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HomeCAREERSTalking with Elena Grumazescu, before SMART HR

Talking with Elena Grumazescu, before SMART HR

Elena Grumazescu, the winner of the HR Ambassador 2023 title, is recognized for her innovative vision in integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and automation into HR practices, addressing technological challenges and opportunities with optimism and openness.
Elena emphasizes the importance of a correct and efficient adoption of AI, promoting a conditional, controlled, and regulated approach. Through constant communications and specific training, she encourages a natural and transparent integration of technology, ensuring that employees understand the direct benefits of digitalization.

Her work highlights her ability to change employee perceptions about AI and automation, promoting technology as a “new colleague” that contributes to streamlining processes and improving work quality. Elena aims to motivate employees to develop their skills and remain competitive in the job market, while navigating technological transformations.

C&B: What do you consider essential for a correct and efficient adoption of artificial intelligence in HR practices, and how would you ensure that this process is well-received by employees?
Elena Grumazescu: To start with, it is necessary to begin with properly set expectations: anything new is naturally difficult to adopt, so we must recognize that adoption itself is a process, with its stages and challenges, and a continuous “education” of people towards technologization. There should be a personalized adoption process at each company’s level, in line with the specifics of the industry, business needs, and employee needs. Therefore, it’s about alignment.
To convert reluctance into cooperation, it is necessary to begin by explaining what and why we want to bring technology into the company’s life—employees need to understand, first of all, the advantages of using a new system, then learn how to use it and feel its benefits in daily activities. It helps to communicate very clearly and constantly, ensure access to learning, and request feedback from employees, being open to adjust along the way and improve processes based on this feedback. We need a two-way communication, therefore, to make a good team between employees and technology, to befriend one another. Subsequently, we must constantly measure the benefits and efficiency of the implementation. Results always motivate, so it is necessary to communicate as concretely as possible how AI has contributed to improving work performance. When efficiency increases and effort decreases, motivation gains an upward trend and “pushes” the adoption process towards performance.

C&B: Can you give us suggestions on how you would change employees’ perceptions of AI and automation, promoting technology as a ‘new colleague’ that brings direct benefits to their work?
Elena Grumazescu: Success depends on the perspective you create in the eyes of employees. If we manage to show colleagues that the new robot, for example, will be their right hand and take over routine activities, the openness will certainly be greater—as long as the perception of AI is accurate, the chances of efficient AI adoption increase. A robot should be viewed as a “new colleague” who helps with work and works side by side with employees, not as a competitor or a threat to the employee. This “false” threat comes from a lack of information or a misunderstanding of what AI means. Technology should motivate employees to constantly evolve, gain new skills year after year, and develop unique skills in the job market, so there is no longer a fear of “competition.” The key lies in communicating to employees in the most basic and transparent way: what, who, how, why, when, we make changes in the organization with the help of technology. We can set up multiple communication sessions with employees, question and answer sessions, trainings, clear procedures, learning platforms, all intended to educate and create a mindset of being open to new things. It is a journey, a whole process of changing the mindset, therefore it must be done step by step, without skipping stages, through continuous education in the desired direction and access to information.

C&B: How do you motivate employees to develop their skills and remain competitive in the job market in the context of technological transformations?
Elena Grumazescu: Fortunately, technology “forces” you to keep up if you want to remain an employee “hunted” by companies, so motivation must first come from within, to want to evolve along with technology. Intrinsic motivation plays an essential role in professional life, therefore, it must be constantly nourished, whether by doing what you love, by finding meaning in day-to-day work, or by deriving satisfaction beyond the financial aspect. What does it mean to be competitive in the job market? I think it primarily involves adding value to the company you work for, beyond just ticking off the tasks on your job description. Doing things differently from others, making your mark, and transforming an ordinary activity into one with added value. If we manage to integrate technology efficiently and intelligently into daily activities, competitiveness increases, and we acquire new skills simply through contact with new technology. I believe in the power of example and in showing employees the benefits of using new technology, starting from the company leaders, from board members who should be the first to embrace digitalization, who support and promote technology among employees. To motivate teams, we need to invest in them through training, support them throughout the transformational process, and guide them throughout the adoption process. Clarity is again an extremely important factor that maintains motivation during the change process: employees need to constantly know where they are, what stages are next, what they have to test and implement, and what the results will be. Let’s work on establishing clear procedures, documenting all processes, and growing people in the organization, giving them the chance to get involved in various projects, without overloading them with extra repetitive tasks, by using technology.

