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Great places to work - UKG outlines its AI ambitions for HR tech

Rebecca Wettemann Profile picture for user Rebecca Wettemann November 22, 2023
Summary:
The AI-enabled workplace is coming. Helping customers prepare for this is a challenge that needs to be met.

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At UKG’s recent Aspire conference, CEO Chris Todd focused on the theme of great places to work, saying employees need a haven to thrive at work more than ever. He unveiled a new mission statement: To inspire every organization to become a great place to work through technology built for all.

The company announced availability of its Great Place to Work Hub, reimagined and reengineered products including a new mobile application for the UKG Pro Suite, the UKG Ready experience, a new benefits hub, and new multi-country payroll via UKG One View (powered by the Immedis acquisition). UKG also announced UKG Bryte, the company’s new AI assistant for all UKG products using generative AI. Although UKG is delivering common “commodity” AI HR capabilities such as performance review summarization and job description draft authoring, it is also surfacing AI through the Great Place to Work Hub and across its product suites. Its AI focus (with general availability planned for the first half of 2024) is in three areas:

  • Creating a great place to work, with Great Place to Work leadership recommendations and insights.
  • A human-centered suite, with Bryte skills pathfinding, performance reviews, and product discovery, and frontline worker My Life Digest.
  • Reducing complexity, with Bryte job genius, conversational reporting, and customer assistant.

Announced last year, The Great Place to Work Hub provides leaders with data visualizations and insights around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; leadership and employee experience strengths and weaknesses; and areas of improvement. It leverages HR data and employee sentiment data on an ongoing basis and enables leaders to compare their organizations against benchmarks from Great Place to Work’s rich data library, a product of an annual global survey that has surveyed more than 100 million employees since 1992 (UKG acquired Great Place to Work in 2021). 

Differentiators

UKG differentiates its AI approach on three main pillars:

  • A rich data set for model training. UKG AI models are trained on decades of UKG work and HR data from its scheduling and HR applications and employee sentiment data from Great Place to Work.
  • The FleX People Fabric platform. Built on Google Enterprise Cloud AI, FleX is architected to ensure scalability, privacy, and security. Its capabilities include data isolation and role-based access control, encryption, auditing, tracing, and a data dictionary. Customer data can be sourced by batch, API, and event and is stored in graph, analytical, and relational representations.
  • A tiered approach. UKG believes its approach – combining general models from Google for tactical AI-driven automation such as task automation, UKG-trained models for more complex HR-specific recommendations and content generation, and, when customers want, custom models that can be further trained by a customer on its own data to reflect its individual organization’s culture and context – will give customers the flexibility they need to adopt AI that delivers both tactical and strategic benefits while reflecting their AI comfort level, data expertise, and risk appetite. 

Beyond its product investments, UKG is also investing in transforming its own business with AI. Todd shared how UKG is adopting AI internally across many areas of its business, from research and development to marketing, legal, customer support, and learning and development:

  • The company has developed an AI training program for all employees with 9 courses on AI terminology, policies, and practices.
  • Its internal AI policies in practice include an internal AI governance team, oversight and monitoring including regular testing of models for bias and model monitoring to reduce drift, and regular data security audits.
  • UKG Labs is also accelerating in-role innovation with non-R&D employees, through annual startup cohorts, at UKG, supporting experimentation with generative AI and exploration of how it can be applied to accelerate innovation.

As part of Aspire’s analyst event, Google CTO Josh Gwyther explained how UKG’s co-operation with Google enables UKG to leverage the benefits of Google’s large foundational LLMs while delivering more context-specific, data-isolated secure generative AI results for customers. He also said that although Google is collaborating with many application vendors, the UKG relationship is unique and that technically, UKG is ahead of the curve in preparing its data for models. 

Getting ready for AI 

UKG may be ahead of the curve in its technical AI investments, but technology isn’t the main issue. Many of its customers will need some help in getting ready for AI. In our conversations with HR leaders, we’ve found that few feel their data, processes, and policies are ready for AI. In fact, Valoir's recent survey found only 16% have policies for the use of AI at their organization, and even fewer have training plans or programs to help employees understand, adopt, and – in some cases – retrain in the face of AI.

This is where UKG can make its internal investments, its understanding of culture, and the assets of the Great Place to Work Hub really pay off, by:

  • Providing HR leaders with guidance on what good AI policies should look like and enhancing their own AI and service offerings to support the implementation of those policies – particularly in areas like model monitoring and bias auditing.
  • Building from its own experience in enterprise adoption of AI to develop playbooks and best practices that span beyond the HR department that help HR leaders prepare for and train the future AI-supported workforce.
  • Expanding its AI training beyond UKG’s walls to provide AI training guidance and content to help HR leaders jump start their own internal training programs.
  • Helping their customers to measure and track their AI advances – and their impact on employee experience – in the Hub.

My take

UKG – like many HR technology vendors – is investing big in an AI-enabled workplace of the future, but customers will need help getting there. To ensure both UKG and customers maximize returns from the HR technology and AI investments, UKG will need to bring its experience, culture, and thought leadership to bear.
 

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