Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a phrase that pops up with increasing frequency in the media and with good reason; this new wave of technological advances is already impacting many aspects of our homes and workplaces, including human resources departments. In fact, recent reports and expert opinions suggest that AI could become mainstream in the HR world within the next few years.
For example, in a 2016 IBM study, over 65% of the CEOs surveyed believe that “cognitive technology will drive significant value in HR.” Cognitive technology is a field of artificial intelligence that seeks to imitate human brain processing by combining data mining, pattern recognition, and natural language processing. Over 50% of the CEOs believe “cognitive computing will impact key roles in the organization.”
Although using machines to manage the human elements of an organization may seem ironic, there are many good reasons to embrace using AI in HR. Here are five:
Let’s face it – much of the day-to-day workload of HR team members involves repetitive duties.
Introducing AI technologies, such as chatbots, to an HR department reduces the monotonous responsibilities facing HR professionals. A chatbot is an example of AI that mimics human conversation virtually using voice or text software technology. The IBM report advises that creating customized and personalized output in response to individual queries is one key area that will benefit from cognitive technology.
Cris Grossman, CEO of BeeKeeper, a communications platform app for organizations, believes that chatbots will soon become the workhorse of HR departments.
“Chatbots will answer questions regarding payroll, PTO, health benefits, and more, saving time for HR professionals as they won’t have to answer questions themselves,” says Grossman. “Over the next five years, we will continue to see AI chatbots blossoming into a crucial fixture for non-desk and front-line workforces to help executive teams receive quick and hyper-accurate data from their teams.”
Most organizations probably don’t have an HR professional available 24/7 to answer questions and assist employees. Yet in a survey of attendees conducted at the 2017 HR Tech Conference and Expo, 99% of respondents said they believe it’s important for workers to be able to find information on company policies such as maternity leave in the evening or non-business hours. In the same survey, 92% believe that chatbots will soon be important when it comes to employees finding the information they need. Finally, almost 66% of respondents said the employees at their organizations are comfortable using chatbots to get information.
Yet as Grossman points out, technology changes quickly, so do your homework before committing to an AI chatbot program.
“When companies are evaluating which AI chatbot tools are right for them, it is important to peek under the hood at how the tool is gathering analytics, as well as assess the tool’s capacity for evolution and growth as AI technologies improve.”
For many years, reports have shown that racism and sexism often influence hiring decisions, and recent studies suggest this bias hasn’t diminished over time. Whether the result of intentional biases or unconscious preferences that HR staff may not even be aware of, AI could provide a solution to human bias in recruiting, hiring, and promoting decisions. “Blind hiring utilizing AI is becoming more prevalent in response to applicant load and hiring bias with the interviewing process,” says Mirande Valbrune, an employment lawyer with over 15 years of experience.
Valbrune says that tools such as “blind resumes” may be integrated into the AI screening process. Fortune magazine recently discussed software that captures intangible human qualities and assesses how well a candidate will fit in with your company culture while stripping out distinguishing racial or gender features. For example, the software may use voice recognition to note words and phrases used by job candidates that may indicative of their suitability.
“AI screening services tout the usage of facial recognition and voice recognition software together with a ranking algorithm to determine which candidates most resemble the ideal candidate for a particular role,” says Valbrune. “The profile of an ideal candidate is created using a composite of traits (including body language, tone, and keywords) gathered from analyses of the existing best members of a particular role. The candidate’s face is then scanned for those characteristics.”
In addition to reducing the human bias inherent in human resources decisions, AI can prove an effective tool for recruiting and retaining talent.
“It may well be that AI will be helpful in determining a candidate’s broad fit with a company’s core values, mission statements, and competency anchors,” says Valbrune. “It is important that fit is tied to such criteria to reduce the risk of subjective non-business related biases.”
Valbrune says that this “screening for values fit” is a preventative measure aimed at reducing the risk of hiring individuals that are a bad fit for the company. However, she points out that it’s important to track the success of those individuals hired based on AI recommendations.
“HR should keep a pulse on how the AI data gathered on candidates during the initial screening compares to their actual corporate citizenship over time if they are hired.”
AI offers a useful channel for employees to engage with their companies, resulting in a better employee experience. For example, chatbots can deliver answers to questions about the policies, programs, and benefits available to them immediately and around the clock. These bots can also offer personal guidance to employees looking for a new position within an organization. New software now even has the potential for coaching and mentoring employees at any time of day.
Furthermore, whenever these platforms are being used, they are also collecting large amounts of valuable data. This feedback can point to areas in need of improvement. For example, multiple requests to clarify vacation policies could mean your current policy requires revision to make it easier for employees to understand. Repeated requests for follow-up on late paychecks could indicate a payroll issue to investigate.
Introducing AI into your human resources departments cuts back on the administrative, operational, and time-consuming tasks previously facing HR professionals. This allows workers to focus on higher-level responsibilities, such as goal-setting and strategic planning. Without answering questions all day or reading through stacks of resumes, it will be easier to work on recruiting initiatives and employee engagement, training, and retention. This new focus can benefit your entire organization.
Now might be the time to consider how AI can benefit your own HR department. Take a look at some of the new programs and apps available, and think about how they could be used to meet your departmental and organizational needs.