compensation expertise to first-level
managers, freeing us in HR to do more
value-added work,” says Gherson.
The advent of AI has transformed
IBM’s HR department, she says. “We
used to be process-oriented; now, we’re
The department has been
reorganized into “employee-solution
centers” that use data to solve a problem
end to end, says Gherson. For example,
onboarding once involved multiple
departments that wouldn’t always
coordinate, leaving some employees
to show up for work with no assigned
workspace, security badge or laptop.
Now, a multidisciplinary group ensures a
more seamless process, she says.
Indeed, HR staffers at IBM get
to stretch their capabilities into new
areas now that AI and automation
have enabled tasks that were once
the domain of service centers to be
managed by chatbots (who’ve become
so well-programmed that some
employees think they’re real people and
ask them out on dates, says Gherson).
“It’s changed our lives for the
better,” she says. “Instead of having
to be the benefits expert or the comp
expert, we can be multidisciplinary
now, collaborating, solving problems
and identifying real issues.”
A Matter of Trust
A common question that arises
around AI in the workplace is, what will
be left for the humans to do?
Plenty, as it turns out. At Marriott,
machines are being taught to handle
routine matters, such as recording
reservations and delivering towels, but
humans will continue to perform the
more complex, interesting work.
“With the more basic things being
automated, the customers will have
higher expectations of the people who
are delivering services,” Rodriguez
says. The jobs will require better
problem-solving and interpersonal skills
and the ability to offer perspectives
on certain things, all with the goal of
providing a better guest experience.
“An app could point you to the
highest-rated nightclub nearby, for
example, but only a human being could
go to that club, get the feel of the place,
get to know the owner or manager
and provide a much more insightful
overview to the customer of what it’s
like there,” says Rodriguez.
This won’t necessarily require
a substantial change in most job
requirements at Marriott, he says.
However, an eagerness and ability
to learn and adapt will become
progressively more important.
“I would say the No. 1 factor will be
learning agility,” says Rodriguez.
Change is difficult, of course, but
through it all, corporate culture will
matter more than ever, he says.
“This is about trust—either your
employees feel they’re a part of your
company or they’re distant from it
and feel like things are being done to
them,” says Rodriquez.
At Marriott, the company continues
to reinforce its “people-centric” culture
by carefully considering how AI and
automation will impact jobs. A council
on workforce dynamics keeps track of
all the AI and automation pilot projects
within the organization, analyzes the
effect they may have on jobs and
determines what training can help
employees make the shift, he says.
“We, as HR professionals, have to
be responsive to our stakeholders, and
that includes employees, who are going
to be the most vulnerable stakeholders
in most situations,” says Rodriguez.
“The most sustainable way to run your
company successfully is to ensure the
well-being of your workforce. If you
get that right and you build trust with
them, they won’t just be compliant—
they’ll be inspired to partner with you
in making the changes necessary to
keeping your company successful.”
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