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In my previous blog ‘HUMAN RESOURCES: Why archaic stereotypes are stunting business potential…’ I argued that AI is humanising HR, rather than diminishing its prominence. Now, I investigate some recent statistics regarding Human Resources and AI and how I believe it all points to a more strategic role for HR professionals in the future.

Reshaping roles
It’s not a bombshell to me – maybe it is to you – but according to a study by AI at Work conducted by US technology firm Oracle, 64% of employees are putting trust in Artificial Intelligence over fellow humans. The study of 8,370 employees, managers and HR leaders across 10 countries found that AI has changed the relationship between people and technology at work, and “is reshaping the role HR teams and managers need to play in attracting, retaining and developing talent.”

The power of trust
From my point of view, trust in HR – and in leadership in general – is paradoxically waning and yet more important than ever. The emergence of advanced technologies is merely adding to this complicated scenario. If Human Resources are part of back-office support then AI is most certainly the next gen in its services. However, if we consider that actually HR is NOT just a business cost or merely an administrative function then AI is a gamechanger.

Recruitment & operations
Let’s break it down a bit. AI is already being used by most large organisations to quickly interpret data, predict, inform decisions and drive the strategic direction of the people management side of these businesses. Recruitment teams are now using AI to support hiring decisions, saving many hours of leaders’ time – not to mention the candidate’s. Then there’s absence management. AI has the ability to analyse, predict and support operating decisions.

Cue the chat bot
From a purely employee experience perspective, having access to a ‘chat bot’ is quickly becoming a reality. Not having to wait on the end of a phone or for an email to find out how to change personal data on the HR database feels revolutionary. I am sure you’ve had this experience personally! What’s more, in the future, it is expected that AI will be fundamental for predicting employee relations’ outcomes and provide data on risks of certain employment decisions. That’s pretty cool!

Putting data into performance
Performance management is another realm that technology is infusing – to good effect. Data analytics can reveal the results of hundreds of interactions between employees and management. This can help identify both shortcomings and opportunities vis-à-vis all employees. And then there’s compliance – this has always been a big headache for HR teams, partly because laws and regulations are constantly changing. Technology is helping navigate these complex issues and getting rid of piles of paperwork.

Human / machine balance
On that note, I am sure it’s only a matter of time before basic, straightforward employee relations (ER) and other legal issues will also be dealt with by a bot. But the human/ machine balance is a tricky one to strike. As Emily He, SVP of Human Capital Management at Oracle says, the latest advances in machine learning and AI are causing a massive shift in the way people across the world interact with technology and their teams.

“As this study shows, the relationship between humans and machines is being redefined at work, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successfully managing this change,” she says. “Instead, organizations need to partner with their HR organization to personalize the approach to implementing AI at work in order to meet the changing expectations of their teams around the world.”

Engagement & empathy
However, AI is not the answer when it comes to culture, engagement and strategy. Sure, it can help inform, but it is not going to replace (anytime soon) the analytical, thought leadership contribution of the HR experts. AI only knows what it has been taught and sometimes this can be biased learning too. When people are the greatest asset, it’s critical to get it right. I am not alone in thinking that a bot can’t empathise or read the room in order to get to the best outcome in the same way a good HR professional can.

Where now?
So, what does this all mean for the future of Human Resources? How are HR teams aiding core business decisions and what are the new skills needed in order to make these changes? At the moment, there are more questions than answers. However, I see this as a pivotal juncture where HR professionals and business leaders can grasp the opportunity to reinstate trust in the workplace and get teams working symbiotically with emerging tech. We may well be outperformed by robots in our lifetime. But, in the meantime, it is up to the HR professionals to see how AI can add value at a strategic level and truly drive organisations forward.

If you’d like to hear more about how I can help both HR teams and senior leadership achieve their true potential, please do get in touch: