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Here are four ways in which AI will impact on HR. By Rob Bothma
With our smart devices becoming ever smarter, and the growing role these devices are now playing in the workplace in collecting and disseminating data, the ideal environment for Artificial Intelligence to start playing a meaningful role in HR is being created. However, before exploring the nature of Artificial Intelligence in HR, let’s first at least define in layman’s terms what it exactly is.

Artificial Intelligence (or, AI as it’s often referred to), is the area of computer science where computers and systems are developed in such a way that they start behaving much the same way that we humans do. To be able to achieve this, systems need to have the ability to “learn” in order to continually expand their knowledge base which they use to make their automated decisions.

If we look at the world around us we quickly see how AI is already having an impact in our lives. We see self-driving cars, smart roads, intuitive personal assistants like Siri and Cortana to name just a few.

One thing that can definitely be said, AI is here and is fast becoming embedded in our daily lives. In essence, AI is what is connecting people to machines and machines to other machines. There are basically two levels of AI that we find today:

There is the more Basic level, where systems have a predefined set of parameters to use for its decision making processes. Of course, being a computer, the amount of parameters stored is almost unlimited so, for example, a computer that is able to play Chess just has to have every move and consequence thereof mapped out, then as soon as its opponent makes a move, the computer is able to see every single permutation as a result of that move to then make its decision on what its next move should be. The big difference here is that the computer is not able to reason or describe its thought processes used to make the decision. They are simply mechanical, that is, the computer does not actually think for itself.

Then there is a more Advanced level of AI where systems are able to accurately simulate human reasoning. Not only are these systems able to “think” for themselves, they have the ability to “learn” on a continuous basis growing their knowledge base as well as being able to provide explanations for any decision made.

In the article “Artificial Intelligence and HR: The New Wave of Technology” written by Meghan M. Biro, there are four ways that the author believes that AI has the potential to have an enormous impact within the HR function.

1 Personalisation:

AI is helping organisations to provide a more personalised experience with regards to learning, by capturing meaningful employee data relating to a wide range of learning experiences and behaviours. In essence the same types of algorithms that are able to “learn and recommend” by analysing your choices of where to shop or what to eat, will “learn and recommend” when it comes to employee training, and will over time make the whole training experience more meaningful and efficient, and the outcomes more effective.

2 Workflow automation:

It is being predicted that AI is poised to become a serious game-changer when it comes to workflow challenges. In the next few years, we should see the advent of software that will automate hiring processes such as interview scheduling, employee performance reviews and employee onboarding. In addition, we are also looking at software that will be able to provide answers to basic HR questions with regards to the organisation.

3 More efficient recruitment and selection:

One of the challenges facing HR is accessing base data from individuals, as it is this base data that is required for systems to be able to analyse, especially during the recruitment and selection processes. With the advent of more advanced predictive analytics using natural language, which is still in its relative infancy, systems will soon be interacting with prospective employees through speech as well as being able to “scrape’ data from social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, thus having the ability to build up a comprehensive profile of the prospective employee as part of the recruiting phase, which will allow HR to more effectively either weed out undesirables or identify true potential much faster, with fewer mistakes.

4 Better prediction models:

AI has the ability to get to know your organisation almost better than you do. Whether it’s predicting future turnover rates, employee engagement levels, concerns regarding employee communications and any other unexpected hidden issues that would usually take years to surface, AI will more than likely be one step ahead of you, especially when it comes to cost savings and organisational efficiencies.

In summary

There currently are some HR systems touting their AI functionalities, but many of these are just systems utilising basic decision trees with no ability to “learn”, that some clever marketer has decided to market as an AI solution. True AI HR solutions need to have the ability to “learn and grow” as more and more data is made available, thus ensuring that the decisions made are based on all of the current data and not just some outdated decision tree.

Rob Bothma is an HR Systems Industry Specialist at NGA HR, www,ngahr.co.za, a Fellow of the Institute of People Management and past nonexecutive director and Vice President of the IPM, co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM and member of the Executive Board for HR Pulse.


Artificial Intelligence and HR: The New Wave of Technology - Meghan M. Biro.

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