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When will HR be artificially intelligent?

The machines are coming! The machines are coming! Coming to take our jobs! Except, maybe not. Recent news articles from The Guardian, Business Insider and CNBC, among others, are predicting that artificial intelligence will create more jobs for people than it takes away (though probably not the same jobs, nor for the same people).

It’s all very confusing. Which leads us to HR and AI in businesses.

Intelligent HR

The option of HR automation has been there for ages, from the first computer-run payroll back in the 1950s and automatic tracking of employee attendance and hours, to the current sophisticated talent management systems that integrate performance data, succession planning and workforce learning and development.

HR automation, at its most fundamental, takes care of the repetitive, rules-based tasks in your people processes, allowing you to.

  • Free up HR time With the day to day procedures covered, your HR person (or people) has time for the more strategic, business-focused stuff.
  • Make fewer errors Those mundane, repetitive tasks – they’re the ones most prone to human error because let’s face it, we get bored. We have short attention spans compared to machines and software and that’s why automation means fewer mistakes.
  • Be consistent – If you have more than one office, more than one team, or even just more than one manager, then your people processes are probably being applied differently for different employees. In this scenario, automated processes mean fairness.

The future

But automation is just a single stepping stone. Elsewhere, AI is beginning to explode. One indicator is the amount of funding and investment in AI-related start-up businesses. In the UK, in the first two quarters of last year, a new AI company launched every week; that’s around £100M+ of investment. But what about HR technology? What might that look like in the near future?

  • Chatbots – You’ve seen those little pop-up windows on banking websites and the like, a friendly face to go with the friendly question: ‘How can I help you today?’ Soon, basic HR queries will be dealt with by the workplace equivalent of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.
  • Learning management – Workplace online training directories and course booking platforms could soon become ‘context-aware’ learning modules that review an individual’s performance and existing skills and experience, before making customised learning and development recommendations.
  • Virtual career coaches – One day, everyone could have their own workplace coach; an on-screen avatar capable of analyzing your knowledge and skill needs, combining them with your career goals and performance data and then offering feedback on how you’re doing, recommendations for future progression and even real-time interventions and support. Expect to see these in executive offices soon.
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