Blog Post

How Artificial Intelligence Will Enable Strategic HR

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Founder of Workology

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that uses machine learning algorithms that mimic cognitive functions; making machines more human-like.

Given that Human Resources is in fact focused on the people side of the business, I find it oddly ironic that we, as HR and talent acquisition practitioners, would look to technology to enhance engagement and human elements.

And yet ironically, we need technology to help HR be more strategic, as well as more human. Otherwise, we will continue to be bogged down by mundane chores, paperwork, and tactical to-dos—and often disconnected from how other business units view the value of HR at their company.

Artificial intelligence has a great deal of potential for HR—particularly when it comes to talent acquisition. From candidate engagement to communication to vetting, A.I. is quickly being adopted by a number of notable companies like Hilton, Adecco and AT&T to engage job seekers and applicants.

The Growth of Artificial Intelligence

In order to understand artificial intelligence, we need to understand how computers and technology have progressed. Doing so helps us frame the transition for both consumers and businesses. Bersin by Deloitte recently released their Human Capital Trends Report, and it was the first time I saw an HR publication publish content that discusses in great detail the role of the "four transformations" and the impact they have for HR and recruiters.

The four transformations are centered around the rise of the computer and how this piece of technology has transformed our life. The first transformation occurred when people started using text characters to talk directly with computers in the 1970's. The second was the creation of the GUI and the Apple Macintosh in 1984. The third came in 2007 with the iPhone. We have now entered the beginning of the fourth transformation, where technology moves from what we carry to what we wear.

The fourth transformation includes virtual reality, mixed reality, wearables and artificial intelligence. So, why hasn't this been more directly tied to HR departments yet?

The Conflict in HR

Our industry is conflicted. On the one hand, there are a number of HR and recruiting teams who are already working within the fourth transformation. On the other hand, a large majority of us are still working in the second and third. (In 2013, Aberdeen reported that 54 percent of HR and recruiting departments relied on staffing plans that were mostly spreadsheet based.)

The challenge is that reports like Bersin's are highlighting companies who are early adopters—the truth is, the majority of HR practitioners won't leverage "fourth transformation" technologies until five to 15 years from now.

But this reality needs to change—and that starts with awareness.

Artificial intelligence, particularly in HR, provides practitioners with the opportunity to outsource tasks to smart technology. It lets us focus on the bigger picture of the business and put our creative and innovative brain muscles to work. We need to spend time focusing on how HR can transform business and how data can inform strategy. Most importantly, we need to educate our peers and business leaders on how this technology can transform talent management—and push HR into the future of work.

Photo: Creative Commons

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