Artificial Intelligence is going to affect HR, but how? Chat GPT is the “Conversational AI” that’s grabbing the headlines. Google and Microsoft have also released AI functionality on Bard and Bing. Will artificial intelligence be a help or a hindrance to HR departments? To find out, we looked at how AI is already used by HR, the possible applications of new generation chatbots and the future of technology in HR.
77% of UK executives in a 2022 PWC survey identified hiring and retaining talent as their critical growth driver, so any initiative that can support people strategy is critical. The digital transformation of UK HR has been heralded for a decade but progress has been slower than hoped. There are numerous HR software products on the market. They include solutions for Performance Management, Training and Development, Payroll, Recruiting and Onboarding, Benefits Administration and the more holistic Human Resources Information System [HRIS].
In corporate life, a big-bang transformation is rarely feasible and, with new solutions appearing all the time, priorities can shift. A structured roadmap that guides a business-focused digital evolution is recognised as best practice. A recent survey by Sage reflected the size of the challenge; only 52% of companies have implemented a global HR system. Meanwhile, the same research found that more than 80% of HR Leaders reported stress, burnout and work overload. So, most HR leaders would agree that new solutions are required.
Chat GPT: Solution or Threat?
When the Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, followed others in flagging the potential dangers of AI, his primary fear was the creation of audio-visual disinformation. He also highlighted the threat to the role of knowledge workers like writers, accountants, architects and software engineers; but how will it affect HR? In fact, AI has been used in the industry for some time in the form of “algorithmic hiring” which uses machine learning to analyse and screen candidate data. It has been promoted as a way to reduce bias in volume hiring and also identified as a cause of bias being exacerbated. Qualified human control is required to manage such a system responsibly.
Applications for the New AI
Like the algorithmic hiring solutions, the new generation of AI will certainly be used as the ability to streamline data processing is unquestioned. The complexities of implementation mean it will initially be targeted at specific, repetitive tasks with the most obvious applications of Chat GPT or Bard being in their core chatbot role. Examples include:
- Responding to HR policy inquiries.
- Responding to well-being questions.
- Fielding questions during application and onboarding processes.
- Providing initial responses to internal requests and complaints.
Passing complete human responsibility to an AI Chat Bot would be risky, but the new breed of bot has an excellent level of conversational and empathetic language which means they have a role to play. A recent trial at Koko found that the productivity of human agents was significantly enhanced by letting the AI draft the initial response to be proofed and, if necessary, amended before sending. This is a model that will sit well with HR professionals, giving them access to tools that can compress mundane aspects of the role while still requiring their input.
Other repetitive tasks to be tackled could include:
- Writing job descriptions.
- Drafting outreach emails.
- Performing translation work.
- Any content creation based on data and lists.
Once again, all of these would require proofing and editing, for the job ads and emails that are aiming for a response, the AI would learn from the success of previous campaigns.
The AI Environment
Conversational AI can be used to accelerate these non-conversational tasks whether a company adopts new systems or not; they are publicly available and some employees will use them. This is harmless enough within an approved BYOA (bring your own app) framework, as the system wouldn’t have access to company data and the output would be generic. In cases where external AI is part of the problem, it may also present part of the solution when used inside an organisation. For example, an AI tool may be the best way to identify documentation that has been faked. Chat GPT has already proved powerful at identifying plagiarism despite also being guilty of producing it. It is also good at spotting errors in text and code though less impressive at fact checking.
A system like Chat GPT can help to inform people of new developments in employment law in a way that people understand. HR departments will still require the expertise to carefully interpret and apply regulations in any given location, but AI will be able to catalyse the process. The company will stay compliant and the AI will enhance its ability to communicate this effectively with employees. This will be important in an environment where employees are better equipped to access data externally.
The Impact of AI on HR Managers
Senior HR Managers will have to adjust to operating in an AI-enhanced world. People strategy will evolve as the availability of new tools starts to change the profile of some departments and the people required to work in them. People are already being hired with the traits and attributes required to collaborate widely, learn new skills and remain resilient in changing environments. Senior managers themselves will need to develop the skills required to implement and work with new AI solutions. As the technology continues to evolve, HR professionals who are able to embrace it will be well-positioned to succeed in the future.
Commentators generally agree that AI will enhance the performance and productivity of HR and not be a threat to existing professionals. Automation will free managers up to focus on strategic people development and give them more time to support sensitive issues. The automation it offers will increasingly affect volume recruitment, onboarding, and performance management. Senior-level talent acquisition processes that practices like mine focus on will remain dependent on human networks and face-to-face time with candidates, but AI can be used to improve the candidate journey.
The Future of AI in HR
It is likely that the implementation of Chat GPT in HR will not be as a stand-alone app but as an enhancement to existing software, ideally the global HR systems and HRIS. AI will enable companies to go beyond the digital transformation of HR administration by providing insights into employee data that would be difficult or impossible to obtain manually. For example, where existing HR IT may help to ensure that every employee has a performance and pay review completed within the appropriate timeframe, AI will analyse all available data and enable HR professionals to make more informed, consistent decisions about compensation, benefits, career goals and training. AI will also be able to improve the employee experience through personalisation, tailoring the way that standard information is presented and proactively suggesting development programmes based on an individual’s skills, career path, background and interests.
A system as powerful as Chat GPT could even be used to support policy development but, as with the chat responses, document drafting and recruitment bias, there are limits.
“It is worth noting though, that the technology has no conscience. So, human ethics will still need to be applied to ensure policies serve their purpose and meet business needs, while having integrity and fairness. This is particularly important for HR policies and ensuring they don’t discriminate, hold any bias and protect employees, particularly those from underrepresented groups.”
Dr Maria Kutar – Salford Business School.
This final point should serve as both warning and comfort to HR professionals. Powerful tools are coming to help you, but your expertise and human insight will be as important as ever, for the time being.