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AI: A top level guide for HR

An industry expert provides an overview on what sets AI systems apart, and how they can augment the roles of HR professionals.

AI dominates conversations. It’s been featured prominently in the news, is a frequently cited business concern and entire conferences are devoted to it.

But what exactly does artificial intelligence have to do with HR? According to IBM research, quite a bit.

Whether you consider yourself an AI aficionado or novice, rapid advances in technological development and ease of implementation allow the benefits to be experienced by all, and not just those with deep, specialised expertise.

So where do you get started? The first step is to understand exactly what AI is, and what it’s not.

Top characteristics of AI systems

So, what can AI systems do and what sets them apart from other systems?

They understand – They can receive and process unstructured information in ways similar to humans. For example, a cognitive system can quickly examine thousands of hours of HR service centre recordings to identify key words and patterns based on frequency, tone, and sentiment.

They can reason – AI systems grasp underlying concepts, form hypotheses, and infer and extract ideas. They rapidly synthesize information to produce relevant and meaningful responses. Consider the case of a manager who is looking to fill an internal role. A cognitive system could look at various data sources, including a candidate’s professional experience and previous performance, and then further analyse the candidate against the characteristics of other successful job holders to determine if he or she would be a strong fit for the organisation.

They learn – AI systems learn and improve through every data point, interaction, and outcome, building a deep and broad knowledge base that is always up-to-date. With a constant stream of changing policies and new regulations in the HR field, this capability becomes critical. Rather than addressing a static set of rules, cognitive systems read, tag, and organise HR content from a variety of sources, allowing employees access to the most accurate and relevant information at any given time.

We’ve covered AI before…

Including how it will affect worker privacy

How it can actually be biased

And how smart people think it might kill us all (seriously)

Where will employees welcome AI?

A study from IBM surveyed over 8,500 workers from companies around the globe, at all levels, on their willingness to receive guidance from AI solutions. We discovered an “AI sweet spot” – a set of parameters and scenarios where cognitive solutions will have the greatest positive impact on employees and organisations.

The most effective outcomes will result not from replacing but augmenting human capability. HR should look for opportunities where:

Decisions are information-rich and highly complex, requiring a wide variety of inputs from different data sources

For example, predicting job fit of a candidate. This requires information from resumes, assessments, interviews, references, etc. to be combined into an overall recommendation score for a human recruiter to make the final decision (and enable them to dig deeper if they wish to).

Interactions by users are frequent and varied, and where large volumes of requests must be interpreted and addressed

For instance, chat bots can manage routine employee inquiries since these are transactional. Automating the management of these questions with AI can deliver remarkable savings, and people can interact with an AI-powered agent 24 hours a day.

High volumes of unstructured information are involved, such as free-form text, images, and auditory cues

Think of situations where intranet chatter occurs following a major announcement by an executive and thousands of comments are posted by employees. It would take individuals on the HR team a lot of time to read these and respond, but with artificial intelligence, the information can be quickly analysed for leaders to gauge the reaction of the teams and respond appropriately.

Three HR focus areas conducive to AI augmentation

1. Talent acquisition and onboarding

AI solutions can tap into multiple data sources and reveal new insights to help companies develop richer candidate profiles, position themselves more effectively in the external labor market, and make better decisions about prospective employees.

2. Talent development

AI insights can lead to more personalised recommendations for learning and career management, delivered when and where employees need the information and guidance.

3. HR operations

AI computing can enable more streamlined and accurate information by equipping and empowering HR advisors. Routine questions can be answered much more efficiently, and HR advisors can spend more time on challenging or less common queries.

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of HRM magazine

Learn about AI and the future of work at the HR Tech Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday 28 August – part of the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition (28 – 31 August). Registration closes Tuesday 21 August so sign up now.

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If we are going to provide a guide for HR, can we please call it Machine Learning, rather than AI?… Or at least mention that when you use the term AI, you mean Machine Learning.

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