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Artificial intelligence: HR’s new power tool

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Leaders within the human capital management community have cited an acceleration of change that is fundamentally altering how they view their roles and the business of leading human resources. A multitude of factors, including technological advancements like big data, artificial intelligence, mobile, cloud-based HR and labor technology, are contributing to rapid change. Artificial intelligence, specifically, is predicted to drive the future of work, yet multiple reports indicate that human resources professionals are ill-equipped to make this happen successfully.

Believe it or not, the HR function is no stranger to artificial intelligence and many HR functions already utilize the unsupervised learning and predictive modeling benefits that come along with AI, especially in tasks such as recruiting and training. AI for recruiting, for example, is an existing category of HR technology designed to reduce — or even remove — time-consuming activities like manually screening resumes.

New generations entering the workforce, and older generations delaying retirement, are contributing to larger applicant pools, so HR professionals are already experiencing the lift of having an AI-backed system to identify qualified candidates. Employing AI technology for the repetitive parts of standard HR tasks like sourcing, screening and nurturing candidates will increase and grow into more sophisticated tasks, like scheduling interviews and even engaging with and interviewing candidates.

Although there are existing areas within the HR function that already leverage the power of AI, the rapid pace of digitization and technology disruption will enhance the need for further expansions. IBM predicts that 120 million workers in the world’s ten largest economies will need to be reskilled in the next few years to adapt to an AI-driven marketplace. Additionally, Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report reveals a similar sentiment, stating that while 72% of respondents think adopting AI is vital for their business, only 31% feel ready to address this transformation.

But failure to implement wholesale changes backed by digitization and insight-driven learnings will result in the loss of an organization’s competitive edge, and HR departments will have to account for the ensuing adverse effects on long-term growth.

So this brings the question, will HR be replaced by AI? The short answer is no. Instead, HR will be enhanced by the insights and capabilities that will inherently come with AI’s unsupervised learning and predictive modeling.

Most organizations that have invested and integrated AI into their HR functions have a new perspective that’s worth noting. Think of HR jobs now as a hybrid model with people and technology co-existing. Best practices in this hybrid model focus on carefully designed work and processes with specific delineations on who or what is doing the activity — additionally, monitoring and measuring how you utilize AI with human oversight is imperative. Continual learning needs to be reviewed by an HR leader to avoid biases and other unintended consequences of automating tasks and processes.

The future workforce will see a hybrid of both humans and technology working together seamlessly. AI will not replace work that requires empathy, problem-solving, social skills, or emotional intelligence. It’s not about technology replacing the personal touch; it’s about technology enabling the personal touch and raising the bar. While efficiencies may reduce the number of HR roles in the future overall, the type of work performed by HR professionals will be higher paying, and more strategic, high-value based responsibilities.

In addition to the artificial intelligence benefits that are currently leveraged by many HR professionals, future examples of AI-based HR capabilities include:

Productivity: This will develop through email and time management insights, workplace redesign and internal talent mobility.

Management: HR professionals leveraging AI to analyze engagement feedback and assess managerial readiness and team health.

Compensation: AI can identify gender and age inequality, matching pay to demand and optimizing reimbursement to market figures.

Artificial intelligence is positioned to plan a role in nearly every HR domain, changing and enhancing every process. The way organizations source, assess, hire, train, develop, pay, and move people will all be informed by AI.

Companies can reframe the integration of AI as a complement to human expertise rather than a zero-sum game in which humans fill in for what machines cannot accomplish yet. With the increase of automated software and chatbots, AI has the power to become a secret workhorse for HR departments delivering exponential growth in the next three to five years. The responsibility of leveraging systems of intelligence to better inform decisions on recruitment, assessments, learning, management, career advancement, compensation, wellbeing, compliance and productivity, among others, will fall squarely on the shoulders of HR departments. Utilizing machine learning to assist the human touch will soon become the price of entry, versus the exception to the rule.

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