A look at a handful of companies doing interesting and noteworthy AI work.
HR Area: Benefits
What They’re Doing: The company created Sofia, an AI-enabled personalized benefits assistant that can provide real-time, 24/7 support to workers regarding their benefits. She offers support, answers questions and can assist in helping employees make benefits selections. BMW, American Water and Coral Tree Hospitality are among the companies using Sofia; more than 11 million individuals are served.
Why It’s Innovative: “It simplifies everything,” says Sony SungChu, Businessolver’s vice president of data science and innovation. “People can get information at any point in time. It’s as simple as [asking], ‘Are my dependents verified?’ instead of having to call into a call center and going through and authenticating. You just go to your mobile device, go to the Sofia app and ask about your dependents. It’s a lot easier than having to go out and find the information.”
HR Area: General HR
What They’re Doing: Automation has long been embedded on the back end of Paychex Flex—a cloud-based HCM solution from Paychex, a provider of benefits, payroll and other solutions—but the company recently introduced a customer-service chatbot to the product that is designed to enhance the user experience and drive efficiencies. Paychex Flex Assistant, supported by natural-language processing, debuted in 2018, equipped to answer more than 200 questions from customers and their employees about its HCM suite. Bias can be a concern with NLP-powered chatbots, which is why Mike Gioja, senior vice president of IT and product development, says Paychex is “specifically avoiding use cases right now that would drive us towards bias or our bot training itself.” The company has also been more conservative than most in rolling out customer-facing, AI-powered solutions to ensure users can derive accurate insights and information. “In my view, the worst thing that could happen is a customer who is relying on our AI-powered recommendations ends up making the wrong decision for their organization due to a faulty model on our end,” he says. “For this reason, we are obsessed with testing, re-testing and testing again.”
Why It’s Innovative: In some cases, the bot maturation for a specific topic has reduced live-agent interactions by more than 25%, Gioja says. Clients have reported reduced time-to-task completion, device independence and channel stickiness since the virtual assistant was incorporated into Paychex Flex Assistant, he adds. The improved efficiency has enabled service providers to have “more high-value, consultative interactions rather than focusing on those that are more administrative and tactical in nature,” Gioja says. The bot adjusts behavior based on information it has gathered about the user, such as the client’s subscriptions and security access. The experience is further personalized by answers tailored to a user’s preferences as a verbal, visual or physical learner. For instance, if a user asks the chatbot how to make changes to direct deposit, he or she can learn how through a written document, a video vignette or a guided, interactive tour through messaging. “Over time,” Gioja says, “the bot learns a user’s preference and will always offer the favored method first.”
HR Area: Talent Acquisition and Management
What They’re Doing: The talent experiences within an organization can be segmented into several stakeholder categories—candidate, employee, recruiter and manager, for instance—and Phenom People is using intelligent tools to fuse all four into one continuous network. Its Talent Experience Management platform enables clients to “look at the whole experience, from talent acquisition to talent management to talent evolution, all in a single point of view,” says Mahe Bayireddi, Phenom People CEO. The platform features omnichannel functionality to allow for a global reach, as well as seamless connections that enable personalization from the time a candidate enters the system through to employment, supported by an integrated career chatbot. “What are the right kind of jobs based on what you’re searching for, what you’ve applied for, what you’re interested in? And when you become an employee, do you want to change jobs within the company, what skills do you have versus what skills do you need?” Bayireddi says. “Everything is built on an AI infrastructure that is personalizing for you at every step of your journey.”
Why It’s Innovative: Phenom People’s Enterprise Talent Graphs analyze candidate data and utilize predictive intelligence to support job matching—allowing recruiters to fill open positions with better qualities of hire. Also on the recruiter side, the Candidate Pipeline tool drives the creation of robust databases of candidates, with prompts and suggestions for taking action, as well as automated communication and engagement opportunities. “When you personalize for a candidate, it’s not just helping that person; you take the same data and really transform it for a recruiter: ‘This is what this person wants,’ ” Bayireddi adds. “You can hire, then, based on what you’re looking for while also giving the candidates the right experience as they become employees.”
HR Area: Training
What They’re Doing: Talespin offers virtual-reality tools that help employers develop talent, teach key skills and align people with opportunities through advanced workforce analytics, explains Jack Makhlouf, Talespin’s vice president of sales and licensing, enterprise learning. Its VR training products provide customers with AI-powered training simulations that engage employees and accelerate learning. Its CoPilot tool allows employees to practice real workplace interactions by mimicking conversations that an employee might have at work—simulating anything from performance reviews to sales conversations and leadership training to firing.
Why It’s Innovative: “It can be hard to get enough real-time practice engaging in difficult conversations, so it takes much longer to build competency,” Makhlouf says. “With CoPilot, trainees can practice scenarios where soft skills are critical before being faced with a complex real-life situation. Through CoPilot, employees are free to fail, get feedback, retry and improve without feeling like someone is watching and imposing judgment. CoPilot is helping employees and HR managers better prepare for complex interpersonal situations and feel more comfortable and confident.”