Simplifying the workplace—and life: Connecting HR customers to what matters most

Simplifying the workplace—and life
Posted by Michael Gretczko and Daniel John Roddy on January 12, 2017.

Much has been written about “digital HR” and the challenge for HR to reinvent itself for the digital age. Deloitte’s vision of digital HR is of a sustainable HR function that maintains a dynamic tension between operating efficiency and creative disruption. In an age of disruption, HR will need to continue to evolve its operating model, service delivery model, and enabling technology platform—the “digital workplace”—to continuously hack the disruptions and deliver solutions designed around the HR customer experience.

In our model, the digital workplace is the connective tissue that powers digital HR. It is the always-on coaching assistant for the HR customer, continuously sensing what is required to achieve desired outcomes. It serves as a just-in-time support “bot” that delivers contextually aware assistance on any device and in any language, while working behind the scenes to engage other components of the HR service delivery model as required.

Moments that matter
To more fully explore what it means to simplify the workplace and connect HR customers to what matters most, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Alexandro as he engages with the next-generation digital workplace to accomplish his goals. He’s a 58-year-old Boomer considering early retirement, a critical “moment that matters.”

Our early retirement workflow scenario envisions three hypothetical levels of digital workplace “chatbots” at increasing levels of sophistication:

  • Workflow Adviser—assists the HR customer through the life or work event workflow using natural language, while automatically gathering data from disparate systems and tapping into available training, research, and operational services support resources.
  • Solution Adviser—“understands” desired outcomes and leverages all available internal and external data to design and propose an optimized solution for the HR customer.
  • Human Adviser—“empathizes” with the human emotions and feelings likely involved in the HR customer’s decision process, and provides support—or referral to an actual human—as required.

To retire or not to retire…
Alexandro approached the new digital workplace with some trepidation. He had been considering early retirement for a number of months, ever since he suffered a mild heart attack the year before, but had been intimidated by the many decisions that would have to be made.

As the digital workplace chatbot explained to him that, set at the level of Workflow Adviser, it can listen, understand natural language, and talk back, Alexandro relaxed a bit. While he much preferred dealing with his old pal who had previously been the office HR generalist, he understood that times had changed. As he answered the questions posed by the chatbot, Alexandro was reassured to discover that the training, research findings, and operational services assistance made available through the system were quite extensive and appeared to be tailored exactly for his unique situation.

Alexandro assumed he would be mostly on his own when it came to making the final decision, so he was a pleasantly surprised when the chatbot then offered a more sophisticated Solution Adviser level of support. In this mode, the chatbot was able to articulate back to him his desired retirement outcomes, summarize key health, financial, and retirement location variables, and begin to present alternative scenarios. After a structured conversation driven by the chatbot, he was rewarded with a customized retirement plan almost perfectly optimized for his needs. After a discussion with the Solution Adviser chatbot to clarify the details, Alexandro decided to move forward and verbally authorized the chatbot to complete the retirement process.

The Human Adviser
At several different points in Alexandro’s conversation with the chatbot, the questions touched on how he was feeling about the process, how he intended to keep busy in retirement, and the role his spouse was playing in the decision. Once, when Alexandro had joked about his wife pretty much insisting he make the move, the chatbot had asked if he was interested in speaking to someone in the Retirement Community of Expertise (CoE) about his decision.

Alexandro was impressed that the system had managed to sense some of the ambivalence he was feeling about his life after work, not only managing to project a certain degree of empathy with his situation but also offering him the opportunity to speak with a specialist if that would be a help. It occurred to Alexandro that while this chatbot was obviously not truly able to empathize and commiserate with him the way his old HR generalist buddy had, the retirement information it provided was quite a bit more helpful, and the option of speaking to another human about his feelings was always available.

Work and life simplified
While the advanced cognitive and empathetic capabilities we are ascribing to our next-generation digital workplace chatbot are in the infant stages today, we are making rapid advances at the Workflow Adviser level of sophistication for Deloitte’s own digital workplace solution. We believe that both simplifying the workplace via Workflow Adviser services, and connecting HR customers to the information that matters most to them, will be key to digital workplace success.

As we increase digital workplace capabilities, however, we may find that the process of retirement itself has become digitally disrupted, and a complete rethink of how we leverage aging employees as part of the new contingent workforce will soon follow. After all, disruption tends to breed more disruption—which, by the way, is why achieving sustainable HR is so imperative.


Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for Digital HR & Innovation. He focuses on helping clients fundamentally change how they operate, often working with large, complex, global organizations to guide transformation programs that enable HR organizations to reinvent the way they leverage digital to improve the employee experience and business performance.
Daniel John Roddy is a specialist leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a member of the Digital HR & Innovation team. He focuses on leveraging his decades of global HR transformation experience to develop and promote thought leadership that helps create breakthrough opportunities for clients.

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