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How Tech Is Tackling Knotty HR Problems

By Sindhu Bhattacharya
March 02, 2022 09:24 IST
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Tech is also being used to stem resignations, which have recorded a rise amid COVID-19.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

An Indian airport operator needed to hire hundreds of people to manage operations at several new airports it had bagged under the public-private partnership initiative.

But there were concerns over the time this mammoth exercise would take and the quality of manpower hired by using legacy methods.

So, this airport operator turned to an artificial intelligence (AI)-based HR tool, EDGE Recruit, to hire people for cleaning operations and low-touch baggage handling.

The tech tool helps in matching candidates with job requirements, saving both time and cost.


AI-enabled tools for talent acquisition and performance assessment were being applied earlier too, but remote and hybrid working models have accelerated their adoption, says Parag Ghatpande, practice head, corporate business, at the Gurugram-headquartered Aon Assessment Solutions, an HR tech company.

"Organisations have been leveraging AI/ML (machine learning) tools for resume parsing; scouting for profiles-based skills library through LinkedIn and similar platforms; simulation and ML-based assessments; chatbot-based questionnaires to screen candidates; and AI-based interviewing tools," Ghatpande says.

One of the biggest applications of AI-based tools in talent acquisition has been 'virtual proctoring' during the assessment process.

'Virtual proctoring' is online supervision, where Web-based tech uses facial recognition technology through the webcam of a computer or phone.

A prominent Bengaluru university, for instance, resorted to virtual proctoring during its first-ever online exam for final-year students in 2020.

Any noise or movement alerted the online proctor, and every student was expected to remain fully visible at all times while writing the exam.

Recruiters have been using AI-based proctoring with features like face detection, face recognition, multiple face detection, object detection, device detection, answer behaviour, high sound detection, audio mute detection in the system, window switch count, window switch time and so on.

These tools help them to "objectively define the violation scale as an index to which there has been a potential malpractice in the assessment", Ghatpande explains.

"Aon has been recommending to its clients to deploy Safe Assessment Browser (SAB) tool, which restricts candidates from resorting to potential malpractices by blocking any hardware/software access outside of the assessment page."

Countering attrition

Tech is also being used to stem resignations, which have recorded a rise amid COVID-19.

As the churn deepens in India's IT sector, firms big and small are worried about rising hiring costs and fast attrition across most engineering-based roles.

For one mid-sized Bengaluru-based e-publishing firm, for instance, attrition has already breached the 20 per cent mark; it was under 15 per cent at the start of the pandemic.

The firm has now decided to use AI to understand the reasons for such a large number of people quitting and to start identifying specific job roles where there is an increasing industry-wide churn.

"The AI-based software will help us in not just offering better inducements to discourage job switching, it will also help the company devise new contracts with maybe stiffer lock-in periods," says an official at the firm who does not wish to be named.

"Many employees who quit do not fill out exit forms properly. AI will read industry patterns to identify which roles have surging attrition, whereas people-to-people contact will be used to know specific reasons for high attrition."

Matching companies & candidates

The latest HR tech tools are also revolutionising campus hiring.

Take the case of a tea-cafe chain, which is a well-known brand in big cities, but which was struggling to recruit students from colleges in smaller ones.

GetWork, which offers a SaaS (software as a service) platform to colleges for campus hiring, helped.

Earlier, recruiters like this one would be in touch with 15-20 colleges only but by using the SaaS platform, they now have access to nearly 200 colleges, so opportunities for part-time or full-time jobs increase.

This tea-cafe chain was looking for full stack developer interns, so GetWork connected it to Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology in Allahabad.

The recruitment drive was organised within a week and the cafe chain was able to streamline the whole process and reduce the time taken to finish hiring to a fifth, says GetWork Founder and CEO Rahul Veerwal.

Here's another example: A company in the banking and financial services industry launched a career site to fill up vacancies, but there were 21 fields to fill in the form, pushing up to 60 per cent of applicants to drop off mid-process.

"The resumes and applicants that actually made it through this tiresome experience were further lost in translation until a recruiter picked them up," says Arjun Pratap, CEO and founder of EDGE, which enables companies in simplifying talent decisions using AI.

"The candidate engagement was poor if not missing because of this method. The challenge before EDGE was to increase proactive sourcing via the career site, harness the resume inflow and rapidly match resumes to open jobs."

Its AI managed the matching of 'company-ready' candidates who were actively looking to work at the firm, and the fitment was done real-time.

EDGE says there was a three-fold improvement in 'interview conversion' and double the number of applications on the career site.

Engagement & performance

Not just hiring, many companies are now using tech to streamline employee engagement and performance management.

A fast-growing Indian social media platform increased its headcount to over 1,200 employees in 2020.

The rapidly growing workforce resulted in challenges in effective performance reviews, a process conducted annually.

Consolidating an entire year's worth of work into a 30-minute performance review seemed unjust and ineffective.

The company turned to Mesh, a San Jose-based performance management and employee engagement platform.

"Mesh's offerings enabled the social media platform to decentralise ownership of each OKR (Objectives and Key Results) to the respective teams and managers, and competency-based feedback rather than the central team keeping a track of them," says Mesh Co-founder Gaurav Chaubey.

"This led to a more conducive and free-flowing environment between the managers and their direct reportees, in terms of what they wish to work on and how they wish to streamline their goals, ultimately leading to greater efficiencies and more transparent reviews."

This platform had used OKRs, performance reviews and 1:1 manager feedback modules developed by Mesh.

Anustup Chattopadhyay, practice leader, Aon HR Learning Center, says many organisations have leveraged technology to move away from the annual rating system and enable managers to have continuous developmental and performance conversations with team members throughout the year.

"The essence of ATAWD (Any Time, Any Where, and Any Device) is no longer alien to performance management and we see more organisations embrace the possible benefits of deploying this approach -- including better performance, higher engagement and improved retention of key talent," he says.

Whether it is hiring, managing attrition or performance assessment, tech is offering solutions to knotty HR problems like never before.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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Sindhu Bhattacharya
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