Stephen Hawking recently went on record to say,
“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence and exceed it. So, we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI [Artificial Intelligence] or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it”.
Meanwhile, Accenture has reported that artificial intelligence has the potential to add an estimated £654 billion ($814 billion) to the UK economy by 2035. With such bold predictions around the ‘rise of the robots’ and AI, it’s no wonder that it is increasingly becoming the hottest topic within HR circles.
In fact, according to new research by global talent acquisition and management firm, Alexander Mann Solutions, 96% of senior HR professionals believe that AI has the potential to enhance talent acquisition and retention. Yet 57% believe the innovation within their own organisation is too slow.
These figures are unsurprising. The buzz around AI means that business decision makers are eager to jump on the AI bandwagon through a fear of being left behind. However, I would argue that many who believe that innovation within their own business is not fast enough may be further ahead of the curve than they are giving themselves credit for.
Where to begin?
There continues to be a lack of understanding around the parameters of robotics and AI. Essentially, a robot is simply a machine which is capable of replicating human functions, Apple’s Siri is an everyday example. What’s more, most technology now includes some form of machine learning. As a first initiative, HR professionals must look to understand the capabilities of their existing technologies and what they can achieve, before they look at procuring further technologies.
The world’s robot population is expanding quickly. According to the IFR World Robotics Report 2016, sales of industrial robots are growing by around 13 per cent a year, meaning that the robot ‘birth rate’ is almost doubling every five years. And many HR and recruitment professionals are already implementing software on top of existing IT infrastructure helping them to eliminate low-level, tedious work.
It makes sense. A recent analysis conducted by recruitment software provider, GR8, found recruiters still spend between 40% and 60% of their day sourcing candidates manually. Effective automation can free-up around three to five hours per day, enabling hirers to achieve true productivity. Particularly when you consider that 23 hours are typically spent screening CVs for each individual role.
What will we achieve?
Aside from greater efficiency, automation around recruitment also has the added benefit of reducing subjectivity in the hiring process and freeing up time for HR to innovate. Deploying robots to screen candidates and manage interviews enables organisations to improve engagement to protect the employer brand and increasing workforce diversity by removing unconscious bias – side effects I’m sure any HR professional would welcome.
Once employees are in-role, AI can be used to manage workforces effectively. Machine learning can provide reliable analytics around the future intentions of existing staff based on their public profiles, this way you can both retain your top performers and pipeline accordingly.
Deloitte’s Global Capital Trends Survey 2016 found that only eight per cent of companies feel they are fully capable of developing predictive models, however, HR mangers can begin making data they already hold work for their organisation relatively easily. For example, by understanding the percentage of employees due to retire in the next five years and, therefore, what skills they will likely have to bring on board to replace them.
The organisations we work with recognise that the world of work has changed. It is a positive sign that such a high percentage of HR professionals recognise the potential of robotics and AI and that implementing intelligent systems is not a ‘plug and play’ exercise.
AI in HR and recruitment is particularly useful when managing error-prone processes such as complex HR forms, compliance and on-boarding, as well as ‘swivel chair’ processes which involve jumping between tasks. However AI has its limitations. Anything involving ambiguity, context or change requires a level of emotional intelligence which only humans can provide.
These tools are not intended to eliminate the role of HR and recruitment professionals, they are designed to relieve them from repetitive and low value tasks that consume valuable time which could be best spent leveraging their interpersonal skills and engaging with employees and candidates. The key is to not seek out robotic and AI solutions simply for the sake of doing so. Establish first the end benefit you hope to achieve – as you may already be sitting on the functionality you need.