Does a human or an algorithm make better HR decisions?
1 January 2019
We don’t need to point out that society is changing fast. The fourth industrial revolution, the information age, the digitalisation era, whatever you call this moment in time, has altered the way we think, learn, work and relax, and technology has played a major role in rewiring and adapting our way of thinking. This altered mindset has had a significant impact on our careers, in particular, and the directions they can take.
Traditionally, career paths were in the form of a ladder. Employees would work their way up from entry-level to management positions, usually keeping within the same industry or department. But thanks to factors such as digitalisation, the free-thinking, open-minded generation and the rise of working conditions like the gig economy, you could say that our career paths have evolved into multidirectional highways. Careers can now take several directions laterally as well as vertically, meaning that HR plays an even more important role in career development and recruiting. But if HR is required to be more hands on in the future, and technology continues to advance in the way it is, is it better to hand over the decisions to AI?
AI and career planning
There are many theories and thoughts about how AI can help or hinder our career paths. The intelligence of AI means that many organisations believe that AI will always make better suggestions and decisions and it can reduce human bias which in turn improves factors like diversity. AI is also said to attract the millennial generation and decrease discrimination in the workplace. But AI is also seen as too invasive, too discriminative, if there are lots of poorly understood algorithms, and could create counter recruitment campaigns.
Investing in AI to make decisions for your workforce is a huge commitment for HR and whilst many of the theories surrounding AI are subjective, it can be tough to know whether it will be a useful tool for your organisation and your employees.
Employees want to get personal
Employees are at the heart of every organisation and we all want what’s best for our workforce and to align with their thoughts. However, a recent survey by HEC found significant misalignment between employers and employees when it comes to using digital tools and technology in HR. The survey, which questioned HR managers, recruits and employees, found that whilst the majority of recruits and employees preferred human interaction with HR managers, senior level managers were in favour of using digital tools and algorithms to conduct HR activities like performance reviews and recruiting. Specifically, employees were not keen on the idea of social media audits, facial and voice analysis during interviews and digital monitoring of behaviour during working hours, yet managers were in favour of using these tools.
But not all technology receives backlash from employees. In the survey, employees were in favour of tools such as video interviews in recruiting and online written assessments to conduct performance reviews.
Limitations of AI
When implementing AI and algorithms into organisational processes, in particular in recruitment, there are several variables that need to be carefully considered: data, recruitment criteria, ethical and legal implications. The data that you feed into the AI is crucial. If, for example, your workforce is predominantly educated males, then feeding this existing data will churn out results that are likened to that dataset. This can be a problem if your recruitment strategy is to employ people with more diversified backgrounds, for example. Furthermore, the ethical and legal issues surrounding data and AI, in the wake of GDPR is also something that organisations need to be aware of if they decide to implement AI into their recruitment strategy.
Integration is key
So, is it better to use a human or an algorithm to make HR decisions? The answer: integrate the two. Although AI is smart and capable of making decisions for us, ultimately, when it comes to choosing people and their career progression, the final decision should be made by a human. Although AI can do many things, learning to be a good leader, developing emotional intelligence and nurturing creativity are skills that can’t be replaced by AI.