That’s not a title to any piece about AI or ML that I’ve heard for quite some time, especially not something out of any HXM vendor’s keynote!
If you haven’t already – please listen (watch too if you like) to this really short – less than one minute, clip of Meg Bear talking about Artificial Intelligent and Machine Learning as part of the executive open Q&A at the last SuccessConnect conference (2021).
I’ve included the transcript (as I could make out) below:
“So what we know deeply, is that machine learning and AI are great tools but they are not sufficient conditions for the overall experience that we are trying to drive. It needs to be bringing that technology in concert with people, in concert with who I am and what I want to add to it. To create something that is truly powerful.
And, so, while we are absolutely putting machine learning and artificial intelligence inside our data model. We’re talking about it in a much broader way. Because we know that just saying that you have machine learning is not sufficient. It needs to be about what is the outcome for me as an individual and what is the outcome for the business, and it needs to be grounded in deep reality and pragmatism.”Meg Bear – SuccessConnect Executive Keynote 2021
Okay firstly, hats off to Meg! When she gets going on a topic that she’s enthused about, there isn’t anyone that’s going to stop her. I think if you listen carefully you can hear some of the the rest of the the team giggling slightly in awe of Meg doing her thing. It was a completely passionate geek-out that was by far the highlight of the whole conference for me. Mainly because I couldn’t agree harder and would have had trouble articulating it more eloquently, especially if I were on a live Q&A in front of thousands of people. Thanks Meg for following up on my request to get that video. (I’ll not include the link to the original request because Amy Wilson might not ever speak to me again if I reposted that particular screen grab!) (oh to be able to retrospectively edit the photos in livestream tweeting)
The current state of ML in people management is pretty basic and some of the uses that have been attempted are pretty bad. For an interesting take on what not to use ML for – check out Thomas Otter’s piece on flight risk indicators. Just looking at what SAP have managed to deliver in this space recently and we haven’t got much more exciting than the Amazon “other shoppers who purchased a course in first aid also purchased a course in CPR”. It’s not inspiring (which is probably why some organisations try to do things like flight risk.
So, Meg turning the conversation around from a technology bang-whizz smoke and mirrors magic show to instead focus on the objective that we are trying to achieve of great employee experience is very important. We need to realise that there is very much a “human” in HXM and attempts to remove it will fail.
I watched a demo, in the same conference (eek), of a chat bot that had been put in place to help gather more details about how people were coping during lockdown due to COVID 19. What was very interesting to me (other than I manage to stop myself from screaming at the screen) was that there were quite a range of opinions in the session I was in about whether this was good or bad. Let’s just say I was in the “You have got to be f’ing kidding me” side of the opinion poll, whilst others were more on the “That’s a cool way to get feedback” side. The reason I think this is terrible is because if your outreach to people who are suffering because of isolation is to throw a bot at them then you’ve completely missed the H bit of HXM. And that bit is important to me (and Josh Greenbaum it seems.)
And so, why is Meg’s focus on HXM and not technology so important? Because if you give techies technology -> they will build with it, and scarily enough, they will also believe what they are doing is good. I know, I’ve fallen into this hole so many times that I have a ladder purpose built for climbing out of tech for tech’s sake holes (it’s called a phone call to my good friend who has no issues in telling me I’m an idiot and to stop being stupid.)
So, I look forward to what comes next. I would really like to be able to make ML models that could help recognise things like which managers are helping their teams perform better so we can all learn what human interaction driving better experience. I want ML to send me alerts when thresholds of leave liability are likely to be exceeded so that I can send dashboard to managers who can then use their on-the-ground relationships with their staff to check those numbers and have person-to-person conversations with them. But I want all of it in a supporting, not supplanting role. Tech to help people interact with people, not replace that interaction.
We are getting (slowly, oh so slowly) to a state where we have platforms that can build these types of experience enhancing solutions. But as Meg says only when “grounded in deep reality and pragmatism”.
Okay – that’s enough SAP SuccessFactors love for one evening.
SuccessFactors team, remember all these nice things I said when I start complaining (again) about the Reimagined Home Page Migration! 😉