Modern HR is shaped by pioneers that push its boundaries – the people who drive evolution within the function and ensure it continues to provide strategic value. This vision is dependent on regarding people as people, and not assets.
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to shape this function, concern is rising that this human-centric discipline will lose its human touch, causing the practice to evolve into one where machines treat people like machines.
However, it doesn’t need to be that way.
In this exclusive thought leadership piece, Clare Hickie, Chief Technology Officer for the EMEA region at Workday, shares her exert insights on how to bring AI into the workforce, how the rapidly evolving technology can assist HR leaders, and how AI can be utilised to support career journeys...
I foresee a future in which HR professionals are seizing the opportunities presented by AI to empower and strengthen their roles and end the notion that HR is an administrative one-and-done. When people are put first, using these technologies will augment human performance, not replace it, by providing people with insights, predictions, and recommendations to help them be their most productive selves.
What this means practically is the more machines behave like humans in the workplace, the more we'll see HR professionals imbue their human intuition and empathy with AI-powered analytical capabilities, and this combination will result in a better workplace for all.
How to bring AI into the workforce
Considering the vast potential of AI, leveraging this technology is non-negotiable. However, our recent study found HR, compared to IT and finance, to be the business function with the most split attitude towards AI. While 39% of HR leaders are excited to use AI, 33% are not. This may be due to a feeling of unpreparedness, as the study also found that about one-third of HR respondents believe their teams won’t have the skills to work well with AI.
This is why it’s imperative that HR leaders recognise that the AI evolution is poised to benefit all types of workers, not just those in tech-based disciplines. Employees do not need deep knowledge of AI to use it, as many of the technology’s benefits are already embedded within the tools workers use daily, increasing productivity and elevating their potential.
The greatest AI efficiency and productivity returns in the workplace come from an employee's elevated decision-making skills and the ability to ask questions and respond to the insights AI generates. However, these skills are not always considered in conventional recruitment processes.
HR professionals play a crucial role – helping the business understand and map a large and diverse range of skills across their organisation. Skills are the benchmark for identifying the capabilities of a workforce, which benefits talent acquisition and retention, upskilling and reskilling, and overall employee engagement.
How AI helps
AI assists this process in numerous ways. Leaders can use AI to gain a quick understanding of the skills portfolio of their workforce while identifying skills gaps, helping them prioritise the skills needed for development purposes, job matching and even hiring.
Once the gaps are identified, the technology can be used in the recruiting and screening process to match applicants with roles quicker and more accurately. AI recommendations can also assist employees by suggesting the best mentors or most beneficial training content and courses, helping (new) talent close the skills gap and develop.
AI technology can improve the way we work and fosters greater equality in accessing opportunity by shifting towards a focus of skills. Internally, HR professionals can leverage AI to discover previously unknown skills matches in their teams, and tap into a more diverse talent pool. Opportunities for advancement can be allocated based on skills or talents, allowing people to experience possibilities in their career that they would have previously not thought possible.
Then there’s the cultural element. AI will augment how people work, so openness to change and adaptation is essential from leaders wanting to take their organisations to new heights. HR professionals need to foster a workplace culture that rewards innovation and experimentation, while supporting employees as they explore new AI capabilities. Promoting an understanding of AI through access to training, resources, upskilling and conversations will help build confidence in the technology.
It would be to HR’s advantage to collaborate with leaders to develop clear and empowered visions for AI, empowering the workplace and leading by example. By pioneering the use of AI, HR can be a role model and demonstrate the organisation's commitment to being an innovative and progressive business.
Scaling how businesses use insights to shape careers
The HR function should take advantage of AI by supporting everyone’s career journeys. The future must be more dynamic, flexible, and capable of allowing people with both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds to participate effectively.
By helping people to discover new opportunities for growth and development and enabling mentors to help their own team achieve goals, AI will push organisations forward. With these new opportunities, AI will empower managers to lead better conversations and strongly boost employee engagement, efficacy and productivity, potentially cutting attrition.
HR professionals thus have a unique and important opportunity to shape the future of their organisations by not only embracing AI themselves, but supporting their organisations in their AI adoption. By leading the narrative, HR can ensure AI is seen as an enabler, rather than a threat.