How is tech redefining HR? AI is already taking the world of HR by storm, and has become an integral part of many successful HR strategies. Ritam Gandhi cautions that using AI doesn’t mean taking the ‘human’ out of human resources When we consider the most influential technological innovations of the last decade, artificial intelligence (AI) certainly warrants some attention. And although the field of AI is more than 70 years old, it is only in recent years that it has really entered our everyday lexicon. There’s no denying the impact AI and machine learning (ML) have had on society, particularly when it comes to the workplace. We’ve made significant progress in implementing these technologies to improve speed and efficiency; and this is certainly true in the field of HR. In fact, according to new research by PwC, almost two thirds (63%) of companies are currently rethinking the whole role of their HR department in light of the benefits that AI could deliver. Admittedly, HR is hardly known for its knack for pioneering nascent technology. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been some notable advancements in this sphere which might suggest that we are teetering on the edge of the HR tech revolution. And as this technology continues to become more widespread (and affordable!) there’s no doubt that we will continue to see further uptake of AI solutions within HR departments across the globe. AI should be embraced – not feared We’ve all heard the scare stories… robots are after our jobs, and we’ll soon be replaced by superior machines that can outperform us in every task. However, it’s important to remember that much of this fearmongering is greatly exaggerated, and often overstates the current capabilities of AI. Instead, what AI is actually doing is enhancing our performance; making us faster and far more efficient, all the while creating more time for the truly human side of the job. It’s in the title, after all – we are far from a point where people are no longer needed in human resources. And a blend of professionals’ soft skills, together with the powerful analytical and predictive capabilities of AI, has become a winning formula for more meaningful and insightful work. Let’s take a moment to consider the fundamental role of HR professionals. Much of the day is (or, was previously) spent shuffling through paperwork; ensuring that the company is fulfilling its legal requirements, sourcing and screening candidates for new job openings, managing employees’ pay and sick leave… the list goes on. What all of these tasks have in common is that they are repetitive and take up a lot of time. How much simpler would it be if we could delegate the majority of these responsibilities to sophisticated computers? Luckily, thanks to the proliferation of AI tools, this option is now within reach. The question beckons, therefore, are HR professionals ready for this change? It would seem that the answer is yes. Microsoft UK recently conducted some research and found the vast majority (68%) of HR professionals believe that automating routine tasks will create time for more meaningful work. This clearly demonstrates appetite for AI within the workplace, but it leads us to the next, more important, question: how are HR departments actually putting AI technology into practice? An easier way to hire The recruitment market is currently buzzing with innovation, and AI is playing an increasingly central role when it comes to finding, securing and retaining employees. Given the speed of modern business (a recent Glassdoor report revealed that as much as 66% of millennials are considering leaving their current jobs by 2020), being able to quickly locate the right talent within a wide pool of potential candidates is a cornerstone of HR today. Furthermore, when you factor in the rise of professional social media platforms like LinkedIn, where there are thousands upon thousands of prospective employees to choose from, this is certainly no easy feat. Finding the right candidates – quicker Previously, HR professionals were limited to sifting through piles of applications, manually scanning applicants’ CVs to verify that they had the important qualities and qualifications that were needed for the job. This process would often take days, if not weeks or even months. That’s all changed now. The capabilities of machines today extend far beyond our own abilities – not only can AI assess a CV to determine the suitability of a candidate to a company, it can do so at unprecedented speeds. So how does it do this? Sophisticated algorithms can quickly pull and scan huge volumes of data in order to weed out unsuitable applicants and narrow the talent pool; ensuring that the HR professionals can focus more time and attention on the most promising candidates. Harver, for instance, uses predictive analytics to make predictions on an applicant’s likelihood of success in the role they are applying for. Based on criteria that are specific to the job and others that are linked to a company’s cultural requirements, algorithms calculate a matching score for every candidate. Reducing bias Meanwhile, AI can also ensure that the recruiting process is fair and impartial; because, despite our best efforts, by nature human judgment is clouded by bias. AI tools are now being built to reduce subconscious prejudice in recruiting and ensure all candidates are vetted the same way regardless of their background, gender or ethnicity. There’s a clear advantage to using machines here. Instead of subjective decision-making, recruitment AI tools like Ideal can be programmed to ignore demographic information – and even data like school names and post codes that might correlate with demographic-related information to indicate race and socioeconomic status. Now that we’ve explored some of the main ways that AI is being used to revamp the recruitment process, it is important to assess the tangible benefits that are on offer for companies embracing these tools. According to research by Mondal, companies utilising AI for recruitment have achieved a massive 71% decrease in cost per hire – and a threefold increase in efficiency. Indeed, the time and cost saving potential here cannot be underestimated. 