AI in HR: Can Artificial Intelligence Humanize the People Function?
Ready or not, artificial intelligence (AI) is here and about to become a huge part of personal and professional life for people around the world. McKinsey now estimates that half of our time spent on work activities will become automated between 2030 and 2060—an entire decade earlier than was previously projected.
You may have already used (or at least heard of) advanced chatbots like ChatGPT, powered by a technology called Generative AI. Generative AI is a category of machine learning systems designed to mimic human intelligence for specific tasks like writing and coding.
You may have also seen AI capabilities rolling out in some of your human resources tools, with more solutions on the way. The hope is, that with AI-enabled technologies, busy HR departments can increase operational capacity, save time and money, and automate some repetitive tasks.
From talent acquisition to talent management to learning and development, AI technologies promise to increase collaboration and efficiency, freeing up more time for people leaders and their teams to spend on improving employee experience and retention. And if done right, the technology can help organizations scale efforts to build more fair, inclusive, and engaging company cultures.
The early benefits of AI-powered HR
While we’re still very early in the mainstream rollout of AI, the primary focus right now is leveraging the technology to complete some of the routine tasks (aka “busywork”) that capitalize the time of many HR teams. By automating the aspects of the job that don’t necessarily require a human touch, HR professionals have more time for thoughtful decision-making and strategy development for attracting, developing, and retaining talent.
According to a recent report by Eightfold, the majority of HR leaders they surveyed are already using AI across HR functions like employee records management (78%), payroll processing and benefits administration (77%), recruitment and hiring (73%), performance management (72%), and employee onboarding (69%). The study also found that 92% of HR leaders intend to increase their AI use in at least one area of their departments.
While we still have a long way to go and many kinks to work out with AI technology (more on that later), we’ve already seen some impressive progress with its ability to enable HR teams to streamline work processes, improve efficiencies, and enhance data analysis capabilities.
As HR thought leader Josh Bersin recently wrote, “While it’s still early days, I believe AI (and Generative AI in particular) is going to radically change the HR Tech landscape. Not only will systems be intelligent by design, they will have powerful conversational user interfaces, they will embed multiple AI models, and new disruptors will appear.”
Personalized employee experience at scale
Research has shown year after year that highly engaged teams are more productive, have less turnover, and generate more revenue. That’s why increasing employee engagement will be a primary objective for AI and HR technologies now and in the future.
We’ve already seen how ChatGPT can be used today to help HR leaders improve the quality of employee communications and make engagement and retention efforts more efficient. The tool can also help you brainstorm creative ideas or role-play critical conversations.
Here’s a snippet from a real ChatGPT prompt and response:
Looking ahead, AI-powered HR tools will help organizations more easily apply data to everyday tasks and strategic planning. It will enable L&D teams to better assess the training needs across departments and develop upskilling opportunities. The use of AI will also help organizations combat burnout and free up time for employees to pursue more creative or intellectually challenging work.
More clear and inclusive communications
Some of the earliest uses of AI systems have come from the talent acquisition side of HR. AI can add immediate value to recruitment processes by analyzing talent data across an organization and predicting hiring needs. ChatGPT can also be used today to develop interview questions and review responses. A survey by ResumeBuilder found that 43% of companies are either already using AI tools to help conduct interviews or plan to start using them by 2024.
But using AI in recruiting is just the tip of the iceberg. The technology can help teams scale their DEI efforts and reduce bias in decision-making. It can assist people leaders when writing communications or content to ensure it sounds authentic, is written in the recipient’s primary language, and aligns with the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
ChatGPT, for example, can also assist in editing content to improve readability and make it easier for employees to understand. You can also use the tool to review your job descriptions for potential bias and flag any discriminatory or non-inclusive language.
Potential risks with AI tools in HR
Unfortunately, while tools like ChatGPT can help you scan for bias, they also sometimes present biases of their own. Because generative AI models are trained on information created by humans, biases have already been introduced to the algorithms. And according to a new survey from Greenhouse, only half of HR teams currently monitor their AI tools for bias and evaluate their efficacy.
When reviewing candidate resumes, AI has also been shown to fall short. A survey conducted by Harvard Business School recently found that 88% of HR executives have seen their AI-enabled tools reject qualified candidates. The algorithms will often reject candidates who are missing just a few skills from a long list of qualifications. They were also rejecting some potential candidates who had a gap in employment, without knowing the context of the situation.
Left unchecked, AI can create discriminatory hiring practices and cause organizations to lose out on high-potential talent. That’s just one of many reasons why human review and oversight are critical when using AI technology in people operations and HR management.
Privacy and security are also major factors to consider when using AI for any work purpose. While some generative AI tools (i.e., ChatGPT-3) are unable to retain or reuse any information entered into user prompts, others feed those inputs back into their learning modules, which can put your data at risk.
Employee or customer data and any proprietary company information should be anonymized. Organizations should develop corporate policies and guidance on how employees can use AI safely and without compromising sensitive information.
AI will assist (not replace) HR professionals
Human emotions, creativity, and empathy can never be replaced by AI. The challenge for people leaders will be keeping human resources human, while discerning when it’s appropriate to leverage AI capabilities to enhance employee experiences—including their own.
We recently talked to Amanda Halle, a seasoned HR leader and founder of Mindful Growth Partners, about the future role of AI in the field.
“AI, and Generative AI, specifically, has the potential to make all of us more efficient, effective, and impactful,” she said. “And, the opportunity for people leaders is tremendous. HR leaders are constantly faced with the balance of supporting the people and the business; we’re pulled in so many directions. Generative AI can help us focus on both. It can streamline the business, and people leaders can be at the forefront of learning and shaping the work, guiding philosophies, and developing the guardrails.”
As we move further into the age of AI, HR leaders must manage a delicate balance between improving efficiencies and maintaining employee trust. Putting regulations and oversight in place will help to ensure work produced by AI is accurate, fair, and secure as more tools and functionality are implemented.
Get the HR guide to ChatGPT
In our latest guide, HR + AI: 6 Ways Strategic People Leaders Can Leverage ChatGPT, you’ll learn the potential benefits and risks of using ChatGPT in the workplace. You’ll also find HR use cases you can implement today, with example prompts to help you get started.