What is HR Tech, and how is artificial intelligence changing talent management?

Human resources automation began long before the pandemic and became a noticeable trend several years ago. The coronavirus has only accelerated the transition of HR from the old format to a new one – HR Tech. Kirill Khramtsov, the co-founder of Univertus, spoke about the key differences and what opportunities new technologies open up.

Kirill Khramtsov is one of the leading experts in the field of professional competence development in Russia. Since 2019, co-founder and director of methodology at Univertus. Member of the sectoral council of the National Agency for the Development of Qualifications 

Kirill Khramtsov, co-founder of Univertus. Photo from the line archive.

HR Tech Market

The global HR Tech market is constantly growing: new technologies that make the old processes more convenient and efficient appear. What is the reason for this? Did the pandemic help, or did the trend start earlier?

HR Tech did not appear yesterday. In 2018, McKinsey analysts noted that more than half of HR tasks could be automated using modern technology. A large-scale project at the intersection of HR and IT at Severstal, where I took part, was launched in 2011.  

However, the pandemic has accelerated the HR modernization process. The most apparent manifestation is the large-scale transition of the business to remote work. This is a very large-scale phenomenon that, to a lesser extent, affected industrial enterprises but undoubtedly impacted the modernization of personnel management in general.

How do you assess the segmentation of HR Tech, and is there a difference in the global and Russian markets?

There are well-known segments. Such as recruiting, management and development, assessment, employee training, motivation and involvement, support for internal processes. Areas such as recruiting and supporting internal processes have many solutions. These niches have long been oversaturated, even in Russia. However, personnel development management services that would cover the entire cycle of employee performance management are rare.

At Univertus, we have linked all processes into a single system that:

  • sets goals for the employee;
  • determines the necessary set of competencies required to achieve goals, automating the development of competency models;
  • assesses the current level of competence of the employee, determining the gap between the target level of competence and the current one;
  • draws up an individual development plan for an employee and estimates the cost of investment in training to achieve the target level of competence development;
  • evaluates the effectiveness of training;
  • Shows the impact of training on employee performance.

I will give an example from the practice of the largest industrial company in Russia. From the side of the business, a question arose and what to do with this assessment. In the process of personnel management and development, only one element was automated, which in the end did not give any results, and later only demotivated the employees who passed the assessment.

How Univertus works

One of the priority HR areas now is personnel development. You and Univertus are in this niche. Tell us how you decided to create an intelligent management, development, and performance evaluation system for employees?

For me, it all started with the Severstal transformation project in 2014. We were engaged in building a system for planning training and development needs and a strategy for assessing employee competencies. It sounds very similar to what is now implemented in Univertus, but it was not possible to automate the process then. Manual data entry prevented the involvement of managers. The skills matrix was challenging to update. Then I realized the need rather than found a solution.

The next project was called Development and Motivation in the Repair Segment. This time, the automation was much more profound, at the level of planning for training needs. The system saved managers time, training budgets, and accelerated results. Since 2015, it has been replicated across all Severstal divisions. However, the most time-consuming processes remained manual.

 The company was founded in 2019, together with my partner, Elena Abashkina. What we are doing now has become a logical development of experience – both mine and hers.

What is the essence of Univertus? Name its key differences and advantages from other HR Tech solutions.

The intelligent system Univertus differs from other solutions in HR Tech by an integrated approach to the processes of personnel management and development and ensures a fast method of digital transformation. This allows the implementation of technologies and the implementation of the functions that underlie it:

  • monitoring the current state of the organization,
  • forecasting and modeling possible future states,
  • Assistance in making management decisions.
  • At the same time, the tasks of direct work with personnel are being solved: training, development, and assessment of its effectiveness, the formation of an employee’s career track, an increase in motivation, and the level of involvement in work.

At the same time, the system assumes close integration with the ERP and other information systems already available at the enterprises, which will speed up the implementation processes and get the first results quickly enough.

Univers records more than 300 different parameters, forming digital profiles of employees. This is BigData, the same big data. They are obtained from all available sources – records of ERP and LMS systems, employees’ actions in the design, programs, applications. It is important to note that receiving information occurs mainly automatically, which means quickly and without input errors. 

