Artificial Intelligence and HR: An opportunity for virtual resources for enhanced HR

20 years ago, a robot won against the best chess player in the world, last year artificial intelligence beat a top player at the game of Go and now AI has mastered poker. These algorithms are a part of our environment and are becoming increasingly more powerful.

For major technology companies such as GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) in the US or BATX in China, artificial intelligence is strategic and will affect most jobs and business sectors. For many companies, this is the major strategic challenge for the coming yearsThe development of AI, however, presents a multitude of philosophical and ethical problems.

Artificial intelligence is already present in many areas, including our daily activities, through projects such as “Smart Cities”, for example. A wide variety of projects have been initiated in which technology has been used mainly to increase performance and improve the quality of service to users: unmanned vehicles, lighting, waste management, etc.

Artificial intelligence, will also, however, have an impact on how work is organized. Will robots be taking over a large part of our workload and thus eliminate jobs on a massive scale? Some experts say that certain types of jobs will no longer exist, but that others will be created. This is what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called ‘creative destruction’, that can be found each time a revolution occurs in society: the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and now the digital revolution.

Artificial intelligence is also developing in HR departments Thus, in the US, over the past year, the Unilever group has used artificial intelligence to recruit 250,000 applicants for entry-level jobs. The company uses special neuroscience-based games to measure personality traits and video interviews that analyze body language, the tone of your voice and the words used. The results are very positive in terms of quantity (recruiters’ time spent reviewing applications decreased by 75%) and quality with greater diversity in profiles and educational backgrounds.

Another example: this year, employees at Three Square Market, a company in River Falls, Wisconsin, voluntarily agreed to have microchips implanted under their skin, between the thumb and index finger. The devices were installed to make it easier for employees to get around the workplace. They allow door access to enter the building, sign into computers, pay for snacks, make photocopies and could also include GPS.  This is a first in the US, but employees at Epicenter, a Swedish startup, already have had similar chips implanted since April 2017.

There are several areas in HR that have already been, or will be, affected by artificial intelligence.

The first is  recruitment and staffing , to meet ‘sourcing’ requirements. This involves quickly finding the proper profiles based on skills, motivation and personality for the company’s operational requirements or offering employees a professional development plan that best fits their needs. Combining artificial intelligence with Big Data makes it easier to automate sourcing, sort applicants and analyze their skills and profiles. Technology will not replace decisions made by people, but the performance of HR, enhanced by the power of machines, will be greatly increased.

An another area is administrative management and payroll, which still occupies about 70% of HR professionals and involves a large number of repetitive tasks that can be done by ‘machines’. Robots can handle a lot of the more repetitive, low-value tasks or ensure automation of regulatory checks. They can also perform monitoring of processes. HR departments can thus avoid time-consuming tasks and allocate certain resources to more strategic and important assignments. A payroll manager’s job is now gradually focusing more on consulting and providing expertise.

Another area concerns the relationship with the employee, which has become more personalized. One of the new challenges for HR departments is to provide a wide range of services that are tailored to its internal ‘customers’, i.e. its employees. Many companies are using chatbots to efficiently deal with employees’ questions 24/7 concerning HR requests such as admin info, training suggestions or contact with special communities. Chatbots do not, however, communicate only with customers. They can also provide support to HR professionals to help them with regulations.

There is a lot left to explore in this area  and the innovation provided by new HR digital technology will be key here. HR departments can thus play an active role in digital transformation and drive new projects to fulfill aspirations, especially those of new generations.

In the HR analytics, artificial intelligence is a key asset to rapid, efficient and well-structured decision-making. It can guide HR professionals through the analysis of HR data history, monitoring, creating alerts or anticipating trends.

The use of artificial intelligence in HR is leading to profound change in the profession. It is also a great opportunity. HR, just like any type of support, is subject to restrictions in terms of staffing and budget. It must also meet the challenges of transformation. First, its own transformation, by developing new tasks and new jobs. It also needs to drive managerial transformation within companies and set the example. By using artificial intelligence as a new a source for ‘resources’, HR will become ‘enhanced’ through the help of virtual assistants that are ‘educated’ in the ways of human resources.

What will we delegate to machines? What role will people play in tomorrow’s work environment?

The ‘line’ between the bots and people has been the focus of much discussion: economic, societal, ethical and philosophical. A balance must be found between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. The technology is here, we just have to know how to use it.