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Are humanoids the future of AI in organizations?

We’ve all seen the movies: human-like robots work peacefully alongside real people – until they turn against the human race and take over the world. But are robots the future of AI in HR?

Whilst screenwriters have taken artistic license to stretch the limits of technology today for dramatic value, we might not actually be too far away from a world where smart robots work alongside human employees in every day roles.

We spoke to Albert Loyola from Accenture’s Talent & Organization/Human Potential Consulting Practice. Albert leads the Artificial Intelligence HR inventory and market research ecosystem project, advising senior executives with digital HR strategy, talent strategy and employee experience enabled by AI and intelligent digital solutions.

Watch the interview or read the transcript to find out more about:

  • AI’s four main capabilities
  • How COVID-19 has reshaped enterprise priorities
  • Why organizations need to think harder about moving from AI pilot projects and start deploying AI at scale.

Watch the interview


Transcript

Tom: So today I have the pleasure of being joined by Albert Loyola, the oracle of AI in HR, a manager in Accenture’s talent and organization practice. He is the AI subject matter expert within Accenture. His role is to facilitate and advise HR executives and clients on the impact of these technologies across HR and talent and employee experience. Albert – welcome. 

Albert: Thanks for having me today. 

Tom: Now we’ve not scripted this, but I always like to ask one question that we haven’t shared, and that is one factor, but I could not Google about you. 

Albert: That’s a great question. So I will say when I was in college, I was a tour guide in Machu Picchu. So, if you hear about Machu Picchu I spent, I spent four years doing the whole like Inca trail tracking just for fun and to get some additional tips for college. 

Tom: Okay, cool. Well, that’s great. So kind of more prescient matters, I suppose. Tell us a bit about your background, your, your work experience, and particularly how it kind of relates to the AI and HR. 

Albert:Definitely. So, hello everyone. Thanks for having me today, Tom, and team. Aligned to the strategy and goals for the practice with the Accenture, my role is to advise, HR executives and practitioners on the impact of intelligent technologies in HR. So I, my background is on HR and that’s what I started my career working. For fortune 500 organizations in the HR information space. And then I switched gears on a move to the States. I work in three different regions, moved to the States in 2011.

I was working in the oil and gas, and that’s where I got fascinated with artificial intelligence, started working for a research family in order to understand what was the impact of intelligent technologies and artificial intelligence at the enterprise level. And then I was plugged into the HR game and said, how can we use this intelligence and knowledge to make predictions?

How can we use AI to be able to advise executives in the context of the talent life cycle made sure that we hired the right people and we develop the right talent for our business sector. But as long story short, who I was blogging to their future and intelligence space, after spent some times in their research space, I moved to Accenture, started my career with Accenture three years ago. So where I would be working with different clients to understand what’s the impact of intelligent technologies and AI, and what’s the path for implement? 

Tom: Where are you based at the moment? Where are we speaking to you from?

Albert:Dallas, Dallas, Texas.

Tom: Oh yeah. Good honky-tonk country. Right. Yeah. Good place. 

Albert:And good margaritas.

Tom: Absolutely, I’ve tasted a few out there. Headstart is using AI and machine learning to help enterprise organizations hire more fairly and diversely. How important is this in the wider HR market at the moment? And what are the two or three major trends that you’re seeing in the market?

Albert:Yeah. So when I think about this is something that I, this question, I get it all the time. So when we think about teaching intelligence is one of the most important components that we need to clarify is that artificial intelligence is capable to deliver four main capabilities. It’s able to sense, comprehend, act, and learn.

And in this context, when we think about bias and be able to make predictions, one of the fascinating things that artificial intelligence can do is to provide two things, make sure that candidates have a fair, equal opportunity when they apply for a job. And then second provide advice to managers in terms of which are the right candidates for a specific positions or for career development.

So we’re seeing a lot of movements in the market, especially when all these AI in HR started six years ago, we saw different chatbots solutions. Market and clients were very confused about, this is AI, this is machine learning, this is, you know, any other technology that can make predictions.

