Panel Blog Series: Rise of the Machine: AI in HCM

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by Keith Webb, Pre-Sales Director of SaaS Technology and Innovation, Ultimate Software; EBS Gillette event session leader

It’s frequently cited in ads, social media, product brochures, boardroom chats and earnings calls. And if you’ve attended an HR industry trade-show, picked up a Human Capital Management trade publication, listened to a podcast, or received collateral from a life-cycle vendor, you’ve no-doubt noticed that the march towards AI-powered Advanced Analytics is fully underway. From acquiring new talent to predicting future workforce requirements, HR departments are infusing machine learning into their arsenals at a staggering pace.

With the transition from support roles and policy management to Strategic Human Capital Management, HR Executives around the globe are leaning on technology to maximize their talent, reduce costs, avoid risk and compete in an increasingly competitive talent market. 

When to jump in and where to start?

These are the questions that tend to start off conversations as companies look to add or expand their use of advanced analytics to solve current business issues and to prevent future ones. The challenges faced by HR executives tend to change rapidly as well, further solidifying the need for a variety of tools to deploy.

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The challenges

Open job positions

Open job roles are in such high demand that in some areas, workers are offered never-before-heard-of premiums and work perks. It’s a critical problem that must be solved in order for businesses to operate efficiently and fulfill their overall business objectives. HR leadership must embrace the challenge of improving their own metrics by benchmarking and then targeting key performance results such as shortening the requisition-to-hire time-frame or open position counts as a percentage of overall employee base (considering growth as a factor). 

Low engagement

Low Engagement = Low Retention = Lower Revenues. You won’t have to search long to find studies that prove correlation AND causation between these indicators, and it’s a problem perhaps best solved by AI.  If you feel like it’s nearly impossible to truly understand the drivers of your employees’ sentiment towards their jobs, company and colleagues, you’re not alone. Traditional surveys can surface the major themes but tend to be costly, present stale/untimely results, and often simply support what we should already know.  If we know our 401k match is half of that of the competitors in our market, it should come as no surprise to find that our employees are less than enthusiastic regarding the company’s interest in their long-term financial successes.

Performance Evaluations

If ever there was an area begging for re-imagination, it’s the annual performance cycle.  Surveys of managers, executives and workers all tell the same story of dread at this still-prevalent, yet archaic, practice.  Most managers have no recollection or record of what their employees accomplished a year ago, so recency dilutes the value.  And feedback that is shared either aligns almost perfectly between the reviewer and reviewee, or there’s a massive and uncomfortable disconnect between the two. 

Human nature tends to cause reasonably intelligent managers to recommend a pay rate increase that nowhere near matches the point score on an evaluation – and the gap between the open-ended responses often is at odds with previous metrics.  We as leaders want to “say” nice things to employees that need improvement but can’t give them the same pay rate increase as higher performers.  This disconnect, while fairly common and a result of the human condition, leads to unsavory downstream effects in all too many cases.

Fortunately, advanced performance management solutions are modernizing and enhancing this necessary process. Ongoing 360-degree feedback, frequent goal setting/alignment meetings, and AI-powered coaching and insights can help create an employee-driven performance process that is more effective, efficient, and enjoyable. Employees know exactly what’s expected of them and can proactively influence their personal growth and development. Managers receive valuable long-term insight into their team’s ongoing performance. And the employee experience is improved for everyone.

The Future Is Here

There are endless opportunities for AI and robotic process automation to add incredible value to the HR function, in areas such as diversity, equity and inclusion, closing the skills gap, upskilling your workforce, and schedule optimization.

Change is coming – are you ready?


Keith Webb is the Pre-Sales Director of SaaS Technology and Innovation for Ultimate Software and is responsible for supporting the Business Development Team for Global Enterprise as well as a member of the Thought Leadership Speaker Forum.

In his 14 year tenure at Ultimate, Keith has participated in the software industries fundamental shift from traditional on premise software management to the fully hosted SaaS model, and the complexities and challenges to that shift for CIO’s responsible for global workforces.

Product roadmap, disaster recoverability, business continuity and an ever-evolving security paradigm have become cornerstone delivery for SaaS vendors, and emerging dash-boarding and complex/predictive analytics are driving IT investments as technology resources make the shift from support to strategic operations.  Keith’s insight into these technologies, trends and opportunities guides customers and prospects into making relevant technology investments that produce businesses better capable of competing in the global landscape.

Keith has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Systems, University of Texas, and has 28 years of technology and hospitality experience.