BY ANDREW R. McILVAINE
Today and in the very near future, the guest experience at Marriott hotels will be quite different
than in the past. After checking in,
you’ll use a smartphone app to alert
the staff when you’d like your room to
be cleaned. You’ll use a voice-activated
digital assistant to adjust the lighting,
temperature and even the digital art
on your room’s walls. Need some extra
towels? Instead of summoning a staffer,
the hotel will send a robot butler to your
door to deliver the fresh linens. When
you’re ready to go out, rather than
stopping by the concierge desk, you can
use the hotel app to recommend nearby
restaurants and nightclubs.
Welcome to the brave new world of
automation and artificial intelligence.
Employees look at these
developments with a mix of fear
and anticipation. Yes, some jobs will
disappear and others will be greatly
altered, but with these changes will
come new opportunities.
“Travel is a convergence of product
and service,” says David Rodriguez,
Marriott’s chief human resource
officer. “Technology and humans play a
HR should be on the front lines of
this revolution, helping employees
acquire the skills that will be needed to
thrive in the workplace of the future.
“We know intelligent automation
and digitization are beginning to
disrupt a lot of industries,” says Sayed
Sadjady, a principal with EY’s people
advisory services. “Hardly anyone will
company with clients spread
across the globe. More than a year
ago, the company’s leadership realized
that competing in an AI-dominated
world meant employees would have to
continuously update their skills, says
Karra, Mphasis’ CHRO.
“We had to decide, how do we
build a culture in which employees are
demanding to learn new skills, rather
than being pushed to learn them?” he
Karra and his team decided to foster
a learning culture within the company
by replacing its traditional LMS with
“learning goals”: Employees would
have a primary skill and a secondary
one, which they would choose from a
However, getting a learning culture
to take hold within an organization
requires you to address employees’
fears first: fear of the unknown, fear of
failure, fear of being judged, says Karra.
“You can evangelize all you want,
but employees will still have that fear of
failing to measure up,” he says.
according to a
new report from
“There’s never been a
better time to be in HR, but the
demands are high—we need to reskill
ourselves,” says Sage-Gavin.
A Change in Mindset Needed
In order to best position itself to
play a leading role, HR will need to
familiarize itself with concepts such as
design thinking, says David Mallon,
vice president and head of research
at Bersin by Deloitte. The popular
buzzword essentially boils down to
creating an end-to-end experience that
meets or exceeds the expectations of
the people you serve, he says.
“The core of design thinking is
empathy—walking in the shoes of your
target audience and understanding
what that means,” says Mallon. For
HR, that would involve getting to
understand employees’ aspirations,
what their work experiences are like
and how they can be made better.
Empathy has helped Srikanth Karra
make the transition to AI easier for
employees at Mphasis, an India-based
As the AI revolution picks up speed,
HR leaders are shifting
their mindsets and strategies to
stay at the forefront of innovation.
it’s called the fourth industrial
And yet, while HR is playing
an active role at some companies,
at too many others its absence is
conspicuous, according to Josh Bersin
of Bersin by Deloitte.
Research by Deloitte shows that 38
percent of companies expect to be fully
automated within five years. Seventy-seven percent of companies anticipate
that automation will result in “better
jobs,” while only 20 percent expect it
will result in job reductions. More than
50 percent of companies plan to retrain
their employees to work side by side
with robots and artificial intelligence.
The problem, he said, is that in 65
percent of those companies, HR is not
involved in these efforts at all.
“My message is this: You guys have
to be involved in the recrafting of work
around automation,” Bersin told the
audience during his closing keynote at
last year’s HR Technology Conference
& Exposition® in Las Vegas.
Ironically enough, the most
important role in the organizations of
the future may be that of the chief HR
officer, says HR veteran Eva Sage-Gavin,
senior managing director of Accenture’s
talent and organization practice (and
HRE’s HR Leadership columnist).
“All the research out there,
including our own, says this role will
never be more critical,” she says.
In an era when technology is
omnipresent, an organization’s people
will be the competitive differentiators,
new report from