Using Artificial Intelligence in Human Resources
Posted June 20, 2019
By Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, Future Workplace
Whether you know it or not, you are using artificial intelligence (AI) every day. You may be listening to a personalized playlist on Spotify or using Waze to navigate your route in traffic. Companies like these have developed a highly personalized user experience powered by AI technology.
While AI and machine learning have become a part of our everyday life, there is a gap in how we are using the technology in the workplace. Future Workplace and Oracle partnered on research to explore how HR leaders are using AI in the workplace. The study, polling 1,320 US HR leaders, identified a large gap between the way people are using AI at home and at work. While 70% of people are using some form of AI in their personal life, only 6% of HR professionals are actively deploying AI in the workplace and 33% are not even discussing using AI at work. The range of answers to how HR leaders are deploying AI at work is depicted in the bar chart below.
The other key finding is that organizations are not doing enough to prepare the workforce for using AI at work. Almost all (90%) of HR leaders in our sample are concerned they will not be able to adjust to the rapid adoption of AI as part of their job. To make matters worse, they are not currently empowered to address an emerging AI skills gap in their organization.
While most HR leaders are still at the early stages of deploying AI in the workplace, the future of work involves working side by side with AI and/or “digital colleagues,” according to Gartner’s recent prediction that by the year 2022, one in five employees will be working alongside a digital assistant. While AI has the potential to automate routine tasks in jobs, the key benefit is to use AI to augment human capabilities by delivering predictive insights at key moments and freeing up time for humans to add greater value and deliver a more compelling customer and employee experience. Here are five ways CHROs and their teams can begin their journey to deploy AI in the workplace.
1. Be curious about what AI is and how it can impact you, your team and your HR function
First, be clear on the definition of artificial intelligence and machine learning terms that you will be reading quite a lot about. My “working definitions” are these:
Artificial intelligence is the umbrella term and refers to computer systems performing tasks that exhibit “human-like” intelligence.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, designed to make algorithms smarter as they learn from human activity and behaviors.
Next, start researching AI tools you can use in your daily work life to help you work smarter. For example, consider trying:
Paysa, a site that uses machine learning to provide salary information and career insights for job seekers and employers;
X.ai, a virtual AI powered personal assistant to schedule your meetings which is programmed to learn from each interaction with you;
Textio, an AI powered site which helps your recruiting team improve the text of job descriptions, attracting a more diverse talent pool.
These are great ‘gateway’ products that will help you better understand how AI can improve your personal productivity and impact finding top talent for your company.
2. Identify the most important business problems to be solved by using AI
Before we become enamored with technology for “technology’s sake,” identify some key business problems that can be solved using AI in the workplace and then start collecting data on the problem to see how AI might create a different employee experience. I polled a few of our clients and one area that came up as well suited for using AI was improving the experience of on-boarding for new hire remote employees.
rLoop, a leader in the future of transportation, started using AI for new hire on-boarding by collecting data on new hires’ frequently asked questions. When employees come on board they ask a range of similar questions such as: what projects does rLoop have underway, how do they get started using company online expense reporting and what are the company paid holidays for the current year. Many of the answers to these questions are repetitive, and therefore ideally suited to be handled using AI so the HR team can focus on building deeper relationships with new hires and disseminating the company culture and values.
3. Understand how machine/human collaboration must occur at the employee’s moment
Look at the world through the employee’s point of view and employ tools of employee journey mapping and design thinking to understand their moments of need and how AI can enhance this experience. These moments can include recruiting, on boarding, career development, performance management and coaching.
Avoid bolt-on efforts of using AI in the workplace. Rather, what’s needed is understanding, on a deeply human level, the current experience of employees and ways AI can provide insights at the employee’s moment of need.
4. Communicate with employees on how the organization plans to leverage artificial intelligence in the workplace
The benefits to using AI at work are numerous, from improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the candidate experience to enhancing the employee experience and providing employees greater personalization in developing their own career path.
But CHROs and their teams must also be aware of barriers along the journey as HR experiments with AI. A survey of 3,000 employees across eight nations conducted by Kronos Incorporated finds 3 out of every 5 organizations (58%) have yet to discuss the potential impact of AI on their workforce with their employees. However, two-thirds of employees (61%) say they’d feel more comfortable if their employer was more transparent about what the future may hold for them and share what the company will be doing to upskill them.
In addition to communicating how the organization will use AI at work, HR leaders must be vigilant about addressing deep-seated employee fears, namely fear of job loss and an uneasiness in learning new skills. All of this points to a close collaboration between CHROs and the corporate communications team to communicate the vision and strategy for using AI in the workplace.
5. Consider artificial intelligence a business issue, not just an HR issue
The use of AI in the workplace impacts key processes, workflows and democratizes decision making among managers and employees. This means an HR leader must identify a coalition of stakeholders from a variety of titles, levels, expertise and geographies to develop a shared vision for delivering business results using AI.
As we contemplate the future of HR and how to integrate AI into the workplace, standing still is not an option. If we want our careers in HR to be relevant, I believe we must understand the power of AI and machine learning to change, transform and enhance the employee experience. As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, say in their Harvard Business Review article, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.”
About Jeanne Meister
Jeanne Meister is the Founding Partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory and research firm working with HR leaders to prepare them for what’s next in transforming the HR function. Future Workplace has created an online course Using AI 4 HR To Enhance the Employee Experience featuring IBM, GE, Hilton, Intel and others who are using AI and realizing business benefits across the organization.