January 05.2018, 11.06am

3 reasons HR leaders are getting excited about artificial intelligence

The classic narrative surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is the one we see commonly in science fiction films, where killer robots chase the remnants of humanity around a post-apocalyptic landscape. It’s a narrative driven by the fear of change and the notion that man and intelligent machines couldn’t possibly coexist peacefully.

Although it’s hard to predict the full potential of AI with any certainty, it is already changing the way we work. Cognitive technologies, machine learning and advanced algorithms are creating a better employee and candidate experience. Far from taking people’s jobs or chasing us all to our doom, the rise of the machines could actually usher in a new age of HR and help to create new employment opportunities.

AI can actually improve recruitment

It’s no exaggeration to say that AI could revolutionise recruitment. Google recently launched Cloud Jobs API, which “understands the nuances of job titles, descriptions, skills and preferences, and matches job seeker preferences with relevant job listings based on sophisticated classifications and relational models.” In this way, AI recruitment software can help you source better candidates and reach a wider, targeted audience.

Machines don’t indulge in stereotypes, so AI recruitment tools can remove unconscious or conscious human bias based on gender, race, age, religion or class from the process. Other aspects of the recruitment process such as screening potential candidates, to contacting candidates can be automated. The days of ‘ghosting’ or alienating candidates through poor communication will be a thing of the past.

Chatbots can be used to provide supplementary info that isn’t available from the job description and take minor queries out of the hands of HR professionals. All this improves the overall candidate experience by keeping them updated throughout the process. 

AI really comes into its own in the area of candidate data analysis and the use of advanced algorithms to identify the best talent. AI software will be able to analyse the career paths or qualifications of high performers within your organisation and identify qualified candidates with similar skill sets, performance metrics or career progressions.

Moneyball reinvented baseball recruitment by using previously unimaginable sets of data points to uncover unconventional talent. Likewise, AI could help you to identify hidden diamonds or provide a more detailed analysis of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.

Take facial recognition technology like Hireview, for instance. It can analyse a video interview using data points on facial movements, word choice and intonation to provide more accurate candidate assessments.

That’s not to say that AI tools will ever replace human judgement or experience in the hiring process. However, AI can automate mundane tasks, shorten the hiring time required and improve the candidate experience. 

It will provide HR leaders with much more information from which to draw conclusions and develop a more effective, data-driven hiring strategy. It’s no wonder that four out of five HR managers in British SMEs are excited or optimistic about the prospect of using AI to find future employees.


Improved conditions for current employees

Using machines to make people happier seems counter-intuitive but AI could have a positive effect from the moment someone is hired. We previously looked at the importance of onboarding in terms of employee expectations, engagement and retention. Bots can become virtual assistants to help can streamline the onboarding process, answer queries and ensure a smooth transition for new hires.

Succession planning can also employ intelligent technologies to identify high performers and workers with the potential to rise in an organisation. The lack of human bias in recruitment and succession planning will result in a more diverse workplace. As our blog on diversity showed, this can lead to greater innovation and ultimately reap business dividends by improving profits.

Bots can also provide existing employees with answers to common or easy-to-answer questions via instant messaging, automated emails or HR software dashboards. Automated coaching for employees can be easily set up by HR. This can provide training for specific roles, identify gaps in expertise based on data analytics and offer required coaching experiences as part of a predetermined succession plan or development programme.

There is a perception that automation means lost jobs, but studies have shown that new positions arise out of new technology, and new technology creates jobs that didn’t previously exist. Other economic experts have pointed towards the trend for automated machines or computers, “to substitute for workers in performing routine, codifiable tasks while amplifying the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creativity.”

HR professionals will always be required to provide the soft skills that help to motivate and empower employees. Intelligent technologies can free HR professionals up from the bureaucracy of the job but technology can’t replace human emotional intelligence, empathy, judgement and personality. AI will augment the way HR processes work, but ultimately this will lead to a more humanised HR that can focus on people management, strategic planning and enhancing the employee experience. 


HR can leverage AI to reach new heights

It’s telling that Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster who famously took on AI machines in chess matches, believes that a human being paired with a set of programs or a computer will be better than the strongest computer program in chess. He points out that, “weak human player plus machine plus a better process is superior, not only to a very powerful machine, but most remarkably, to a strong human player plus machine plus an inferior process.”

This is the so-called ‘centaur model’ that is being seen as the blueprint for the HR of the future. Forget man vs machine. This is man plus machine. It’s about harnessing human judgement, intuition, imagination and strategy to the data analytics and predictive abilities of a machine.

HR has always revolved around emotional intelligence, people skills and organisation and this won’t change. However, the emerging intelligent technologies can empower HR professionals by freeing them up to focus on a more strategic role and by providing new metrics and data analytics to support innovative workplace theories and practices.

Modern HR leaders stand on the edge of a new frontier, one that will be explored using the insights that AI software and intelligent machines can offer. It’s a brave new world, but the driving force behind it will be very human and capable of providing the creativity, human touch and emotional understanding that have taken us where we are today.


Don’t fear organisational change – embrace it! Download our eBook “The Role of HR in Change Management and 5 Tips for Success” to learn more.

Tony BanksBy Tony Banks

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