Living the life of an employee – with AI

Tue, 6. August
digitalisation, HR, recruitment, development, employee lifecycle
by Andrea Lehky

Digitalisation. ‘Artificial Intelligence’. It all sounds very intangible, abstract. But – apart from noting down all that data – what does AI actually do in the Human Resources field? And more importantly: does it make our life easier?


Michael Hakes, Group HR Director at packaging and paper producer Mondi, is in the middle of digitalising. Hakes manages some 26,000 Mondi employees around the world, with approximately one-in-ten of those in Austria. The baseline scenario: five generations in the company, each with their own perceptions of the world of work. Each individual goes through the employee lifecycle: submitting an application, joining the company, performing one’s job, being evaluated and evaluating oneself, developing and improving, leaving the company.

The art of doing this well – and this project is far from over just yet – is to pick up and integrate everyone, exactly where they are. Without powerful software, that’s not going to happen. Hakes explains to us what his system offers the company and its employees.


Applying for a job. 20-year-olds expect to apply for jobs the same way as they order goods on Amazon. Applicants of 50 or older, meanwhile, want to submit their CVs on paper. That can make it difficult to compare one résumé with another. That’s where a user-friendly template helps, standardised across the world, for all applicants to enter their data. The system also reminds the user if something is missing (‘Please attach a covering letter’). 

All the information is stored in such a way that AI can filter out applications meeting the defined requirements. Details of age, gender and ethnicity are hidden and the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation for internal use are complied with. Recruiters compare the strongest candidates, with their details presented alongside one another onscreen. Or they exchange ideas with a manager on the other side of the world (‘Please invite these three candidates’). When it comes to rejections, until now the rule has always been that if you wanted to be certain of annoying your applicants, all you needed to do was to leave them in the dark for weeks on end, wondering whether they had made it or not. Now the system generates automated rejections. Applicants will appreciate this function. 

Joining the company. There’s a mountain of paperwork to be done when an applicant joins a company – and automation makes this a great deal easier for HR and new arrivals alike. Timekeeping is a matter of trust. Holiday applications no longer have to be signed off by three different people; the date is simply entered in the system, visible to all.

Performing. Performance and development reviews are no longer held once a year, but at least twice. When the date for a review is approaching, employee and manager receive a reminder in their calendar. If there are any new developments, targets can also be adjusted in the course of the year. 

Developing and improving. Employees used to be satisfied with career moves once every five years, Hakes recalls. Now they’re demanding them every two years. Because of this, development targets are fed in as soon as new employees enter the system, and their progress towards reaching these goals evaluated at each review. HR can see at a glance if several employees need mentors or training, for example, and organises both in bundled form. HR also sees if several employees are having problems with the same manager. “In that case, there is a friendly retraining,” says Hakes. 

Leaving the company. And what about the fear of bad feedback? AI unforgivingly reminds both HR and the manager not to forget to organise an exit meeting with any member of staff leaving the company. If several employees leave for the same reason, the system wonders why and notes its concern. In summary, therefore, they’re the same processes – just implemented more consistently.


There is often resentment of Artificial Intelligence in HR on both the applicants’ and the employees’ side. In fact, the technology supports the work of managers and those engaged in HR matters, and reduces the amount of paperwork. Mondi’s Head of HR Michael Hakes describes the process through the example of his SAP, Software Success Factors. 

This article was originally published on Die Presse website on 21 July 2019 in German language. Read the original article.

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