We’re seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerging in many areas of HR, including recruitment and selection, onboarding, training and development, employee engagement, retention, remuneration decisions and performance management. Could you use it in your business?

In this, the third of my three-part series of posts on the top trends into the new financial year, we’ll look at the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the workplace. My first post was on How Much You Should Be Paying Your Employees. The second post covered 2023’s Legislative Changes and Societal Expectations.

What is AI?

When I looked at the research, the simplest definition I found was from the Office for AI in the UK. They define it as a technology that can autonomously perform tasks commonly thought to require human intelligence.

The word ‘autonomously’ is quite important there. You may also have heard of machine learning (ML). ML is a subset of AI, where autonomous intelligent systems improve their performance as they learn through experience.

The truth is, we’re all using Artificial Intelligence and we have been for years, possibly without realising it. If you’re using Netflix, an AI algorithm is using deep learning to suggest shows you might like to watch. Every time you use speech recognition and say, ‘hey Google’, you’re accessing an AI assistant in real time. You’re also using Artificial Intelligence when you read the news on your phone.

If you’re using Netflix, an AI algorithm is suggesting shows you might like to watch.’

Artificial Intelligence is quite ubiquitous already, even though it seems to have only hit the headlines in the last six months. This is due to the launch of ChatGPT and also high-profile experts publicly warning against the dangers associated with AI.

You may have heard about Geoffrey Hinton, a leading AI scientist and winner of the 2018 Turing Award. Geoffrey reportedly stepped down from his role at Google to warn the world about the dangers of this AI development.

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What Does AI Mean in Your Workplace?

AI may present opportunities in your business, and it pays to ask:

  • What consistent tasks can we automate? There is potential to use Artificial Intelligence technology to help with this.
  • What new products or services can we create? There may be ways you can add more value to your customers or stakeholders by investigating AI technologies.

You might not personally interested in AI research, but perhaps there is someone in your team interested in looking into it. 

How Can You Put AI to Use?

There are many ways you can use AI in your HR systems. You might consider using AI to write marketing emails, internal comms, purpose and value statements and social media.

For example, I recently ran a value session with a client. We gathered the senior management team in a room for a couple of hours. We talked through the values they wanted in the organisation and the behaviours they wanted to see.

We didn’t want to use standard words, like ‘accountability’ and ‘innovation’ etc. We wanted a clear statement, powerfully expressed, on the organisation’s values. Underneath that, we wanted a behavioural statement that clearly defined the behaviours underpinning the organisation’s values. We were asking questions like:

  • What values do we want to see in the organisation?
  • What are we going to hire for?
  • What are we going to reward within the business?

We wanted a really clear statements, powerfully expressed, on the organisation’s values.’

A couple of hours of that kind of work can of course be quite mind-draining, so we pulled out ChatGPT. We input a whole lot of words and said: “Give us a short sentence that sums up this idea?”.

We regenerated responses many times. In the end, the AI didn’t give us the result. It did however give us a whole bunch of new ways of saying things that helped us with the brainstorming. 

This is an example of how to use AI, not to reinvent the wheel but as a kind of copilot. For those who had not used ChatGPT before, it was a great exercise to see how it worked. We probably arrived at the same outcome, but it was like having another person in the room offering thoughts.

We probably arrived at the same outcome, but it was like having another person in the room offering thoughts.’

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What Are the Limitations of AI?

We do need to be aware of the bias that comes along with AI. Remember AI is built by humans and humans have bias, which is why we talk about it as a copilot. It’s also important to be careful of inputting confidential information into the large language models of an AI system.

Recently it was reported that Samsung workers accidentally leaked company secrets by using ChatGPT. Because AI’s learning models use the information you enter, there’s a danger of exposing confidential company information.

How is AI Being Used in HR? 

Recruitment 

The main place I’ve seen AI being used for HR is in recruitment. There are some clear wins there in terms of efficiency.

There are also some big questions about the bias that it may embed into the recruitment process. For this reason it does need to be used with caution. Lachy Gray and I speak about AI in Recruitment in the Make it Work podcast. If you’re interested in more detail, make sure you look that up and have a listen.

Onboarding 

Many HR Information Systems (HRISs) use AI to help with onboarding processes. For example, I’ve seen larger organisations use chatbots to answer common employee questions. This can be particularly helpful in the onboarding stage.

Training & Development

A lot of online learning can be driven through AI in that it can help to answer questions like:

  • what training are people doing?
  • which areas do they find easy?
  • where are there gaps in employee understanding?
  • what feedback do employees have?

Employee Engagement

AI can be useful in analysing employee engagement surveys. At another extreme, face recognition technology is being used to look at the expressions on employees’ faces in the workplace. Personally, I find this technology to be quite creepy. However, this could lead to higher levels of employee engagement as businesses understand more about the moods of their employees.

Remuneration

AI is also being used by organisations to look at whether their remuneration system is fair and equitable across the business.

Performance Management Systems

Get feedback from different areas about a team member with 360s, then analyze the data with AI.

The Takeaways

There’s a lot happening with artificial intelligence in the workplace and in the HR space. Start researching AI for your business if you haven’t already. At the very least, bring in a consultant who specialises in this area.

If someone in the business is interested in AI, ask them to take a look at how you could use it.

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