HR your way

How the next-generation digital workplace can power a deeply personalized HR customer experience

HR your way

Posted by Michael Gretczko and Daniel John Roddy on March 09, 2017.

Business disruption is rampant—new business models, new technologies, a challenging economic environment, and the overall quickening pace of business are all disruptive to “business as usual.” Workforce demographics and trends—retiring boomers, high-expectation millennials, workforce-on-demand models, team-based work—are another disruption. It is incumbent on HR to find ways to “hack” these disruptions for their customers, leveraging the digital workplace to customize the HR customer experience according to each individual’s unique needs in the face of this almost constant change.

To better understand how the next-generation digital workplace can counter disruptions by powering a deeply personalized HR customer experience, let’s flash forward about 10 years to 2027. This is when we could see the first cohort of Gen Z employees—engage in their organization’s open enrollment process for benefits.

Our Gen Z futuristic 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.

Future forward to Gen Z
Jamie, an employee and a new mom, along with her husband, Liam, kick off the enrollment workflow in Jamie’s digital workplace and are greeted by the chatbot who will be assisting them through the workflow.

The chatbot explains that, set at the level of Workflow Adviser, it has the capability to listen, understand natural language, and talk back, and is also able to interpret the context of Jamie and Liam’s questions in order to suggest relevant training, research, or operational services assistance as they work through the open enrollment process.

As a bonus, the chatbot explains, it has recently been upgraded to a beta version of the Solution Adviser level. So if Jamie would like to explore this advanced level of digital workplace engagement, the chatbot will be able to understand desired outcomes and leverage Jamie and Liam’s demographic, health, and financial data, as well as cloud-based benefits solution provider data, to effectively personalize a recommended package of benefits.

Jamie authorizes the chatbot to use its Solution Adviser capabilities for her open enrollment process. After a structured conversation driven by the chatbot, she is rewarded with a customized portfolio of company benefits that are customized for her family’s unique health needs and financial resources. After a discussion with the Solution Adviser chatbot to clarify the details, Jamie verbally accepts the recommended portfolio of benefits and completes the open enrollment process.

Toward a true AI model for HR
So, what’s going on behind the scenes in our futuristic scenario, and how far are we from being able to deliver this hyper-personalized experience? Let’s drill a bit deeper into the chatbot’s capabilities at the Solution Adviser level by considering one element of the benefits package—long-term disability insurance—the chatbot recommended.

At the Solution Adviser level, the chatbot was permitted to leverage Liam’s personal health records, (which included information about a mild attack of unexplained vertigo that sent him to the ER six months prior), as well as financial income and liabilities information (indicating the couple was living paycheck-to-paycheck with very little savings). By leveraging this information, along with the context gathered through a structured conversation with Jamie and Liam, the chatbot was able to conclude with a reasonable degree of probability that covering a portion of Liam’s expected future income in the event of an unexpected disability made sense for the couple.

Impressive to be sure. But this ability to use natural language to understand context in order to make reasoned judgments about desired outcomes isn’t even the end of the line. Interestingly, and perhaps just a bit frighteningly, true AI is reserved for what we call the Human Adviser level. Here, the chatbot actually understands the human situation, demonstrates empathy with HR customer feelings, and even engages in humor opportunistically to build a deeper bond of understanding with those it has been designed to serve. Of course, at this level of sophistication, the chatbot would also discern, given the nature of the HR customer’s questions, when a referral to an actual human on the operational services team may be in order.

Hacking the disruption
While the advanced cognitive and empathetic capabilities we are ascribing to our next-generation Solution Adviser and Human Adviser digital workplace chatbots 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.

As we increase digital workplace capabilities, however, we may find that the process of benefits enrollment itself has become disrupted by our technology advances, and a complete rethink of how benefits are packaged, priced, and administered will likely not be far behind. 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 our clients.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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