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For many HR professionals, AI can seem like a far-off reality and something they don't need to worry about...yet.

But HR analyst, podcaster and influencer Ben Eubanks says this assessment is entirely inaccurate. From artificial intelligence-powered office assistants that help schedule meetings to HR bots that vet candidates, AI isn't the future of work—it's the present.

Below, Eubanks shares four ways HR teams can apply AI at work today to perform tasks faster and smarter.

1) Narrow Down the Candidate Pool

In 2017 a Walmart employee named Randy Bailey went up against AI technology to correctly identify candidates that were hired for a job out of a pool of 5,000 candidates. Bailey ultimately bested the AI, guessing the three candidates correctly (the AI only guessed two), but he spent between about 30 hours hours manually reviewing applications. The AI on the other hand came up with its responses in seconds.

This is a valuable lesson, Eubanks says. Though AI is not yet in a place where it can make a hire with as much precision as a human HR rep, it is more than capable of executing the first round of recruiting to eliminate candidates who are categorically not a fit for a given role. Had the AI in the Walmart experiment been tasked with narrowing down the initial pool of 5,000 to 10, leaving Bailey to make the final decision, he would have arrived at the same three candidates in far less time.

“Let the algorithm do that first cut, and then let a human figure out the right cultural fit," he says. "That's an effective way to narrow candidates down, before applying instincts that the computer doesn't have to hire the right person."

2) Serve as a Mentoring Tool For Managers

AI can also serve as a great management tool by analyzing data from things like employee sentiments surveys. By scanning for sentiment keywords to identify trends, the technology can help managers and executives address workers' concerns.

One CEO Eubanks worked with was able to gain an understanding of his employees' biggest worries in just a week's time by using AI to analyze sentiment surveys. “[After AI helped identify the problem] the company was able to solve some major communication issues, address workers' concerns about company direction and really meet them where they were."

Similarly, when AI is at the core of an employee feedback management platform, it can analyze employees' feedback to come up with recommendations for managers, serve up tips and ideas, offer courses to boost leadership skills and determine what will best motivate workers.

3) Support the Application Process

Sometimes, when candidates submit their resumes to companies they feel as if the resumes end up in a black hole, never to be seen again. An AI-powered chatbot can walk candidates through an application process, answer any questions that arise and confirm resume receipt. The chatbot can also schedule interviews or follow up with candidates to let them know they won't be hired.

Chatting with real HR reps would be ideal, but given the volume of applicants for some positions, it's simply not sustainable, Eubanks explains. Chatbots reduce “the amount of time recruiters would have to spend interacting on the front of the funnel, which leaves them with more time to get into deeper discussions with the real hot-item candidates," says Eubanks.

4) Close Employee Skills Gaps

The skills gap costs individual companies an average of $800,000 annually in lost business and productivity. But instead of hiring new workers to fill the gaps, companies can simply educate existing employees and close their specific skills gaps with smart learning platforms, powered by artificial intelligence.

For example, learning management systems (LMS) use machine learning (a subset of AI) to leverage existing employee data on work performance or past learning engagements and create personalized learning paths for them. These suggested paths are individually designed to help employees gain critical skills they need to thrive in their current roles and grow professionally.

Though HR teams may still be hesitant to dabble in AI technology, there's nothing to fear, Eubanks says. In most cases, the technology is designed to support them, not replace them, so experimenting with the emerging technology may make their jobs easier and more rewarding: "There's no escaping AI, so it's time to learn to work with it."

Photo: Unsplash