Why it's time for HR to give AI a chance

Change may not be easy, but nowhere is progress needed more than in HR

Why it's time for HR to give AI a chance

Change is not always easy. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to step out of our comfort zones and take a leap into something new. Change is, however, fundamental to progress, and nowhere is progress needed more than in HR.

The traditional HR model is in need of an update and despite the aversion to change among some, the HR revolution is already happening and artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies are playing a leading role. HR leaders who ignore the changes that AI is already creating run the very real risk of being cast adrift, left behind as the industry moves forward without them.

“AI promises to transform HR departments, not make them redundant,” Erik Darby, , Sr. Director in Strategic Accounts & Alliances, at Ultimate Software, says. “The technology used to power AI is similar to the technology that many HR professionals already use in their homes. Just like iPhones, voice assistants, and the Internet of Things (IoT), AI is ultimately ineffective without human guidance and interpretation. To be clear, even after incorporating AI, HR professionals will still be the ones to oversee, manage, and interpret the results.”

Darby describes the traditional HR management scheme as being “plagued at best and crippled at worst”. However, there is some good news: many traditional HR practices that could be performing better with the incorporation of new technologies.

A 2017 survey conducted by the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) supports

Darby’s stance. 52% of respondents to the survey indicated that their companies were unlikely to adopt AI in their HR departments in the next five years. 36% felt their organization was too small to adopt the technology, while 28% said their senior leadership did not see the need for this kind of technology. The study also discovered some HR leaders are too concerned about the legal implications of AI while others are simply too cautious and reluctant to adapt.

“HR practitioners are at a crossroads — torn between whether to keep the (failing) status quo or to embrace the future with technology, instead viewing AI as a helpful tool rather than the enemy,” says Darby. “In order to give AI a chance, HR practitioners must first come to terms with the current state of affairs in their profession and recognize that there is an opportunity for them to improve their future processes by trying something different. There’s a real opportunity here for HR to act as trailblazing departments in their organizations by trying a new approach that incorporates AI.”

Missing the opportunities that AI and other cognitive computing technologies present is a real risk for modern HR leaders. AI is already here and is helping forward-thinking HR departments solve some common HR problems, such as simplifying complex processes, automating repetitive and low-value tasks, removing bias in the recruiting process, and making the recruiting process much quicker.

“The key to success lies in taking data and transforming it into actionable information for improving the organization,” says Darby. “In order to be effective, it’s necessary to use technology such as AI to make sense of data past basic reporting functionality. Since HR departments are responsible for taking in and making sense of large volumes of data, in order to stay relevant, experiments in data science will prove critical.”

Darby encourages skeptical HR leaders to change their perceptions of AI altogether. He suggests that to stay relevant and competitive in their profession, HR practitioners must adopt the mindset of AI being a tool—not a threat to their ob. After all, HR-related functions will always require a human component to be effective.

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