Reinventing HR operations with humans and AI collaboration

By Georgia Wilson
As AI continues to prove its value across multiple sectors and business function, Business Chief looks at how the tech is reinventing HR operations...

Expected to be the most significant business advantage in the future by 72% of executives, artificial intelligence (AI) is predicted to be incorporated into 47% of organisations’ HR functions by 2022.

While it is feared that employment rates will drop as the use of intelligent technologies rises, when speaking with Business Chief in October, Arun Shenoy, SVP Global Sales and Marketing at Serverfarm reflected on the best way to deploy technology, software and hardware tools. “Most organisations find this challenging because they are only solving one part of the problem - the technology. Simply buying and deploying a platform isn’t enough; you have to change and refine the processes and ensure that you have the right people,” commented Shenoy. 

In fact, speaking with executive experts in HR operations, the consensus highlights that benefits of AI in HR operations come from a collaborative approach between AI and humans, with a core use case being to provide efficiency gains. “It has allowed us to do the same thing we always did - but faster and more cost effective,” comments Andi Britt, Senior Partner at IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM Services Europe. While the internet brought the capability of fast recruitment, both Britt and Chris Huff, CSO at Kofax identify that AI can apply the same speed to the assessment of potential candidates, the likelihood of future success and the expected timeframe to fill a given role. “This is an example of the ways in which AI is changing the situation so that technology enables the HR function to solve critical business challenges, building on earlier contributions from workforce analytics,” added Britt. 

With COVID-19 placing organisation and business operations on the edge of a pivotal moment when it comes to innovation and digital transformation, AI and automation have transitioned from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘necessity for survival’. “COVID-19 has created a digital awakening that has accelerated the adoption of AI and automation technologies,” comments Huff. It is expected by those in HR that COVID-19 will not only accelerate the overall digital journey for organisations, but the role of HR in the modern workplace. This acceleration will ultimately move organisations closer to HR 3.0 with employee experience at its centre. “CHROs at high performing organisations are taking immediate action to achieve this vision. They are leveraging real-time unstructured data from inside and outside organisations, and pairing that with analytics and AI to improve talent and workforce decisions while enabling more personalised employee experiences,” says Britt. 

Statistics reported during the height of the pandemic, identified that many organisations are embracing AI tools to attract diverse talent and to enhance and personalise recruitment. In an IBM HR executive survey, the company identified that more than half of high performing companies are using AI to identify behavioral skills to build diverse and adaptable teams. Currently, “High performing organisations are leveraging AI across talent acquisition at a rate of 6 times more than all other companies.” During the pandemic, IBM saw its clients rely heavily on AI enabled HR applications such as chatbots and skill building recommendation platforms. “These technologies enable organisations to free up HR leaders’ time for more meaningful work. C-Suite leaders surveyed expect to see nearly tenfold growth with regard to automating HR processes between 2018 and 2022,” comments Britt. However, while the rate of adoption has increased, IBM found that only 30% of companies have the skills and capabilities in AI in the HR function.

To be successful in adopting AI in HR operations - or any technology - culture is identified as an all to often underestimated barrier. It is important for organisations to ensure that they include their employees in the transformation journey. When employees understand the reasoning for change they are more receptive, making it easier to implement and adopt technology. Ultimately, “Progress has to start from the top, with good leadership and open conversation to dispel fears and misunderstandings about the technology,” states Britt. Not only is it important to engage with employees to showcase the business needs, it is also important to listen to the needs of the employees conducting the tasks. 

By combining the best of what AI can provide, with employee hopes for the technology, Huff explains that this approach is ”a win-win that will increase adoption of AI and lead to a collaborative person-machine future to drive productivity for the organisation and individual.” With this collaborative approach to AI and humans, HR is on the cusp of a new digital era in which employees adopt a more behind-the-scenes role to create the scenarios carried out by AI. “People will find themselves in more creative, strategy, problem defining and problem escalation roles as opposed to transactional activities,” concludes Huff. 

The benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR

“Today, AI’s capabilities are being used to augment business operations and consumer solutions,” comments Andi Britt, Senior Partner at IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM Services Europe. At IBM, the company has identified five reasons for implementing AI in HR operations:

  1. To solve pressing business challenges
  2. To attract and develop new skills
  3. To improve the employee experience 
  4. To provide strong decision support
  5. To use HR budgets as efficiently as possible

The challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR

“Current HR and AI trends point to a promising Future of Work that’s richer in experience, but also brings with it the need for strong governance to account for unintended consequences,” comments Chris Huff, CSO at Kofax. When it comes to the successful adoption of AI to deliver on its promising future, IBM identifies four key prevention barriers:

  1. Access to the right data: it is vital that organisations develop a complete understanding of the data involved, by harnessing comprehensive metadata libraries.
  2. Access to the right talent and skills: with AI skills in high demand, organisations should look to upskill existing employees, boost data and tech literacy and find the right partners.
  3. Get the technology right: with the adoption of AI, organisations often require an update to the technology used to collect, store and process data. Digitally native companies typically have an advantage due to their nimble and scalable businesses models.
  4. Ethical and governance frameworks: while AI can provide huge benefits, misused it can have negative results, such as bias and intrusive AI. To remove bias organisations should ensure that data privacy and security are at the forefront of their approach, as well as a clear ethical and governance frameworks.

For more information on business topics in the United States and Canada, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief North America.

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