Yooma HR examines the reality of artificial intelligence’s impact on human resources

Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming for your job. Or is it? 

According to Eightfold.ai’s 2021 survey of human resource (HR) managers in the United States, almost 82% of human resources (HR) teams will adopt AI tools into their talent management processes between 2021 and 2025. Research by Deloitte also found that 38% of companies believe AI will be fully implemented within their businesses over the next five years. 

Artificial intelligence is impacting industries and companies worldwide. However, it doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom for human resources. The question is: how could artificial intelligence transform human resources? And, perhaps more importantly, will it transform HR negatively or positively? To answer this question, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

According to Investopedia, artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence in machines. These machines are programmed to rationalise and mimic human thought and actions to achieve a specific goal. They do this through automated statistical analysis.   

A significant point in the history of artificial intelligence came in 1950 when Alan Turing published a paper examining the mathematical probability of such a concept. The paper began with Turing announcing its goal: to answer the question, “Can machines think?” Back in the 1950s, computers did not have the capabilities to prove Turing right but fast forward to 1957, and there is an innovative program titled “The Logic Theorist”. This program initialised the proof of concept. 

More innovation, more computer storage, and many years later, we have the artificial intelligence we know today. Examples of modern-day artificial intelligence include Apple’s Smart Assistant Siri, autocorrect, facial recognition, e-payments, and chatbots. 

How Could AI Positively Transform Human Resources?

According to PWC, 54% of business executives say that artificial intelligence has increased productivity for their businesses. From automating tedious tasks to onboarding new staff, AI offers many benefits for human resources. These include:   

  • Increase efficiency. The majority of arguments for AI in human resources centre around efficiency. AI increases efficiency for human resources by making processes less labour intensive, thus saving employees’ time and energy, enabling them to focus on other tasks, and improving their accuracy.  

Efficiency is particularly beneficial within talent acquisition, where recruiters are swamped under an incredibly high volume of applications. AI can assist with all aspects of the process, from job posting to screening applicants and even identifying candidates most suited to the position. LinkedIn Talent Solutions published a report on how companies use AI to attract talent. The report identified that “saving time” was the most significant benefit in the recruiting process (67%). 

“AI can be very good at relieving the mundane, repetitive tasks of HR professionals,” says Michelle Brown, chief operating officer at Pinsight. She goes on to acknowledge the flip side of that coin. “But, often on the other side of that repetitive mundane task is a person in a high-stakes interaction about securing the job of their dreams or navigating confusing healthcare benefits for a sick family member.”

As Brown points out, HR managers must tread lightly when utilising AI for repetitive tasks. While it’s a benefit for the employer, it could also negatively impact employees who wish they could communicate directly with a human being instead of clicking their way through a form or system. It’s worth researching to find the right AI tools for your company’s needs – don’t neglect to consider the competence and availability of the customer support team, either. You might need them to set up the AI technology successfully or if technical issues arise.     

  • Avoid unconscious bias. AI does not – yet – possess the emotional nuances of a human being. This can be a great benefit regarding discrimination in the workplace and bias. AI is the answer for HR managers who wish to avoid unconscious bias, whether in hiring new talent or making day-to-day decisions. 

If you’re wondering if AI is a worthwhile effort in this situation, consider that in the United States alone, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 61,000 reports of discrimination in the workplace during 2021. In South Africa, Stats SA reported significant differences between the social protection given to men and the social protection given to women in the workplace. For more insights on this, read Stats SA’s report on how the labour market is more favourable to men than women

How Could AI Negatively Transform Human Resources?

There’s a lot of fear wrapped around AI in human resources. Have you ever wondered if you’ll lose your job to a machine? A survey by SAP Success Factors revealed that out of 1378 employees, 44% felt unsure about the impact of AI in the workplace. 26% were very concerned, and 25% felt fear.

The disadvantages of AI on human resources include:
  • Bias. Yes, although AI can remove bias, bias can also be incidentally “programmed in”. This is because human developers program AI’s algorithms. To quote Michelle Brown: “This opens up that key ethical dilemma in AI and concerning automated decisions, where we can encounter bias because algorithms are programmed by human developers from human decisions of the past and often with incomplete data sets.”

    “Whenever we’re talking about AI, there’s a big emphasis on efficiency, but my counterpoint to that is always, what about fairness?” says Dr. Caitlynn Sendra, an experienced product scientist at SAP Success Factors, to an audience of industrial and organisational psychologists. “As psychologists, I’m sure we all know that perception of fairness also matters.”
  • Cyber security risks. Cybercriminals can compromise AI systems by manipulating their datasets and even weaponise AI for social engineering attacks. For South Africa, this is particularly concerning as Surfshark revealed that South Africa is ranked 6th on a list of countries most affected by cybercrime.

    However, on the flip side, AI can also help to detect and defend against cybercrime. According to Forbes, AI algorithms can learn behavioural patterns and establish a baseline of normal behaviour. If something is amiss, AI can detect that change. 

What Does the Future Look Like for AI in Human Resources?

At its core, human resources is still fundamentally human. It will take time before human resource managers and teams are replaced entirely by AI machines – if they ever are, and the research suggests that is unlikely.

AI might appear to be a shiny new solution to inefficient processes, but employers considering introducing AI technologies must be prepared for some pushback. Employees could be apprehensive simply because they don’t understand the technology or how the decisions are made.

Transparent and ethical AI is key to a great employee experience, but it might take time for that information to be easily accessible and understood. Ultimately, we need to weigh the pros and cons of AI before we embrace the transformation AI will bring to human resources.

The Metaverse is another example of artificial intelligence at its most powerful. Read Yooma’s blog to learn how the Metaverse could impact your working environment.

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