Our analytics includes elements of artificial intelligence. The solution builds forecasts, makes recommendations, even explains, argues them. Thus, managers receive not just conclusions but full-fledged detailed analytics. And the employees, too, are each within the limits of his role and according to his career plan.

The implementation of the Univertus system allows enterprises to: 

  • improve labor efficiency;
  • optimize personnel costs;
  • carry out work in conditions of a shortage of personnel;
  • optimize the business processes of the enterprise, taking into account the available human resources;
  • increase the efficiency of using internal reserves, develop a team and the capabilities of each employee;
  • promptly respond to incidents and situations caused by the “human factor”;
  • identify leaders and attract the best specialists from the labor market.

The result of using such solutions will be the fulfillment of the company goals using the optimal amount of resources.

What is predictive analytics in HR, how is it implemented in Univertus, and what specific results does it give?

Univertus simulates various situations. You can check in advance which results are likely to lead to a particular management decision. For example, this is how you can assess the prospects for changes in the conditions of remuneration, rotation of personnel, promotions, and penalties. Electronic hypothesis testing is much better than on living people within a working organization.

 The system does not just make predictions but argues its conclusions, providing a three-dimensional picture. For example, it can lead to the dynamics of the figures for the decrease in the employee’s performance, the increased frequency of safety violations, and the reduction in engagement.

Economy and plans

What does the ROI of Univertus look like for customers. And are there already commercial results that show the effectiveness of the approach?

“The first pilot implementations in 2020–2021 at our industrial partners have shown that the number of errors in personnel management is decreasing, and the number of corporate goals achieved is growing.

 I can name a few numbers:

  • On average, 20-30% more than achieved business goals
  • Increase employee motivation and engagement by 20-30%
  • Up to 70% higher quality of planning for employee training and development
  • On average, the efficiency of using the budget for training and development increases by 40%.

In addition, judging not by systemic results but by the example of specific tasks, developing a model of professional competencies for one functional area previously took about six months and cost about 5 million rubles. Univers automatically generates competency models in a few hours. Our system represents next-generation solutions. It is not correct to compare it with products on the market before.

Currently, a project is underway to introduce Univertus to a sizeable metallurgical company. It is the leading taxpayer in Kazakhstan with 60 thousand employees. Very soon, we will have detailed evidence of efficiency at large volumes, including economic ones.

In your opinion, can the competence-based approach become a cross-sectoral history? Or are there industries that will not be able to implement such a system?

We do not see any limitations in applying the competence-based approach but consider it universal and fundamental for any industry. Here are the results of one experiment. Based on the assessment results, we provided the parents with reports that indicated their development areas. And then, we conducted training on the development of the necessary competencies of parents. The parents who participated in the pilot reacted very positively to the experiment results, as they said they ended up with an improved relationship with their children. This experiment proved

What are your global plans?

We focus on both the Russian market and foreign ones. According to the Grand View Research agency, the global HR Tech market will reach $ 30 billion by 2025. We estimate that Russia’sRussia’s HR Tech segment of personnel management and development will grow to 5 billion rubles by 2025. Perhaps this is still a conservative estimate. After all, we are only at the very beginning of a significant new super-trend.

Univers launched in Kazakhstan. We also see interest from Russian companies and will continue to work in Russia. Besides, we are going to enter the Asian market. It is growing dynamically, and in our estimation, there are great opportunities for solutions in HR-Tech.

Now we are completing the development of all product modules, adding new ones. We became a resident of Skolkovo. We continue to develop innovations. The implementations will undoubtedly bring new challenges and questions. We are ready for them.

Company information

Univers was founded in 2019 by Kirill Khramtsov and Elena Abashkina. The main product of Univertus is an integrated personnel management and development system based on digital twins of employees. Semi-automatic data collection and analysis with the help of artificial intelligence makes it possible to make forecasts for making effective personnel decisions. The first client of Univertus was a sizable metallurgical company in Kazakhstan.

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