C&B: What are the advantages and challenges you have faced in implementing AI across various aspects of HR, from recruitment to performance management?
Elena Grumazescu: Fortunately, the balance leans towards benefits when it comes to implementing AI in various areas of HR. AI can be a reliable aid for most branches, from recruitment to employee management, development, and creating long-term human resource strategies.
How exactly? The advantages are multiple: faster selection of a large volume of CVs, easy access to data and statistics on employee performance, increased productivity in companies by freeing employees from monotonous, repetitive tasks, allowing them to engage in more complex projects, monitoring labor force trends, fluctuations, retention rates, providing quick access to employee information (through chatbots that can instantly respond to employee requests: issuing certificates, information on leave days, timesheets, etc.), generating complex reports quickly, reducing human errors, increased availability – 24/7 if necessary, developing human resource strategies based on complex and current data, recommendations for personalized employee development, etc.

The benefits are multiple, but there are, of course, also a series of challenges related to: resistance to change, extra costs for implementing new systems, data security of personal data (since artificial intelligence can operate with a huge volume of sensitive data, there is a need to increase the complexity of cybersecurity in companies), ensuring fairness of algorithms used in evaluating employee performance or in candidate selection (to have a fair assessment), transparency of decisions, the need to provide accurate and precise information so that statistics and reports obtained with the help of technology are relevant.
Thus, the balance leans towards the advantages of using AI in human resource departments (from recruitment, personnel administration, performance management, payroll, timekeeping, etc.), if AI is correctly understood and used. How do we use, where, to what extent, and what are the AI limitations? Where is human emotion and empathy needed, and where can we confidently rely on technology? HR plays a vital role in answering these questions in a real and authentic way.
To be able to do so, however, human resources professionals need to have the information and the desire and openness to change their skill profile, from traditional to digitalization, without compromising the closeness to people, treating them in a personalized way and keeping the emotion in human relationships.

C&B: How do you address challenges associated with data security and ensuring fairness of automated processes in AI-based HR practices?
Elena Grumazescu: Operating with a huge volume of personal data in HR, extra attention and investment are necessary in the area of cybersecurity when discussing the adoption of new technology. In collaboration with IT Security, Legal, and Risk & Compliance departments, very well-defined processes are necessary to minimize risks. From a policy for using personal data, to one for storing and subsequently deleting personal data, all are practices to be implemented daily. AI can improve data security by limiting the need for people to interact with sensitive data, thus, it is a first step in reducing risks.
In addition to ensuring safety related to operating with sensitive data, it is important to ensure the fairness of automated processes. For this, accurate data and fairness of algorithms used in evaluating various employee performance processes, or in screening candidate profiles, are necessary so that a fair evaluation results. Each step in the automation process is essential and should be treated as such, so that in the end we have real, correct, and current data that we can use in developing new strategies.

C&B: How do you balance the integration of technology and innovation with maintaining and promoting human values within the organization?
Elena Grumazescu: One does not exclude the other, just as technology does not replace the human resource. They need to work well together, and technology should work in the service of people. It is important to have a regulated framework in which to use technology, because it can end up being an unsuitable tool if there are no solid principles behind it. The correct and efficient use of technology I see as closely linked to promoting healthy values within organizations. From team spirit, to courage in innovation, integrity, transparency, care for employees and clients, all these maintain a healthy framework in which organizations welcome technology into their lives. Human values are timeless, they transcend time and continuously develop, acting as a barometer, ensuring the correctness of good practices, where technology fails to discern. It is absolutely necessary to put human values at the forefront of the pyramid from which we build further new systems, adopt innovative technologies, and sketch the organization of the future.

C&B: What is your vision for the future of work in an increasingly technologized environment, and how does the HR role contribute to achieving this future?
Elena Grumazescu: The good news is that the future of work is in our hands, we build it day by day, through what we do, the decisions we make, the people we bring into organizations, the values we promote. Technologization is a fantastic opportunity, which we can embrace and use in our favor. How bright the future will be depends on our adaptability to the new, to change, and how much we manage to combine technology with emotion and the very “personal” needs of people.
The process of adopting technology needs to be immediate, as it is extremely complex, and HR is the best mediator. The Human Resources department plays a key role in shaping the present and future of the job market through strategies for attracting talent, retention, employee development, their compensation, supporting technological changes at the organizational level, support and training for both employees and their managers. HR supports both people and business at the same time, therefore, I see HR as that parent that any child needs, to guide and motivate them when “things get tough” or when they do not know how to reach the desired direction. If we manage to have motivated employees, who are friends with technology, to whom we are close in the transformation process, then the future can only be a beautiful mix of efficiency and emotion (“human touch”).

C&B: You will be moderating the HR Ambassador Gala at the SMART HR event, as the winner of this title in the 2023 edition. Why do you think people should attend this event?
Elena Grumazescu: First and foremost, because it is an event from which they can draw inspiration and take something useful forward—it’s time invested in their development. It’s a chance to meet other HR professionals (networking), to form collaborations, to learn about labor market trends, challenges, and solutions that other companies have adopted. It’s a good opportunity to take “best practices” from others and see how they can be mapped to the specific needs of another organization. This event is an excellent occasion to anchor oneself in reality, and, not least, it will offer them the chance to support the six nominees for this year’s HR Ambassador title. See you there.

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