to be a hot topic at HR Retail 2019, taking place in April at the Hyatt Regency Austin, Texas.

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