July 28, 2020

5 Things CHROs Should Know About Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is becoming a part of every professional’s working life. 

From junior outbound sales reps to marketing directors to HR executives, everyone’s tech stacks are being infused with AI. As the head HR professional in your organization, then, a core part of your role will be understanding how this technology impacts your staff.

So, here’s a primer for CHROs and the five key things they should know about artificial intelligence.

AI Can Be a Boon to Recruitment

A major selling point for AI has long been how it can automate repetitive tasks — tasks such as filtering and screening candidates for an open vacancy. This can create real efficiencies for recruiters and hiring managers.

“AI can significantly reduce the time spent finding and recruiting great potential candidates,” writes Drew D’Agostino, co-founder of the personality assessment app Crystal. “Rather than having a person spend hours scanning LinkedIn, posting on job boards, or attending career fairs, AI is able to automate this process and locate top talent while you work on other things. This can help ensure that organizations are bringing in candidates in a quick and efficient way.”

And because technology, rather than a person, is sorting through this data, you can weed out human biases in your hiring process. Your hiring team would only see a person’s skills, not their name or what city they’re from or where they went to school.

Kate Tattersfield at JAXenter also notes how AI recruitment tools can be used to predict how successful candidates could be for certain positions. Other tools like chatbots, she writes, can be used in the onboarding process to help new hires get up to speed with company culture.

Now, let’s put these ideas together. When you can screen candidates more efficiently, mitigate hiring biases, and more accurately predict someone’s likelihood for success in a given role, then you have created a much stronger hiring funnel. 

From there, you can optimize that funnel. As the staff at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism writes, this can mean your hiring team will have better visibility into any aberrations with your hiring process, and it can mean they will have a better idea of what hiring channels (e.g. LinkedIn, job fairs, local advertisements) are most effective. Wherever the funnel is weak, or wherever there is an opportunity, it will be easier to spot, and the team can mobilize resources accordingly.

chros artificial intelligence

AI Supports Retention by Recognizing Patterns in Staff Engagement

Just as AI tools can help predict whether someone will be a good fit for a role, they can also predict whether a current employee is likely to leave.

“AI is an important function of employee retention,” Fusemachines VP of Technology Anish Joshi writes. “With more data to be analyzed, employers can better understand how employees are feeling and gauge whether or not they intend to stay with the organization. AI enables an employer to identify employee’s areas of dissatisfaction and the underlying causes behind them.”

This is precisely why we built employee profiles and career planning into the Eightfold Talent Intelligence Platform. When an organization has clear data on what motivates a person, what they feel dissatisfied with, and what their career aspirations are, the organization can match that person to new internal roles.

Retention is all about giving talented employees an internal next step in their careers. AI can help spot opportunities to do so.

AI Will Obviate Task-Based Approaches to Work

Let’s return to the idea of AI handling tasks. Just as the technology can screen candidates more quickly than a person working manually, AI can create similar efficiencies in many other jobs throughout an organization.

This will have huge implications for management. It won’t make sense in such a workplace to manage an employee’s output by measuring tasks completed. Instead, companies will need a new model for measuring and managing work.

Meghan M. Biro, CEO of TalentCulture, argues that this means talking about the business value of a team’s collective skills. In other words, a CHRO must manage their workforce’s capacity to drive value, not complete tasks.

This then begs questions of remuneration. “Salaries and other forms of employee compensation will need to reflect the shifting value of tasks all along the organization chart,” writes Martin Fleming, Chief Economist and Vice President at IBM. 

“Our research shows that as technology reduces the cost of some tasks because they can be done in part by AI, the value workers bring to the remaining tasks increases. Those tasks tend to require grounding in intellectual skill and insight—something AI isn’t as good at as people.”

chros artificial intelligence

People Will Need Training to Join an AI-Powered Economy

AI is often spoken of in terms of job disruption, and there has been a prevailing mainstream belief that AI tools will replace the labor of people who perform rote tasks.

The reality will be more nuanced than that.

As Brookings Institution researchers Mark Muro, Jacob Whiton, and Robert Maxim note, so-called “skilled” white-collar jobs will be especially vulnerable to AI’s disruptions. “Our analysis shows that AI will be a significant factor in the future work lives of relatively well-paid managers, supervisors, and analysts,” they write. 

“Also exposed are factory workers, who are increasingly well-educated in many occupations as well as heavily involved with AI on the shop floor. AI may be much less of a factor in the work of most lower-paid service workers.”

The implication, then, is many organizations will need to undergo top-to-bottom workforce retraining. That way, they can deploy AI assets for the work that AI is best at, and they can deploy people for the work that people are best at.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and President of Sinovation Ventures’ Artificial Intelligence Institute, argues that this retraining will need to focus on the following:

  • Transferable skills 
  • Adaptability 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Compassion
  • Self-awareness

“Improving education has never been an easy task,” he writes. “Redesigning it entirely to shift the center of gravity away from knowledge transfer and toward self-awareness and self-discovery is a monumental task, yet a necessary one. We must prepare our children for an entirely new relationship between humans and machines.”

In That Economy, the ‘Human’ in HR Will Be the Key to Success

Notice how Dr. Lee speaks of core humanist ideas like self-awareness, compassion, and self-discovery. Those are foundational to human greatness, and they will become the focus of work in an AI-powered economy.

That means you will have to help lead your teams toward self-awareness and self-discovery. Likewise, it will fall on you to ensure that your company’s technologies don’t obscure or impede the humanity of its people. 

“As technology becomes more embedded into work, its design and use needs to be assessed for fairness and equity,” Deloitte’s Erica Volini et al. write. “Organizations should consider questions such as whether their applications of technology decrease or increase discriminatory bias; what procedures they have to protect the privacy of worker data; whether technology-made decisions are transparent and explainable; and what policies they have in place to hold humans responsible for those decisions’ outputs.”

Deloitte’s Jim Guszcza makes an interesting point that company leaders will now have to think about the environments in which decisions are made. That environment includes algorithmic decision makers and human decision makers, and it must be designed to empower both fairly.

“An algorithm’s end users should have a sufficiently detailed understanding of their tool to use it effectively,” he writes at WIRED. “Guidelines and business rules should be established to convert predictions into prescriptions and to suggest when and how the end user might either override the algorithm or complement its recommendations with other information.”

Here is where your interests will overlap with those of your company’s CTO or whoever else is in charge of the company’s technology. You will have to advocate for human-centered decision-making environments so that the compassion, the empathy, the curiosity, and the self-awareness of your workforce can work in tandem with your AI tools.

The role of the CHRO, then, will become increasingly important as artificial intelligence evolves. As rote tasks fall under the purview of the algorithm, your team’s essential human traits and their ability to make informed decisions will be what actually drive business value.  

Images by: Amanda Dalbjörn, Sami Hobbs, Dave Goudreau