We live in very exciting times. The artificial intelligence debate is intensifying. There is constant commentary on it from some of the finest brains of our times. Some are for it with gusto and some seek caution.
One thing is certain, AI has accelerated like no other technology in the past few decades. It is clear that AI will become much more pervasive and intertwined in our day-to-day life. It will change the way we live in fundamental ways.
AI is the ultimate frontier in technology. Organisations are investing significantly in AI and it will continue to happen with AI becoming more of a catalyst for businesses. Experts predict that technologies that underpin the fourth industrial revolution are all set to bring out the best in people.
If you think job disruption by artificial intelligence (AI) is limited to the marketing, finance, sales and customer service, think again: The AI dust is being sprinkled on the human resources function, too.
Although the field is projected to grow 9 percent by 2024, as companies grow and need more robust structures for supporting and empowering employees, the hype and expectations of AI in the HR sector are getting astronomical.
That’s indeed good news for the HR folks – isn’t it?
Certainly, the HR department is one of the most complex, handcrafted and data-dependent business processes within an organisation. AI has the potential to transform employee engagement with relevant, quick and in- depth analysis of various functions within HR.
AI provides the teams with the necessary budget space to be more effective and efficient than ever.
Many HR leaders have already begun experimenting with varied facets of AI to deliver maximum value to their organizations. Organisations with large employee bases are turning to AI to reduce the cost involved in managing operations, to improve employee engagement to drive bias-free decisions in employee screening and recruitment.
AI can also help HR shared service organisations to focus on strategic business initiatives and can enable them to streamline and modernise HR operations, especially in the following areas:Reimagining HR operations with AI and machine learning technologies
- Conversational Interfaces: These interfaces automate regular HR tasks and provide employees with insights about policies, training schedules, payroll, and compensation. With speech recognition and NLP infused, conversational AI platforms addresses the growing needs of digitally empowered employees with 24*7 assistance and helps organizations in driving productivity improvements.
- Machine Learning (ML): ML skims people-related data to detect patterns and transforms program actions accordingly. The insights drawn makes suitable data available for HR practitioners to motivate and engage existing employees and to also hire new ones. Also, ML-powered recommendations use historical records to suggest the optimum solutions to resolve conflicts.
- Predictive models: These models help HR departments reduce employee turnover, boost business performance, quickly identify areas of risk and potential performance issues, and improve workforce diversity. Organizations are building predictive models that would identify the key reasons contributing to employee attrition by simply analyzing a structured data file fed into it and generating a score for every employee based on the calculated probability of them leaving their jobs.
AI and non-transactional segments of HR
AI has the potential to take HR experience to a higher level by automating most of the non-transactional HR tasks. Let’s have a closer look at some of these tasks.
Recruitment: Hiring in thousands leads to scale issues for HR professionals, who most often grapple with the problem of "resume overload". Robots with AI software designed for recruitment are helping HRs in the screening process by identifying hard-to-find candidates at scale, collecting potential employees’ information and performing background checks. Such tools help candidates select the right job thereby freeing head hunters from the mundane task of candidate screening.
On-boarding: Smart AI tools focus on making on-boarding a self-service process since these can connect directly with onsite employees, and collaborate with the workforce management team.
Organisations are increasingly leveraging video conferencing tools for interviewing and assessing candidates. According to a recent research by Polycom, by the year 2020, 50 percent of conference rooms will be video-enabled. AI tools can analyse these videos to assess candidates’ language, skills, educational credentials, even honesty and mood.
Sentiment analysis: Telecom, technology banking, and healthcare sectors are hard pressed with the challenge of employee retention. Several companies have already started using AI and ML solutions to capture employee feedback to get a better understanding of their sentiments in real time. The key reason that organizations dig into sentiment technology lies in its data. AI, a big game changer here, can spot and analyse intelligent patterns in the sentiment of employees through their geographic locations, emails, conversations, etc.
Can AI replace human empathy and intuition?
Over the last few years, AI has gradually seeped into a domain which was considered solely to be driven by humans - HR department. From the screening process to enhancing employee engagement and sentiment analysis, AI has literally revolutionised this critical business function. Earlier confined to only big enterprises, AI is now spreading to MSMEs (Medium Small Medium Enterprises) as well.
However, the entry of AI has got many HR professionals fearing that they could be replaced by technology. Although the same fears should have cropped up in the minds of employees during the time of computer revolution as well.
"Human vs. intelligent machines" is probably the second-best bogey after ‘God vs Lucifer’, a timeless battle. Some commentators belong to that school of thought believing that ‘tech is going to replace humans’ and that AI will trigger a tsunami of redundancies throughout the workforce, while other experts believe that AI and human intuition go hand in hand.
So, where do we stand now? Has the transformation begun?
AI is not the future anymore; it is the present already and making waves in one function in 2018: Human Resources. Often, this function is perceived to lag in digital transformation, but with AI now has emerged as a game changer, there is a great opportunity awaiting the HR world.
AI allows huge amounts of data to be amassed and processed that would be far beyond human capabilities. However, this data-crunching and analytical aspect of AI can certainly validate the human gut feel. Instead of replacing HR professionals, ground-breaking AI tools are complementing human skills and managing role tasks to avoid multiple HR roles, thus freeing up the valuable human capital to focus on more strategic or critical aspects of their jobs.
Many experts feel AI can never replace human empathy and intuition. A company's HR department is likely to always need a human at the helm to handle interpersonal conflicts using non-cognitive and reasoning skills. AI is unlocking and amplifying human potential, not replacing it. People will be able to focus much more on value-added work and less on rote tasks unleashing their creative potential better.The author is Senior Vice-President and Chief HR Officer at CSS Corp