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Blog: The digital doorway — from walk-ups to AI assistants

Written by Mercer's Ryan Malkes

The gateway to HR service has undergone a remarkable evolution over the years. Initially, it was restricted to walk-ups, phone calls or emails—channels that, while direct, often led to bottlenecks and delays. The pursuit of efficiency and scalability led to the development of digital portals, which marked a significant shift in how employees interacted with HR services. These platforms, often part of a company intranet or a specialized digital experience layer, aimed to provide a one-stop-shop for HR needs. Although an improvement, these solutions were still siloed, offering a fragmented experience that lacked the cohesion of a holistic HR journey.

The introduction of comprehensive HR portals represented an important milestone—they consolidated various HR functions into one accessible digital locale. Employees could, with a few clicks, access payroll information, submit time-off requests or enroll in benefits programs. However, these portals were often static, lacking the dynamic interaction that characterizes human conversation. Moreover, the information and services available were only as good as the underlying data and systems, which required regular updates and maintenance.

Now, the horizon of HR service delivery is expanding further with the prospect of fully integrated digital assistants powered by Gen AI. These AI assistants promise a new paradigm—continuous availability, personalized support and learning capabilities that transform and improve with every interaction. This isn't just another layer; it's a quantum leap towards an interactive, intelligent and integrated HR service experience.

The question that organizations now face is whether to continue investing in the traditional digital portals of the past or to pivot towards these emergent AI-powered solutions. Gen AI challenges the very foundations of previous investments in digital HR technologies. Why maintain and upgrade a static portal when an AI assistant can provide real-time, updated personalized HR services?

This dilemma is more than a simple choice between technological upgrades—it's about envisioning the future of HR service delivery. With Gen AI, the digital doorway becomes not just a portal but a companion, guiding employees through the HR landscape with insights and assistance that were previously the domain of face-to-face interactions.

As organizations contemplate this shift, they must weigh the benefits of immediate, tailored service against the costs and implications of implementing this AI technology. Investment decisions no longer hinge solely on feature sets and user interfaces but also consider the depth of interaction, the quality of engagement and the capacity for continuous learning and improvement.

The integration of Gen AI into HR service delivery models holds the potential to redefine not only how services are delivered but also how they are perceived by the workforce. It suggests a future where HR is not a destination but a constant, supportive presence, redefining accessibility and setting a new standard for employee experience. In this light, the decision to invest in Gen AI becomes not just a technological consideration but a strategic move towards a more agile, responsive and human-centered HR function.

As the digital doorway evolves, HR professionals are called upon to shepherd this transition, ensuring that while the technologies change, the goal remains steadfast: to provide a service delivery model that is as compassionate and understanding as it is efficient and innovative.

Join us as we chat about these, and related Gen AI matters, in our Generative AI Forum. Our dedicated virtual sessions will elevate your expertise through member-driven discussions, collaborative sessions and exclusive insights from Mercer experts.