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With the continuous advancement of automation technologies, such as AI and machine learning, there is a growing concern among HR professionals regarding the future of work. As advanced technology becomes increasingly integrated into our everyday lives, we begin to ask ourselves: Will a machine replace me at my job? Although technology will be responsible for changes in the way that we work, McKinsey recently analyzed over 800 occupations with more than 2,000 work activities and concluded that very few occupations would be eliminated completely. What would occur, though, is that 60% of all occupations could see automation in 30% of their work activities. The machines may not replace you, but they will replace your responsibility to execute activities such as data collection, data processing and predictable physical work.

Many thought leaders have referred to this growing integration of AI into work as a revolution in Intelligence. For example, the 2018 HRPA Annual Conference was fittingly themed “A New Beginning: The Intelligence Revolution”. In looking at the definition of revolution, we aren’t convinced that this is happening with the introduction of advanced technology at work. What we believe is happening is a process of continuous change that, bit by bit, is improving the ways in which organizations, industries and economies operate. This, by definition, is not an intelligence revolution, but an intelligence evolution – one that will elevate us all to a better place if we understand how to move forward with it.

How does this intelligence evolution factor into HR and talent management?

As many of us have already come to realize, Artificial Intelligence is here to stay, and for good reason. Not only can it help us cook a recipe with our phone, but it also has the ability to streamline processes, eliminate redundancies, reduce error, and quickly identify complex patterns and relationships in large data sets.

From a HR perspective, AI is integrating into various areas, from talent acquisition to training and more. It is important to view this integration as something that can add to our roles instead of eliminating them. If we can identify the areas in which automation and machine learning can in fact improve our effectiveness, it will allow us to perform the more complex duties that only human intelligence can. Thus, as AI takes over more of the administrative and rules-based activities involved with HR, professionals will have more time to create strategy, listen to their stakeholders, build stronger teams, perform coaching and solve complex issues.

So, how do we set ourselves and our teams up for success, knowing that we will be working alongside “bots” for the foreseeable future? We must find the ways in which AI can add value to what we do, and how we can add value to AI.

How AI can add value to what we do

There are three areas in which we believe Artificial Intelligence adds significant value to the work that the HR function performs.

1. AI streamlines processes and increases consistency

This area has already seen widespread adoption involving many of the administrative and time-intensive tasks that the HR function has historically performed manually. AI programs and friendly chatbots have taken to meeting coordination, planning and scheduling, responding to HR inquiries, administering payroll, onboarding and even reading resumes … which, if you have ever been (currently are) a recruiter, is certainly a welcome technological advancement. These activities greatly reduce the human error present, particularly in data entry and calculations, which increases consistency and reduces the need for troubleshooting as fewer issues will arise. Ultimately, the prime benefit of AI in this area is time: the time we gain by not having to perform these tasks, and the overall time saved because the tools can perform the activities much more quickly and accurately than we can.

2. AI identifies key patterns to help HR proact

A second area in which AI can be integrated into HR involves the identification of patterns to increase our ability to anticipate issues and be proactive in creating strategies to reduce or eliminate them. For example, AI programs can identify employees that may be a retention risk so that HR professionals can attempt to re-engage and avoid losing them altogether. They can also be used to personalize learning and development needs based on employee behaviours to offer them the skills that they need to optimize individual performance at specific times. The ability to identify key patterns can be far-reaching in the HR function as it offers HR professionals the opportunity to be proactive and solve problems before they even occur.

3. AI enhances our ability to be predictive

The third and arguably most valuable way in which AI can evolve the HR function is in the area of predictive analytics. In predictive analytics, the goal is to create models based on existing data that can help predict success in the future. To date, research and analytics teams have been manually running data to build these models, but with the introduction of AI we can build systems that are more robust, more accurate and able to learn and refine themselves in real time. Through the analysis of large sets of complex organizational data, AI programs can better identify more variables, relationships and combinations that can better predict many different outcomes. For example, models can be created to predict performance and retention so that the hiring process can select candidates with the experience, attitudes, traits and behaviours that fit the profile of a top performer at the organization. Using data mining and machine learning, we can better inform the strategic allocation of resources in real time, such as the identification of top sources for high-potential candidates and adjusting the TA spend to put more emphasis on such sources. These advanced predictive analytics can also be used in succession planning, workforce planning, forecasting, and more. The potential for AI in this area is seemingly endless and can play a big part in HR’s ability to quantify the impact of what they do in a way that has never been possible before.

How we can add value to AI

The second piece of the puzzle involves the human element of Human Resources and how we interact with AI. There is no question that AI is already changing the ways in which we live, so the question now becomes, “How can we get the most out of AI?”

1. Optimize our processes

In order for AI to successfully streamline processes, the steps involved need to be clear, logical and optimized. Once we are able to outline and create logical processes, they can be easily automated and replicated by AI programs. Take some time to look at your processes end-to-end to identify any redundancies, unnecessary steps or confusing elements that may reduce effectiveness once automated. Try to centralize information as best as you can and encourage knowledge-sharing by everyone involved in the process.

2. Leverage patterns to evolve our processes

Once AI has started identifying patterns and insights, it is important that we actually use what we learn to update our processes and make things better. The more that we can focus on evolving what we do based on what AI programs are telling us, the better we can integrate and improve the overall system. This will help us create new strategies to address the critical issues facing our HR departments, from engagement to retirement and everything in between.

3. Ensure data integrity

One of the most critical ways in which we can add value to AI is through our data. We always say that garbage in leads to garbage out, and this could not be truer when it comes to AI. If we feed biased data into the system, the system will be biased. If we feed incomplete data into the system, it will create incomplete or skewed insights. We must focus on centralizing data as much as we can (easier said than done, we know) and break down the data silos across functions in order to give AI programs the best chance to help us. AI is inherently overconfident and giving it incorrect or incomplete data will only exacerbate this overconfidence and lead to flawed insights. If you take anything away from this article, take away the fact that only objective input will lead to objective outcomes, no matter how sophisticated the technology may be. We highly recommend that every HR function makes this a priority as soon as possible.

Conclusion

As you can see, AI is going to change some of the ways in which we work and likely some of the roles that we take on as our organizations progress. What we believe is most important is the way in which we approach working with AI, not against it. It has the potential to radically improve the value and impact of HR, but only if we allow it to. As HR professionals, it is important that we are ready to adapt, change and evolve. If we are, we will be able to transform the function in ways that will add value to everything that we do and, in turn, the organization as a whole. AI gives us the rare opportunity to be proactive … we just need to be ready to act.

Artificial Intelligence + Human Intelligence = An Evolution in Knowledge and Strategic Growth

Self Management Group offers predictive analytics and data consultation to clients to help them become leaders in their industries when it comes to people analytics and talent strategy. SMG has also partnered with Ideal.com to integrate Artificial Intelligence into the candidate assessment process to improve insights and help organizations make the best hiring decisions consistently.

For more information about the Intelligence Evolution, please join us on April 25th for our Professional Development Series Session in Downtown Toronto. Event details can be found here: The Intelligence Evolution: Bridging the Gap between AI and HR

Kathryn Christie, MSc

About Kathryn Christie, MSc

Kathryn is an organizational behaviour expert who specializes in talent analytics and talent management. She has several years of HR experience ranging from Leadership Development at higher education institutions to Talent Acquisition and Talent Management at large, matrixed organizations. As the Director of the SMG Talent Academy, Kathryn works to develop training and development focused on enhancing and evolving professionals and their skills, starting with self-awareness and self-confidence.

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