Author: Kim Coombs, Talent Director, EMEA at Riverbed Technology
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is improving human resources (HR), streamlining processes and empowering employees to perform better. Employee data that was once banished to the archives can now be combined with the huge volume of data running through a business’ network to identify talent gaps, learning and development initiatives and provide recommendations to HR professionals and managers.
It is becoming clear that the future success of businesses will be defined by how well they are able to optimise the combination of human and automated work.
There have been some controversial headlines surrounding automation in the workplace and earlier this year, the World Economic Forum projected that the demand for ‘unique’ human skills will grow. While its research suggests 75 million current jobs will be displaced as artificial intelligence takes over more routine aspects of work, 133 million new jobs will be created. This report concludes that skills in both emotional intelligence and technical intelligence – like technology design and programming – will be essential for the future workforce.
HR needs to help employees strengthen their core skills and capabilities through targeted training or development initiatives. On top of this, they are responsible for proactive candidate selection as part of the recruitment process, which involves an excessive amount of time, resource and admin. AI is opening up new opportunities to enhance the human experience and is expanding the remit of the HR function within a business. It is important for business leaders to consider the introduction of AI-led infrastructure as an opportunity to improve existing, outdated, and sometimes archaic processes and message the benefits of these changes down to their managers and employees.
The human experience
With the introduction of AI, businesses are positioned better than ever to improve their employees’ human experience. In the modern enterprise, AI is already beginning to streamline admin heavy tasks to free up time for employees to focus on adding value to the broader business.
For example, team leaders and middle management are often required to make the same decisions over and over again, including approving time off requests, approving timecard exceptions and scheduling staff. If you speak to managers performing these tasks, you will often find their perspective is the same: they are repetitive, time-consuming, and while relevant, deliver little value. These are precisely the tasks that AI can tackle first — the routine, daily, difficult processes that will free up the manager to handle more strategic management matters.
With less time spent on the high touch, low value tasks, managers can be far more aligned with their employees’ needs, boosting employee wellbeing and increasing staff retention. In addition to the general alleviation of admin, AI is also making huge strides in the realms of learning and development.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to learning and development. As the war on talent grows ever more competitive, organisations that can provide their employees tailored opportunities to grow will set themselves apart. Traditionally doing this has involved significant manual workforce auditing and data analysis before programmes can be put in place. However, with the latest developments in predictive and prescriptive analytics, this heavy lifting no longer falls within the remit of the HR team.
AI has the power to monitor business performance and create bespoke suggestions around talent management and recruitment. This technology feeds off data so unfortunately this is redundant if HR does not engage with the technology and embed AI into the workforce’s natural workflow. The more HR engages with the technology and nourishes it with use cases; the more mature the artificial decision making will become. Supporting use on this scale requires a significant cultural shift. Once this shift occurs, HR can begin to embrace more creative and engaging ways to implement learning and development, with actionable data points already provided for them.
It will be a combination of human and artificial intelligence that will ultimately drive success for the future enterprise. For an AI implementation to demonstrate its full worth, businesses need to first fully embrace digital change in every aspect of their business. Any system is only as fast as its slowest link, and the goal of using AI to free up managers to solve more substantial organisational challenges will never be achieved if manual, high-touch processes and policies remain.
Staff must be onboarded and reskilled effectively. The IT infrastructure should be able to support higher volumes of data, and senior management needs to ensure digital transformation initiatives are given adequate funding and support.
As AI alleviates admin heavy tasks, roles and responsibilities will begin to shift, enabling the workforce to add a significant layer of additional value to their business. More importantly, workers will be able to focus on tasks that are far more engaging and fulfilling. This can only be achieved if HR teams begin to adopt this technology and implement new processes to support AI adoption in the wider business. The winner in all of this will ultimately prove to be the human experience.