HR Automation

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HR Automation: Understanding the Limits of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been infiltrating the business world for the past several years and has also played a major role in HR automation. Today, companies across all industries are using AI to automate a variety of job tasks and replace human capital. And by the mid-2030s, PwC estimates, 30% of all jobs will be automated.

The COVID-19 pandemic only promises to accelerate this trend. Now more than ever, business units are looking to boost their efficiency and save money through automation ‒ and HR is no exception. Automation has the potential to help HR teams recruit, hire, and train employees — and many organizations already use AI-driven software to carry out these tasks.

At first glance, it might make sense to hand some of these repetitive responsibilities to computers instead of humans. But as the executive director of an organization that teaches tech skills and works with companies on talent solutions, I believe these HR functions should remain largely human-driven.

HR automation can — and often does — go awry. Amazon’s HR team experienced this back in 2018, when it was using an algorithm to automatically review résumés. Unbeknownst to them, their AI was penalizing job applicants whose résumés included the word “women.” This bias went on for a solid year before the company noticed, causing the elimination of countless qualified candidates.

This cautionary tale illustrates why HR teams should be wary when implementing automation into their workflows. After all, AI might look like an enticing, cost-effective tool for screening candidates and building teams. But it can also cause your company to waste time and resources.

The Invaluable Human Element in HR

HR is all about humans. It requires a level of knowledge, nuance, and critical thought that simply cannot be replicated by even the most sophisticated AI solutions. As this technology continues to evolve, HR practitioners must remain vigilant about their use of automation. They also must ensure they appropriately devote human minds to the tasks that require them.

Looking ahead, HR teams can play a key strategic role in helping their companies prepare for the automation revolution. Here are three ways they can do so:

1. Futurecast for the Workforce of Tomorrow

According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2020,” automation could displace 85 million jobs and create 97 million new jobs by 2025. No industry will be immune to this massive redistribution.

What skills will your company need one year from now, five years from now, and 10 years from now? HR professionals should steep themselves in market research and trends, and they should start proactively hiring for those skills today. Companies that conduct this analysis early and often will put themselves at a considerable advantage in the future.

2. Identify Opportunities (and Inevitabilities)

HR teams should keep a close eye on where automation is heading in their industries and how other companies are using this technology effectively. They should help their companies identify which positions are solid candidates for automation, which tasks should be driven by humans, and which jobs could be flat-out eliminated.

As jobs are automated and redistributed over time, companies will find themselves continually needing different skill sets across each department. HR practitioners should keep a watchful eye on how their teams are changing and continuously reassess the human skills that matter most. Creating and executing a reskilling program that trains existing employees in these skills will only serve your company well.

3. Evaluating Candidates for Reskilling and Upskilling

After developing an automation road map, HR teams can start reskilling and upskilling high-performing employees for the jobs of the future. First, they should identify adaptable workers who demonstrate a passion for learning new skills. They should encourage these individuals to pursue new roles after their jobs are automated, then provide them with learning opportunities.

This reskilling program must be crafted and carried out by human intelligence. It requires a series of interviews and heartfelt conversations, as well as a keen eye for soft skills. AI might be able to quickly sort through résumés and search for keywords. On some level, AI can also identify people who are qualified for the job — on paper. But AI cannot assess a candidate’s soft skills or persuade them to change their career path. Even newer technology that can detect facial expressions and vocal tones during video interviews cannot accurately assess a candidate’s fitness for a job. Traditional human-to-human interaction is the only way to uncover someone’s intangible attributes and their openness to reskilling.

HR Automation: Proceed with Caution

Automation remains poised to completely transform the industrial world. This incredible technology is forcing millions of companies to rethink their inner workings. It is exciting to imagine the multitude of ways companies can use AI to become smarter and more efficient. And yet businesses should proceed with caution when implementing it in the HR realm.

Team-building is a delicate process, and as we know, automation can present many drawbacks. Leaders must delegate vital HR tasks to human intelligence, not computer code. To help companies cope with the rise of automation, HR teams must use their critical thinking skills to assess the technological landscape, understand talent gaps, and identify opportunities for reskilling.