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Demystifying AI: Key Takeaways from the 2024 HR Superstars Summit

Genevieve Michaels

In the last few years, it feels like AI went from just being on everyone’s lips to popping up everywhere with new practical applications being discovered every day.

In some organizations, AI tools are quietly being used by individuals or teams that haven’t shared them with anyone else, worried they’ll get in trouble for trying to save time on their work. In others, they’re already getting deployed en masse. Either way, seems like it’s high time we figured out what AI can do for HR.

During the first panel of this year’s HR Superstars Summit, Dr. Jeff Smith, Senior Vice President of Product at 15Five, spoke with Stephanie Smith, Senior Vice President, People and Talent at Tagboard, and Theresa Fesinstine, Founder of Here are some of the key takeaways.

You can watch the full recording of this session here.

HR can lead this technical revolution

“I don’t think HR has traditionally been seen as the first-to-market innovators on new technology. But this is a time when building that agility and confidence in something new will create such a breakneck change in the way business operates in the future.” – Theresa Fesinstine, Founder,

Let’s be honest, whenever new tech is on the horizon, it doesn’t always seem extremely relevant to us. It’s usually something swapped back and forth between other departments in Slack. We’ll adopt new tools or work with teams so they feel supported as they learn, but we’re not leading adoption.

AI is the exception.

People have specific notions of what AI can do—especially generative AI. They’ll think about writing copy with it, generating art for design workflows, and whatever else they see on their social media feeds. But if you start thinking about AI the way Stephanie Smith does, it will become clear HR has a huge role to play here. As Stephanie says, “AI can mean not feeling demotivated by a task that’s taking me away from what I love to do: communicating with and helping people.”

This perspective benefits not only HR but all employees. HR can identify areas where employees may be experiencing burnout or demotivation, and implement interventions that transform processes and alleviate mundane tasks. This, in turn, fosters an environment where employees are more engaged and empowered to focus on meaningful, high impact work.

Smooth integrations will be essential

“When we talk about bringing AI in, we have to talk about creating a smooth integration. There are four components to this: stakeholder management, training, phased implementation, and transparency.” – Stephanie Smith, Senior Vice President, People and Talent, Tagboard

It’s easy to get excited about everything AI can do for your organization. But introducing AI in your teams can be tricky, probably more so than any other kind of tool right now. You need to do what you can to ensure a smooth transition, and there are four elements to doing that:

  • Stakeholder management: At every stage of your AI adoption, you should involve people who are (or will be) using these tools and get their feedback and buy-in.
  • Training: There are so many opportunities to transform the way we work with AI, and it’s tough to spot them all. You can’t just introduce tools and wait for teams to figure them out — you’ll need to provide world-class training.
  • Phased implementation: To integrate AI into your process smoothly, you must do so incrementally. Pilot projects, team-by-team deployment, and similar tactics will help make every implementation a success.
  • Transparency: One of the biggest fears around AI is who’s getting replaced. By being transparent through every decision and every implementation, you can make it clear that AI is about helping people eliminate the tedium in their jobs—not eliminating jobs altogether.

AI turns weeks into minutes

“We took all the information from our audit conversations, popped it into ChatGPT, asked it to synthesize everything, rerun it with a contrarian view, rerun it to communicate friction to our CEO, and then generate a list of ideas for increased improvement. It was stunning.” – Stephanie Smith, Senior Vice President, People and Talent, Tagboard

We’ve all heard about how much time and effort we’ll save with AI, but how many of us have put it into practice?  How many of us have seen just how much time and effort it can save, and what more meaningful work can fill that freed up space?

From conversations with Stephanie and Theresa, it’s clear that we’re looking at potential productivity gains that start at 99%. The process outlined by Stephanie above, for example, would usually have taken weeks. With AI, it only took a few minutes.

The initial input—the conversations between Stephanie and her team—still depends on the individual perspectives and creativity of people, which AI can’t replace. But everything else can be accelerated, automated, or eliminated with AI. Imagine how much time you’ll get back! And imagine all the focus-draining administrative tasks you can get rid of. 

AI is what’ll allow HR professionals to make sure more of their time is dedicated to what they care about: making an impact.

Use AI to shore up weaknesses and support strengths

“I have a lot of managers for whom writing isn’t their forte. Being able to capture a few ideas and use AI to expand those into a performance review that’s actually got some meaningful information while being reflective of that manager’s true feelings is a huge win.” – Theresa Fesinstine, Founder,

While we’d all love to be superstars in every aspect of our jobs, that’s just not realistic. Some of us are phenomenal writers, while others excel at making people feel heard—no matter what they’re dealing with. We’ve all put a lot of work into improving on our weaknesses and better applying our strengths over the course of our careers, but AI can change how we do that work.

AI has the power to revolutionize how we address our professional shortcomings and amplify our strengths. It serves as a transformative tool that enables individuals to function as a cohesive unit, where each member’s strengths complement the weaknesses of others.

This ability to augment human capabilities is one of the most compelling aspects of AI today, particularly in the realm of HR. By embracing AI technology, HR professionals can unlock new opportunities for organizational growth and individual development, which can lead to previously untapped levels of growth and impact. 

Get that rock out of your shoe

AI tools are about finding and getting rocks out of your shoes. That’s the analogy Theresa uses when describing what AI can do for her clients, and it’s so appropriate.

HR teams often find themselves grappling with repetitive tasks and enduring arduous processes day in and day out. Whether it’s tirelessly answering the same questions repeatedly or constantly reshuffling schedules to accommodate frequent meetings, these challenges can lead to burnout and hinder productivity.

As an HR leader, you’ve probably gotten too comfortable with pushing through painful processes day in and day out, and AI tools can provide relief. By automating repetitive processes, AI frees up valuable time and mental energy, allowing HR professionals to focus on more strategic and impactful initiatives. And AI’s adaptive capabilities enable it to evolve alongside the ever-changing demands of any workplace, ensuring that HR teams stay agile and responsive to organizational needs.

Incorporate HR + AI with 15Five

Here at 15Five, we truly believe that AI has the power to transform HR for the better, and we launched Spark AI to make that a reality for our customers. Spark AI is the first-of-its-kind assistant for managers and HR leaders, designed to drive measurable improvement in engagement, performance, and retention.

Seamlessly integrated into your daily workflow, Spark AI leverages cutting-edge generative AI technology to help managers and HR leaders drive impact through the HR Outcomes Flywheel – from outcomes to actions – at scale.

Spark AI helps you close the measurement-to-action loop even faster by supporting HR and Managers with things such as:

  • AI synthesized feedback insights from engagement surveys, reading through thousands of open-text comments and providing themes, insights, and next steps
  • Reducing bias and save time writing manager reviews with AI-assisted Reviews
  • Providing managers with an AI Manager Copilot for real-time assistance within the flow of work so they can support their teams with things like creating more effective 1-on-1s

And we’re just getting started. Spark AI is continually evolving, harnessing the power of AI to develop innovative ways to assist employees, managers, and HR leaders.

Learn more at