Then they might evolve. Many vendors realize, well, the opportunity is right here. So many, many organizations jump into this space. Then they all realize, oh my God, this is becoming extremely saturated, different solutions, More than 8,000 vendors competing in that specific narrow space, then they might switch.

We are there, many of them realize we cannot keep offering this. We need to reinvent their value proposition. So many of them switch gears and move to the talent machine, which is something that has been proven that artificial intelligence bring value to enterprises. And in all the disruptors decided, you know what, I’m going to move to the reskilling and talent marketplace as well.

So, in terms of the trends, what I’ve see is three main, I will say predictions. Like the fact that artificial intelligence is impacting the analysis cycle, be able to provide advice to managers, be able to create opportunities to my previous point for equal opportunities. What we going to see in the market in the next two years or so?

It’s solutions that are going to bring humanoids. Humanoids to advise our managers humanoids are going to interact with employees, humanoids that are going to be able to reduce the bias in the recruiting process and work alongside with humans. So that’s one of the things that we see in the next two years.

And naturally there are a couple of vendors offering solutions as we speak the other. The other trend that we see that it’s grown exponentially, especially now after the COVID-19 is relative to reskilling space. And this is what happened. When COVID hit, many organizations were trying to figure out what’s the best way to keep keep my workforce engaged and be able to create opportunities. When COVID hit, then the agenda of the CHRO and CEO evolved.

They started asking how can I keep my workforce engaged, productive, and reskill at the same time while I figure out, which is the right talent to mobilize for the next six months or one year. And that’s where the reskilling became a top priority for many CHROs and CEOs – which is the right talent that I need for the specific projects?

If I want to be successful, if I’m going to bring, bend my business and create new solutions and products, which are the right people that I need. In order to be make my business  successful?

Tom: We’ve been talking about it for a really long time, but I think that, that I, what I’m reading here is that the technology is a bit of an enabler. I mean, you were talking about COVID and that, that brings me on really nicely to one of my questions, which is, you know, we’ve seen a lot of noise in HR.

You were talking about 8,000 vendors. It is a busy market. I interviewed a colleague of yours yesterday and she was saying that HR tech is kind of where marketing tech was maybe 15 or 20 years ago. 

Tom: You know, we’re still quite a long way behind. Why is the industry slower to adopt change? And is COVID the accelerator it needs to change that? 

Albert:So that’s a good question. So let me provide some background. So when we think about artificial intelligence, the majority of deployments, if we bring this to the CEO level, a CEO starts thinking, how can I use this intelligent technologies to create efficiencies, reduce fraud, reduce costs, but also reinvent my organization, be able to understand how can I create a different value proposition to succeed in the market. 

So what happening is that many CEOs and many organizations started experimenting with artificial intelligence, then COVID hit. So then the agenda changed, and then they realize, okay, if I’m going to deploy a new business model, if I’m going to create new products and services, I need to start thinking about how I can redeploy my talent, which would lead me to my topic and to answer your question, then they were thinking about what’s the best way to use technology to help me with the talent lifecycle, but also help me to define we identify people and match them to opportunities. So what happened is that now after COVID hit, many CHROs started thinking about what’s the best way to keep my workforce engage? How can I understand what is the best talent model that I need?

But also what’s the best way to identify the right teams to deploy my products and my services. So to answer your question, when COVID hit, yes, they definitely affect the way how companies were delivering value and the way they were setting up the talent strategy after COVID they realize, well, now everyone is working remote.

How can I be successful? How can I keep my workforce engaged and who can I use technology to be able to understand how employees feel about this new normal, and that’s where, for example, employee sentiments arise, employee sentiments are one of the different technology that sits under artificial intelligence that can tell us some when people work, how they work, and what exactly they do.

And on top of that, you can tell the emotions, which is something that comes from marketing. When we think about this is when companies were launching different solutions for marketing campaigns, they were using sentiment capabilities, to be able to understand how customers feels about something specific about brands, and brought all that intelligence solution to the employee space.

And now they can also provide advisory to leadership about how employees feel., when do they work, how do they work and who are the right leaders across the organization. 

