Lauren Tait

Talent Specialist and UK Lead


3 power plays of applied AI …and the fear we’re going to mess it all up


Lauren Tait

Talent Specialist and UK Lead


Lauren Tait

Talent Specialist and UK Lead

We’re at a crossroads: Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to revolutionise not only the way we work, but also how we build and shape our organisations. According to the recent McKinsey State of Organisations Report 2023, more than half of the respondents have already adopted AI in their business units.

Nearly two-thirds expect increased AI investments in the coming years. Yet from my own research conducted this year with 200 UK based HR and Talent leaders, just 1 in 5 had implemented AI in their recruitment processes. The contrasting findings regarding the adoption of AI within business units suggests that we in HR and Recruitment are already lagging behind; this is a huge concern, but it's a concern that we can alleviate by focussing our efforts now in a handful of key areas. While AI has the potential to enhance operational efficiency, its true value lies in its capacity to transform organisations from within.

The power within

Traditionally, organisational decisions have heavily relied on management judgement. And we’ve seen how that can play out to the detriment of the wider workforce when that much power is placed in the hands of one or two people that don’t have all the data necessary - readily at their disposal - to make the right call.

Organisations that embrace AI are reimagining talent management, processes, and structures. This transformative technology empowers HR and Talent leaders to think differently: whether that is how they manage talent, streamline workflows, or drive structural changes within their organisations, let’s take a look at what that could really mean in practice.

1. Revolutionising Talent Acquisition with AI

Skill-based hiring is gaining traction as AI-powered software matches job candidates' behavioural attributes with open positions. Hard skills are becoming more obsolete; shifting away from CV and experience based hiring moves the focus away from traditional credentials to a more comprehensive assessment of capabilities. AI also plays a vital role in tailoring job offerings and advertisements to reach the right candidates whilst reducing human biases during candidate selection. AI extends its influence to learning management systems and employee experience platforms, enriching the talent development and engagement landscape.

2. Driving Productivity

Beyond Talent Acquisition, AI is reshaping how organisations work. The Mckinsey report cites a forward-thinking digital health company utilising an AI-enabled integrated system to foster a collaborative, data-driven, and enjoyable work environment.

Within my own organisation, AssessFirst, the predictive learnings made possible with AI during recruitment processes accompany that person as part of their employee experience. The analysis assists leaders in evaluating team dynamics and identifying areas for improvement to ensure that people are supported in the right way: helping to increase productivity and results.

3. Data-Driven Structural Changes

AI isn't merely about making incremental improvements; it's about redefining entire organisational structures. Without solid data, this is a terrifying thought for most HR leaders. But through a thorough and highly automated analysis of HR, process and outcome data, companies can identify opportunities for optimisation, reallocate tasks to the right people for the job and create more efficient hierarchies. The vehicle for better collaboration between HR and Operations leaders lies at the heart of this AI capability.


Where could it all go wrong?

Being a Talent Acquisition Manager, I may be biased, but my belief is that the single most critical component in the implementation of applied AI through HR, Talent and wider organisational operations is just that: ‘Talent’. If we don’t commit to hiring the right people to lead the AI revolution within, why should anyone expect it to be a success.

Talent shortage

There is a shortage of AI-savvy talent globally; furthermore, 73% of UK leaders report a ‘moderate to extreme’ skills gap in AI. If we fail to hire candidates who are familiar, comfortable and competent in using AI for internal processes, it will make the mission more difficult and prone to risk in years to come. Skills based hiring with a focus on AI should be a future focus for recruiters, and AI skill development through Learning and Development programmes will be a requirement. But, this isn’t on the near term agenda for most HR and Talent leaders; given the scale of our reported skills shortage, shouldn’t we be increasing the urgency of this conversation?


Of course, there is also the ‘resistant to change’ force that may be present in your organisation. ‘Going digital’ has taken some companies fifteen years, whilst it took others fifteen weeks. You can take a boardroom to water but you can’t always make them drink, But with a big enough groundswell of AI-savvy talent in a workforce (made possible by the previous point) the pressure for the boardroom to take that drink after all is far greater.


And finally, there are the ethical concerns: whether relating to discrimination and bias, right to privacy or the exploitation of employee rights, AI-first organisations should be at the forefront of addressing AI-related risks. As the depth of applied AI takes hold, I expect there to be a lot of work and publications to come in this area. I don’t always expect this conversation to be comfortable, but I do expect there to be far greater transparency around what companies are getting right and wrong given the immaturity of corporate AI adoption.

The AI Road ahead: a two step checklist

To embrace AI and capitalise on the opportunity that awaits, organisations must redefine themselves as AI-first entities. What does this mean? Quite a lot unfortunately, but if we break it down into two areas that HR and Talent can own, it appears far more manageable.

  • Prioritise continual learning and AI education for the entire workforce
  • Recruit for new roles that combine technological expertise with business acumen

This new cohort of recruits will play a crucial role in cultivating AI talent and bridging the gap between technology and business teams. They must actively address AI-related risks and ethical concerns and champion responsible AI use.

Applied AI: A Strategic Imperative

AI isn't just a tool to supercharge operations; it's a catalyst for building better organisations. By embracing AI with a forward-thinking mindset, you can not only optimise your operations but also create more inclusive, innovative, and resilient workplaces. Yes, there are still concerns and challenges to address, but the groundswell is too big to ignore, the revolution too great to retreat from.

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