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HR professionals will work hand-in-hand with AI

HR mustn’t wait to be disrupted 

Thinking about how technology will change the profession in the future gives plenty of cause for optimism, says Judith Sagar, HR capability manager at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

The skills involved in critical people capabilities will become less technical, less transactional and more strategic

What sort of evidence do you use to ensure the work you do in the HR department is delivering for employees and the business?

Everything we do is driven by strategy and key measures of success are built into every initiative, project or programme. We don’t run a change programme for change’s sake – it’s change that gets us to where we want to be strategically.

We have been very evidence-based for a number of years. But we use three key surveys to help ensure that what we are doing works – an employee engagement survey twice a year, an external survey headed by the Banking Standards Board which focuses on organisational culture, and a ‘Working Together’ survey where the central functions including HR can provide feedback on our business colleagues and they in turn provide feedback on how the functions support them to deliver for the customer. It all links to financial services sector norms, and also to an engagement index, a leadership index and other measures that help us identify where we as a business should focus.
When we communicate with line managers or colleagues – in HR or across the bank – about any of our transformational activity, we link it to our key people promises. So everything is joined up. It’s a very consistent language that’s used – with the customer at the heart if it.

How would you hope employees are positively affected by HR initiatives?

We have a consistent approach in what we do. Our employee value proposition demonstrates the things we have committed to do really well and all our activity is channelled through them – that means that everyone has a great leader, that they have received excellent training, that they have a fulfilling role and they feel they are being paid fairly for the role they do.

As a result of that, employees feel more connected to the organisation and they have higher engagement levels, all of which means they support us in our delivery for customers.

If we take leadership, for example, as an organisation we have initiated a leadership programme across the entire bank. There are various modules that sit within that – the majority of our leaders have completed it and more than 50,000 of our people have also completed training in service excellence. Our internal net promoter score has improved, and our employee engagement score is the highest ever, both in HR and bank-wide. And all of this is being delivered at the same time we continue to deliver a number of strategic change programmes to ensure our business is cost effective and customer-focused.

What sort of skills do you think will be required by the HR professionals of the future?

We have been thinking about this, and we see the human part of the HR function becoming more about people strategists, very much an integrated offering between the human element and artificial intelligence empowering greater insight. For example, people strategists might have AI assistants and they will work together. We might use wearable technology. Virtual one-to-ones will become the norm. Flexible working will be really important, and that’s something we’re already good at. The key thing is that everything will be integrated, so the technology, the human element and the digital will all mix, and as a result the skills involved in those critical people capabilities will become less technical, less transactional and more strategic.

As an HR professional, I think AI is a great opportunity. We are already using chatbots in certain aspects of our HR function. We have Archie, who answers a lot of transactional queries and we are continually evolving the sort of things he can deal with. Similarly, from an L&D point of view, we’re piloting a number of initiatives. It’s about making sure the way colleagues across the bank can access learning opportunities mirrors what they would see outside the organisation – tailored for them and accessible at their convenience.

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