Tom: Yeah. And I think that working has, has really challenged a lot of methodologies around that. You know, it it’s really kind of had to move the trust agenda that many kind of senior executives in HR I’ve struggled with really, or not just HR, more broadly speaking as well.

When you’re brought in and Accenture say we’ve got this client or prospect that wants to do X and Y, what are the things that are keeping these kind of seniors execs up at night? And then conversely, what are the things that are exciting them?

What are the things that are getting them out of bed? What are the things that you guys are kind of leading with, if you like to try and get them salivating for more change?

Albert:So in my experience, working with clients, one of the most important challenges they are facing right now is how do they move from pilot to a scale?

And what I mean by that is in order for AI to work across the enterprise, you need first to have an AI strategy in place, which means that you need to understand what’s the value case that artificial intelligence can support. But also they find clear guidance in terms of how AI is going to be deployed, monitor and executed. 

At the same time, you need to have a clear governance and instruction. AI won’t work, AI won’t deliver the expectations that CIOs and executives are expecting if they don’t have the, for example, the right organizational culture. Or if they are on a specific business process, they’re going to enable the technology to make, to be successful, then meet those customer’s demands.

So to my previous point, right now, many clients are trying to understand, okay, Albert, I have on a specific structure or I have a strategy, I created a specific plan for adoption of artificial intelligence across my enterprise. But then what they are facing is how can I move AI from the pilot to scale?

And in order to do that, there are different components that you need to have in place. My previous point, to move from pilot to scale, you need to start thinking about if your organization have the right culture? Is your organization have the right talent practices that are going to enable the technology to be successful and support the talent strategy or business strategy.

And then with that said, however, one of the things that is extremely, motivating for these executives, is that when we think about the talent and HR space, we see a lot of innovation. In fact, when you think about two, three years ago, and we look at the market, we saw the majority of the solutions focus, you know, on chatbots.

Now we have a tremendous, tremendous library of solutions occurs the end to end talent lifecycle. We have chatbots, we have candidate matching. We have media interview, we’ve got different set of telling assessments. We have talent marketplace. We have reskilling methods. We have humanoids. We have a variety of solutions right now.

They are very exciting for our clients. Oh my God, there are so many solutions out there. What is the right path? How can we orchestrate all these innovation across HR, which is the right fit for me, Albert? So that’s exciting the fact that there are different solutions and, and, and the fact that these solutions has been proven that can support the talent lifecycle.

Tom: Cool. And what about you guys? You know, are you able to kind of, I mean, I’m not expecting any names of course. Uh, but can you expand on any projects? Anything that you’re doing that you’re particularly excited about at the moment that you’re able to share and talk about?

Albert:um, well, let, let me use these example is this is a client in the service industry.

So it was hit by COVID. Their organization was trying to figure out. How can we operate? How can we provide service to our clients? What’s the best way to deploy talent, which are the right projects that need attention. So they partnered with Accenture to understand how can we redefine talent now after COVID with these new normal, what’s the best way to keep my workforce engaged? How do I show to my employees that we care about their personal financial wellbeing? How can we , find the best way to either define the talent that we need to support our customers?

So they come up to the conclusion that like now the fact that they’re all working remote,A actually remote world works. In the past, many clients were like doubting about why are we going to allow our employees to work remote. COVID hit. And over the year, the companies realize, well, it’s working. People actually feel engaged to a certain extent. You know, the fact that they are working from home, it has pros and cons.

Like you are close to your family. It’s a challenge to have your kids, your family around you. It’s, it’s a very fine line between your personal and your professional life. At the same time, we see our colleagues, you know, having, having calls and then the kids running around and this part of the new normal, right.

We don’t know when that’s going to end. So then this going back to my previous example, client realized, well, it’s working, you know, the remote work. So they worked with Accenture to understand how can they keep their workforce engaged, productive, and identify the right leaders. So what I’d say to our client, is, you know, bring us an initial assessment about, your current talent, what are the skills that you, your talent has and what are the skills that they need in order to be successful in this new normal, but also at the same time, Accenture advise a client to understand how these relationships where were built as a result of the new normal. 

