Artificial intelligence (AI) is a source of both huge excitement and fear across the HR function. What are the real opportunities and challenges for HR? Drawing on a framework analysis of how AI will impact HR, I identify the most valuable win-to-win value proposition where machines and HR team-collaborations work together to deliver a brand-new HR approach to the market.
We have all witnessed the evolution of the HR function, moving from a traditional department that hires, fires and manages benefits, to having the opportunity to be a “business partner” to support business transformation. Fortune 500 organizations have developed advanced HR practices that leverage strategy and operating models using talent, culture and leadership capabilities. However, technology disruption is challenging HR to design a strategy that delivers a different value proposition, one that includes AI, and to better serves employees and customers delivering value to shareholders.
According to IBM’s 2017 survey of 6,000 executives, “Extending expertise: How cognitive computing is transforming HR and the employee experience”, 50% of HR executives recognize that cognitive computing has the power to transform key dimensions of HR. And 54% of HR executives believe that cognitive computing will affect key roles in the HR organization. The message is clear: CHROs and CEOs recognize the value proposition that cognitive solutions bring to HR and believe its unique advantage can address the new talent and workplace imperatives; however, most are uncertain how and where to start.
There are three areas in which the HR function is starting to leverage the power of cognitive computing: talent acquisition, talent development and HR operations. Let review some detail:
Talent acquisition: AI is already enhancing talent acquisition, giving support in resume screening, candidate sourcing, ATS mining, while reducing unconscious bias in the selection process. Chatbots are interacting with candidates, answering FAQs about the position, asking screening questions about qualifications, interviewing and scheduling pre-interviews via email, text message and social media.
Talent development: Harnessing revolution: Creating the future workplace, a 2017 Accenture research report, reveals that most workers (80%) believe that automation will provide them with more opportunities than challenges, and 95% believe they need new skills to stay relevant at work. AI leverages talent development providing cognitive insights to up-skill employees and can tailor recommendations for learning and career management. AI can help with class enrolment, training delivery, retention, follow-up and assessment.
HR operations: Bobby Mukherjee, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of Loka, is currently working on a chatbot called Jane, which is designed to help HR teams develop better forms of communication.
Through the use of AI, Jane can answer employee questions in real time on the Slack messaging platform. For example, if an employee wants to know the company’s holidays, they can simply type in their question, send it to Jane, and receive an immediate response. Jane ultimately provides a solution for HR teams struggling with on-demand communication and employee engagement rates.
This example sets up the multiple ways that AI can provide support in HR transactional work related to holidays, policy interpretation, benefits, and general HR administrative activities. This allows HR teams to focus on processes or practices that generate more value to people and the organization as a whole. Lastly, AI for HR can be used for more than just answering questions via chatbots—chatbots can be used to gather employee data to make more informed decisions and create more efficient processes that provide clear insights into the business.
The message is clear, AI can help eliminate repetitive tasks, accelerate the search for talent, transform the employee experience and provide people-related data to support business growth and innovation. Machine learning and chatbots will simulate human behavior to redesign HR delivery models and value propositions. AI reacts faster in reviewing and processing data that might otherwise take many hours if performed by employees or be neglected entirely. Machines can provide services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making HR agiler while supporting talent acquisition and allowing HR business partners to speedup HR transactional work.
AI means making an investment and assessing team skills, job design, processes, and structure to design and implement an AI HR strategy. This process starts with an HR capability map assessment to identify which processes will need to be transformed or enhanced with AI. Furthermore, this technology is expensive and may require the right partnerships to be created across your organization to convince your CEO and C-Suite executives to make an investment in HR instead of marketing (to improve customer relations) or operations (to improve operational excellence). However, I think there is an opportunity within the HR profession to build the business case and assess what the impacts and potential efficiencies are, and therefore what the cost savings are, in the long run, and how they are linked to business strategy.
Bottom line is that HR will be augmented with AI technology that can deliver and enhance better candidate and employee experience. CHROs and senior HR leaders need to create an HR framework to consider all the aspects described above in order to develop an AI strategy for HR. That strategy should have a clear outcome: support innovation capabilities and use agile practices to reflect and support the new era of “speed” results and business models. Lastly, keep in mind that we are not replacing the human component in HR, HR is adapting to this fourth industrial revolution, where customers, clients, and candidates are connected with one click.
How do you feel about an AI strategy to support HR transformation? Is your organization ready?