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Chief human resources officer, Best Buy Canada.

What’s the best way to make your employee experience more human? Bring in the machines.

Technology is making the modern-day workplace virtually unrecognizable. As the digital transformation continues to disrupt all aspects of business and workplace culture, smart companies are looking into innovative ways that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and other leading-edge technologies can improve and enhance the employee experience.

We’re now at a point where we can actually improve human capital management by taking large parts of it out of the hands of humans.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, freeing HR professionals and managers from the more bureaucratic aspects of their responsibilities – including regulatory and other compliance issues – gives them time to be more personal in their work and to do a better job of relating to employees in human terms. It allows employees to use uniquely human capabilities such as critical thinking, creativity and empathy, rather than drowning in processes easily accomplished by technology.

This applies to both intake screening of potential new hires as well as relationships with existing team members. Imagine a future where AI-based solutions let job-seekers interact with voice-activated chatbots to get information about open positions or other potential opportunities. The technology may soon be able to give hiring managers recommendations on best-fit candidates for promotion or hire, or predictions about which candidate will accept an offer.

The modern connected workplace collects staggering amounts of data about habits, preferences and processes – far more than HR personnel can easily process. But give it to an AI application to sift through and suddenly your HR managers have way more flexibility to interact personally with members of the broader team.

At Best Buy Canada, we don’t just sell cool tech, we’re taking some pretty bold steps to embrace the potential of new technology within our business as well. We’re investing in cloud-based solutions that harness the power of AI, voice technology and machine learning to help us better manage every moment of an employee’s journey. We want to offer a self-serve experience, providing information such as schedules, benefits and compensation details in real time.

As technology reshapes our approaches and processes, we’re embracing the applications for AI and machine learning in human capital management, and I view it as a mandatory investment in the future.

As with any evolution, we need to ask important questions and listen to employee feedback before implementing changes. For instance, how do we continue to evolve the employee experience so the best and the brightest not only choose to come and work with us, but also stay and grow? This is of particular importance with respect to retention in the retail and technology sectors.

Today, employees stay with companies not based on compensation or other traditional rewards, but for opportunity, interesting work and the ability to play an active role in managing and deciding how their work gets done. Your work has to be valued, satisfying and, perhaps most importantly, fun.

This is at the heart of Best Buy’s agile methodology. With more than half of the people at our Burnaby, B.C.-based head office working in e-commerce and IT, we’ve completely re-imagined how we approach and execute projects to adopt new ways of doing business. Work is self-driven in an environment of accountability, with team coaches there to help staff members along the way.

We also know the happiness of our employees is linked closely to our community involvement, comprehensive benefit packages, wellness programs and forward-thinking, inclusive culture. By augmenting these very human considerations with technology, such as with a newly implemented health and wellness online platform to help employees track, share and meet their goals, we’re able to offer a well-rounded experience for employees today, as well as for the workforce of the future.

Adopting leading-edge innovations for modern workplaces isn’t without challenges, but the dividends can be astronomical. If you’re not actively engaged in finding ways to harness the power of technology, you risk being left behind not just by your competitors, but by your brightest talent as well.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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