People are often a little suspicious of automation.
The Industrial Revolution sparked fear in workers that they’d become superfluous to modern production. But the reality was much different. Humans and machines work together, with the former using the latter to improve their roles. AI, with capabilities never seen before in machines, adds a fresh element to this long-standing human narrative.
But a useful point to contemplate comes from Anders Sandberg, at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute: “If your job can be easily explained, it can be automated. If it can’t, it won’t.”
Fortunately for HR professionals, the sheer scope of the job, the intricacies of their responsibilities and the human connections essential to their role make what they do a tough task to explain.
Here is how CHROs and their teams can use AI to make better hiring decisions and enable closer connections with candidates.
Stepping Into the Unknown
That the future is unknowable is hardly a surprise, but when it comes to what AI could deliver we are only glimpsing the tip of the iceberg.
Consider that two decades ago not many people would have foreseen the capabilities and ubiquity of smartphones, says Chris Duffey, creative technologist and author of “Superhuman Innovation.” And, for the most part, smartphones and previous technologies have always provided a service to humanity. There’s no reason to think this will change.
With this in mind, HR professionals and business leaders should be thinking about how AI can help them make their organizations more intelligent. It’s not about working with intelligent machines; it’s about using those machines to improve employment and life in meaningful ways, Duffey adds.
If the future of people and AI is to be collaborative, HR professionals must learn to work with tech and eradicate their fears of being replaced by AI, Prarthana Ghosh at People Matters argues. Training should show recruiters and hiring managers that AI is a friend, not a foe. AI is a tool they can use to deliver a better recruitment experience.
Human Resources Will Always Be About People
Greater integration of AI solutions and HR processes is inevitable — and desirable. But balance must be struck between the decision-making clout that people hand over to tech and that which they retain for themselves, explains Steve Boese, a columnist at Human Resource Executive. Finding this balance requires a better understanding of what AI truly delivers to the recruitment process.
Of course, immediate gains in time and money are two key facets of AI’s powerful offering, but what’s best about HR, Boese argues, is the deep concern and empathy humans have for one another. More so than in other corporate departments, HR’s focus is on people and how its policies and practices impact employees in real and meaningful ways.
AI and HR’s Views On Soft Skills
Technical skills are important, of course, but soft skills are increasingly considered the tipping point between great candidates and capable candidates. And AI isn’t quite able to test for softer skills such as an applicants’ sociability, curiosity, ambition or critical thinking.
Algorithms are not yet as good as people at appraising these human qualities, as they lack self-awareness.
How to Use AI Hiring Tools Effectively
HR professionals should be very purposeful about identifying key business problems that AI will definitely be able to solve, explains Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace.
Meister gives the example of one of her clients, transportation company rLoop, which used AI to improve the onboarding experience for remote employees. The solution was simple: AI tools gathered data on the most common questions from new hires so HR professionals wouldn’t have to answer them and could focus on more important aspects of the new hires’ experience.
AI and humans can work together to meet employees’ needs, but AI should never be bolted onto existing processes. Instead, AI should be used in meaningful ways to respond to employees’ real needs.
AI Can Bring Fairness and Better Hiring
Two years ago, EY launched its AI-enabled chabot, Goldie, which has since answered 2.2 million questions from employees around the world.
Still, AI’s potential has barely been tapped. “It’s pervasive in all aspects of how we think about people, getting the right people on the right projects and building careers,” says Jeff Wong, CIO at EY.
For instance, more accurate predictions about which candidate will be the better fit at an organization is a key need that AI can meet. Indeed, Wong notes that AI can deliver more diverse, inclusive and fair recruitment practices.
Deliver a Better Candidate Experience
AI tools can help make HR workflows more efficient. Initial screening of candidates, for example, wouldn’t have to be an HR professional’s responsibility. The savings in time and energy could free them to focus on more important and nuanced aspect of the hiring process, says the organizers of the Recruiting Trends and Tech Talent conference.
The obvious focus point, then, is delivering a better hiring experience. While tech plays an important role in improving the experience, the team says “frequent, high-touch communications and interactions with other humans” are fundamental to a positive experience.
They also cite Shally Steckerl, founder and president of The Sourcing Institute, who says: “Our job has much more humanity in it than a lot of other roles that have been very easily disintermediated by tech. We should leverage it better, but this is a job that is not ever going to be replaced by a robot or a machine.”
HR Needs to Be More Evidence-Based
AI will be more impactful on employment in the UK than Brexit. This is the opinion of Robert Bolton, head of KPMG’s Global People and Change Centre of Excellence.
But HR needs to wrestle the decision-making power from COOs and CEOs to direct this impact in the most beneficial ways. “There are now CIOs saying they want to take over the people function – they don’t see HR meeting the challenge,” Bolton argues.
And he sees truth in this sentiment as HR currently lacks an evidence-based model of working, and should use data more effectively. “Workforce shaping” is where HR should be focusing its energies, and this means more than taking a narrow view of talent management.
“HR is too focused on individuals at the expense of the strategic whole,” Bolton says. This can change when HR focuses more on gathering and analyzing data. And indeed, this is where AI can deliver and help HR reshape the workforce.
People Will Always Matter: A Lesson From Chess
Chess fans will remember 1997 as the year that a computer, for the first time, beat a human champion of the game.
Garry Kasparov was a 10-time world chess master when he faced off with the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. Kasparov won the first game and lost the second. Instead of people throwing out their chess boards, however, they invented a new way of playing: person and computer versus computer on its own.
In a TED Talk, Kasparov says: “Machines have calculations. We have understanding. Machines have instructions. We have purpose. Machines have objectivity. We have passion. We should not worry about what our machines can do today. Instead, we should worry about what they still cannot do today, because we will need the help of the new, intelligent machines to turn our grandest dreams into reality.”
CHROs and their teams should not see AI as a threat to their jobs. Humans and machines are a powerful combination that can deliver significant advancements in better hiring. Focusing on business needs that AI can solve will free up CHROs to be more strategic about HR’s role in using data to drive workforce transformation. AI enables rather than replaces people. Together, they can achieve much in people management.
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