24-hour employee assistance As new employees are sourced and recruited, HR is on hand to offer support as they settle into the company. HR professionals therefore spend much of their time answering the same repeated questions – from holiday policies to employee benefits, naturally there is a list of standard queries that will need to be addressed in the first few weeks (or even months). And this isn’t limited to new hires, of course – existing employees will always need a helping hand, too. Increasingly, HR teams are turning towards AI tools that can handle these concerns as they focus on more meaningful work. Chatbots, for example, have become a popular solution for providing round-the-clock admin assistance; these automated online interfaces try to mimic a human conversation in their interactions with a user in order to answer questions or perform routine tasks. Through data-driven analytics, tools like Bash.ai can learn to recognise common requests that employees make, and offer accurate responses based on the infinite stores of company data that it has access to. Not only does this boost the efficiency of the entire process, it also offers an ‘always on’ service that might not otherwise be viable – particularly in larger organisation where HR resources are stretched to support a sizeable workforce. As an added bonus, these AI tools are constantly self-improving. Thanks to ML capabilities, these chatbot assistants can learn from previous interactions in order to make their responses even more accurate and tailored the next time around. Clever performance management tools Once the perfect candidate has been sourced and they have settled into the flow of things, the role of the HR team is hardly over. After all, employees often look to the HR department for support throughout their entire career progression at the company, particularly when it comes to meeting skill development goals. Once again, there’s an important role for AI here. It can be very difficult to keep track of all employees and their progress, especially within larger organisations. AI solutions enable companies to generate and process huge volumes of data that reveal valuable insights regarding employee sentiment and performance. For one, they can schedule HR functions such as interviews, performance appraisals, group meetings and a host of other regular tasks in order to automate the review cycle (and thereby generate continuous feedback). Intelligent algorithms can then use this data to look for patterns to suggest additional experience and training that an employee might need in order to maximise their performance. IBM, a pioneer in the field of AI, has already been experimenting with the potential of this technology. Here, AI is being used to recommend highly personalised training programs for each individual employee based on the way he or she best learns new things, in turn helping them meet their potential. Just consider how Netflix uses a consumer’s browsing history and past preferences to curate content customised specifically to them. The same principle is in play here. Every employee has a unique style of learning, so it’s important to tailor training to their own individual preferences in order to achieve the best results. Except, instead of basing this personalisation on online browsing history and programme engagement figures, these AI tools curate training content from internal and external sources based on factors like job history, personality insights, career goals and preferences. Importantly, the role of the HR professional is hardly diminished; once these insights are delivered, it is then up to them to come up with creative ways to support employees in their development. The future of AI in HR AI is already taking the world of HR by storm, and this technology has become an integral part of many successful HR strategies. Given the rapid uptake of these technologies, we can certainly expect to see some new tools and solutions becoming available to HR departments in the near future. On a final note, it is worth remembering that the proliferation of AI within the workplace doesn’t mean taking the ‘human’ out of human resources. Machine capabilities are here to supplement human skills with the best that modern technology has to offer – helping skilled professionals to drive real value within an organisation while also enhancing operational efficiency far beyond current standards. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ritam worked as a consultant for a decade for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch before, in 2014, going on to launch Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing blank canvas tech products for small businesses through to large corporates. Working with many startups alongside innovation teams in more established companies, the London-based agency plans, designs and builds astounding tech products for its clients. What’s more, Ritam and the team also use their experience and expertise to help leaders grow their business from ideation, to launch and beyond.

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AI is already taking the world of HR by storm, and this technology has become an integral part of many successful HR strategies

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