Let me give you a more specific example. When you were are remote, the way you relate to others and the way how you get things done, it depends on the technology and the platform that you have in place. So the majority of the recognition, for example, they are all done through different collaboration platform and the way you get the work done, it’s also through these collaboration platforms.

So executive realize for these clients who can realize, which is the right leader right now in the post-pandemic. And then which brings me to the organization, a network analysis and sentiment analysis to understand what people do, how do they work? And when do they get the work done? The, all that information, you know, it’s feasible to abstract from different social collaboration platforms. The algorithm is able to absorb that information and process that information, and then come back to leadership and say, these are the trends that we see in your organization. These are the behaviors that you need to change. These are the actions that you need to take to address those specific pain points that we see in your organization.

And this is something fascinating like this hasn’t bee done before, now we’re using these technologies to provide insights and create behavioral change for managers and senior leadership. 

Tom: You know, we, we were remote working company before COVID so we were in a really interesting position because we had all of the platforms set up.

You know, we had a working strategy that was modeled around remote working. It, wasn’t taking something from the office and putting it into a remote environment. So you know, we’ve been quite fortunate in ways, you know, for instance, we very much pioneered a view that it didn’t matter when you did your work, didn’t matter where you did your work, as long as you did your best work.

You know, and really we don’t care if you’re doing your work at midnight, if that’s what makes you happy and you want to spend time with your kids during the day or that’s how you split your life. That’s fine by us.

Tom: Look, we’re moving out of time. I know, I know you’re an important man with lots, lots to do.

Quick kind of prediction, you know, five years ago, we’re all talking about chatbots, you know, and how are they going to change the world? Where will we be in five years from now? What will we be? The, the topic that people will be talking about, you know, endlessly on LinkedIn.

Albert:Based on my conversations with CHROs and based on interactions that I have with, with different organizations competing in their space. And also considering how fast artificial intelligence is evolving at the enterprise level, helping doctors, you know, for these COVID-19, we see robots working for customer services, we see, you know, Amazon with these little robots moving to accelerate the supply chain so that we can get our products on time.

I think in the next even three years, we are going to see humanoids. And let me clarify these to your audience, what do I mean by that humanoid? Like in the last 20 years, we’ve seen robots in the workplace and this is what I call is dummy robots. They were programmed to do, you know, certain level of activities without any intelligence. 

What we’re going to see in the next five years is that these humanoids are going to be like physical humanoids, going to look like humans, are going to interact with employees in the workplace, which is going to involve with major, major behavioral change adjustment for employees, for enterprises, you need to prepare your workforce to feel comfortable working alongside with intelligent solutions or, or, you know, physical robots or humanoids.

But that’s something that is going to happen. Like the fact that I was, you know, talking to these vendors in the last six months, they are already deploying this technology at the enterprise level. So most likely in the first two years, we’re going to see these humanoids – this not a chatbot. 

Tom: iRobot.This is Will Smith. 

Albert:Yeah. There you go, it sounds like it’s far away, but not actually, it’s not. I was on the phone, I was on a call with two vendors offering that solution and you know, so it’s common, it’s common. And they are investments, like when we think about even the investment in the technology space, we move from $3 billion in 2017 to almost $6 billion to 2019.

And you know, the market side is projected to go all the way to $38 billion in 2027. So to answer your question, one of the biggest adjustments that we’re going to see in the talent marketplace is having humanoids working alongside with humans in the talent and HR space 

Tom: On that bombshell. Thank you very much, Albert. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, and we’ll look forward to seeing the humanoids. 

Albert:Wonderful. Thank you for making the time for us and thank you for your audience. Thank you.

Headstart is on a mission to transform the way organisations hire! We are the world's first diversity driven Applicant Matching and Management System. We use Machine Learning and Data Science to transform the recruitment process, enabling clients to find the right high potential employees regardless of gender, ethnic status, sexual orientation or age.

With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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