AN EVOLVING RELATIONSHIP: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND HUMAN RESOURCES

By: Alexandra Pascu

For the majority of human resource professionals (HR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the white elephant in the room. We’ve heard about it, some might have even researched and read about it; yet we seem to be reserved when it comes to voicing thoughts, fears and, maybe even the opportunities, that we foresee for HR in the era of AI

Truth is, whether we like it or not the era has already started. AI is here to stay and it is going to make a big impact. Will AI take over our jobs?, will it enhance or replace the human element in HR? Shall we talk about it, or ignore it for the moment? These are all legitimate questions to ask, and there’s no better time to start considering our options than today.


To start with: What is AI?

Let’s start by agreeing what we define as AI. To put it simply, AI is the ability of a computer program or machine to think and learn from experience and perform human like tasks, pretty much being “trained” to behave like a human. You might be surprised to find out that you are already using AI in your everyday life. If you’re an iPhone user, you might have already asked Siri various questions, such as “Where’s the closest Starbucks coffeeshop?” and you would have received an instant answer. Video gaming is another common example and the list is growing longer every day with self-driven cars and personalized ads that show up on social media.


AI is estimated to impact all business practices by 2020. That’s only two years away, and up until now HR has been relatively slow in welcoming AI. However, we are now on the fast track towards reshaping the way we practice Human Resources with the help of AI.


What shall we expect from AI in the HR arena?

AI is expected to transform HR processes and employee experience, increase efficiency, reduce human bias and significantly enhance HR’s analytical capability leading to faster, more accurate and better-informed decisions.

There’s the inevitable debate and mix of opinions that accompany any big change, yet AI is gathering more and more adepts on a daily basis and HR professionals are starting to consider how to embrace the innovation and make it work in our favor and for the benefit of the organization.


Streamlining the multitude of possible applications in the HR arena and exploring different routes from the already expected enhanced data analytics capability; we can explore three expected AI applications that are starting to be consistently mentioned:


1. Enhanced Employee Experience

From recruiting to managing the day-to-day communication with employees, AI has something in store to help provide candidates and employees with an enhanced experience. Chatbots are a great example and probably, once again, you have already interacted with a chatbot while using your Facebook Messenger to book a flight or to order a gift. A chatbot is an automated, yet personalized conversation between electronic software and a human being.


Now imagine having chatbots available 24/7 to answer your employees’ common questions or engage with candidates and review their CVs in real time. One could basically access HR solutions from virtually anywhere around the world and get an instant response for something that nowadays might require hours if not days.

It is envisioned that the use of chatbots will be extended so as to provide employees with easy access to high quality and personalized coaching. Now, that is a game changer that will have a great impact on the experience and performance of employees! Or will it? Isn’t empathy required for a coaching engagement?


2. Targeted and personalized learning opportunities

We’ve been hearing about the importance of Learning Agility, as a critical competency for the future. The future is now and AI can provide us with the means to actually nurture one’s learning agility and further develop it. Add to this mix a constantly changing business environment that requires employees to learn on the go and the benefits introduced by AI become critical. Existing AI solutions are now able to recommend targeted learning based on the job description or the specific competencies of each role. Taking it further, there’s even software that can read materials, summarize it and create mini learning programs that are provided to employees as learning snippets based on their needs. Similar solutions could ultimately analyze the typical activities performed by an employee and provide bespoke learning solutions that fit the learning preferences of the individual therefore facilitating and optimizing the learning process to an unprecedented level.


3. Decreasing human bias and enabling better decisions

Through our nature, we have an innate tendency towards bias. Some people are more aware and conscious about their personal biases while others are not so aware, as these biases might be deeply rooted in the unconscious mind. It is traditionally accepted that human bias can be controlled and diminished, however there’s no conclusive evidence that one can completely remove or mitigate all its biases.


If we look at HR, recruitment is probably the most common example of an HR practice that is highly susceptible to biases. In this context, AI has the potential to diminish unconscious human bias even further than the current traditional methods by being programmed to ignore demographic related data such as age and gender, to name a few. It can also reduce bias associated with creating job descriptions, job postings and application by carefully selecting words that appeal to a range of individuals and are neutral to known conscious or unconscious biases.


Are HR professionals choosing to FIGHT or EMBRACE Artificial Intelligence?

In our quest to understand the general perception of the imminent impact of AI, we talked to some HR professionals and business psychologists to gather their thoughts, insights and reflections:


Will AI replace the HUMAN in HR?”

“There’s richness brought by AI [in the context of online people assessment); but ultimately there’s something missing and dry without the human touch. People don’t connect with a paper. You need human to human interaction, being respected, felt – these are the key qualities coming only from people.”
“Verdict: I’m not worried about AI. Maybe I’m naïve ”

Louise Kidd, Senior Organisational Psychologist


“AI is coming and we need to accept it. It’s not going to wipe out our jobs, but we also need to redefine the role of the HR professional, reformulating the core of our job. I feel it’s now more important than ever. In HR, we need intelligence, but we also need emotions. That’s why I think we need to rethink our role in HR and this is where Organizational Psychologists can help. The question is, on a longer term how can we use our higher intelligence, the more abstract part, to differentiate us from machine intelligence?”
“Verdict: AI is replacing everyone [smiling]. It will ultimately replace intelligence, but NOT the human”

Nancy El Zein, Business Psychologist

“Some professions [in the future] will be replaced by computers [AI] but I strongly believe that there will be other new professions that will come up, to serve the new environment.”
“Verdict: Do I feel threatened that AI will replace us in HR? No, I feel confident that we will find all the space we need on that new market”

Anna Savdur, Regional L&D Manager

In Summary:

AI is here, and it can’t be resisted or sent away and it definitely has the potential to bring unprecedented richness to the HR arena. As HR professionals, we are pretty much at the beginning of the AI

exploration journey. Giving the rapid advances in AI development, we could all benefit from starting RIGHT NOW to change our

existing mindsets. Let’s look at AI with a new perspective and build a deeper understanding on how it will impact our organizations,

our HR functions, our teams and ultimately, our roles.

About The Author

Based between Dubai and Egypt, Alexandra Pascu is a Regional HR Consultancy Manager, specialized in Talent Management, L&D and Competency Modelling. Passionate about helping people achieve their potential, she is a multiple certified assessor and NLP & Hypnosis Master Practitioner. She practices hypnosis occasionally, especially when writing articles for Evolve Magazine. Disclaimer: getting into a trance while reading her articles is strictly up to you.

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