Hiring the correct individual is key for organisations because the right talent adds value to the business. When I was a manager hiring new staff, I made great effort to provide accurate job descriptions and identify the skills needed to fill various roles. Recruitment felt like more of an art than a science. Fortunately, and more often than not, I hired the right individual.
However, the traditional hiring process has evolved. It is no longer the job of one person or one small HR team to hire on behalf of the entire organisation. Before a recruitment exercise starts, discussions are now held between the various business units and HR managers to specify job skills and the type of candidates required. This is followed by advertising for positions, then sorting through resumés and identifying potential candidates, and then conducting interviews. It is a time-consuming, tedious and paper-intensive process.
Thanks to technology, HR transformation is underway. Technology is changing HR into a tech-savvy department. Cloud-based human capital management software, for example, has the ability to ease the hiring process, conduct onboarding activities, manage compensation and annual leave, and so much more on behalf of HR teams – in a faster and more efficient way.
Will AI replace traditional HR functions?
As described above, HR processes are paper- and data-intensive. Each process ranging from recruitment and onboarding to compensation and talent development involves tedious data collection and record keeping. Nothing is better at skilfully and accurately ploughing through reams of data than AI and machine learning.
Let me explain. Job seekers find it easy to go online to apply for multiple jobs, especially with the emergence of several digital job platforms or ‘marketplaces’. Organisations are therefore hit by a deluge of applications and resumes. With AI recruitment, a variety of solutions, such as chatbots, virtual assistants and AI-enabled ‘sourcers’, are available to help recruiters go through the applications faster and more efficiently. For example, AI can help to identify candidates across several job platforms, filter out the most qualified ones, screen them and narrow down the interview pool before communicating with the candidates and internal resources in natural language to lock down interview schedules.
HR teams powered by AI and machine learning solutions can have access to employee data that they can quickly analyse to surface fresh insights on employee behaviour and obtain real-time and accurate performance assessments for business managers.
So, the greatest impact AI and machine learning will have on HR are in two key areas:
- Large volumes of repetitive, routine, and time-consuming tasks that are not yet automated and still operated by people, will be made more efficient
- Deriving insights from massive amounts of unstructured data and data sources, which are difficult or humanly impossible for HR teams to aggregate and comprehensively analyse on their own
Cloud Computing + AI = HR Transformation
HR transformation will be aided by the emergence of cloud-based human capital management software, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics. They provide organisations with the computing power and the ability to survive and thrive in today’s competitive business era.
Cloud computing offers faster deployment and management. As a result, HR managers do not have to be concerned with any software and security updates and maintenance as they will be automatically handled. These tools can be procured based on a pay-as-you-use model, which means that organisations can add new HR requirements as they grow – without paying a large upfront fee.
From the employee perspective, cloud- and AI-powered HR has several benefits. Employees can access personal information about pay and benefits anytime and anywhere through self-service portals. All of this is done in real-time and without the hassle from traditional practices, thereby freeing up the time of HR professionals to focus on more strategic issues.
Ensuring the effective use of cloud- and AI-powered HR software
During a recruitment exercise, HR managers can unconsciously introduce biases, such as targeting only graduates of a specific university or selecting individuals of a certain ethnicity. AI and machine learning tools are neutral and can avoid such instances of unconscious bias.
AI-powered recruitment tools can process a larger pool of candidates, enhancing the chances of greater diversity and to quickly identify qualified prospects without bias. This leads to fairness and greater efficiency in the overall HR process in recruitment, as well as talent promotion and development.
Based on workforce data, AI can identify qualified job candidates from a pool of applicants and then compare it against the ones human recruiters and managers would shortlist from the same pool. This can be used to highlight discrepancies that might be caused by bias. These findings can then provide a basis for the recruiters’ retraining, hence increasing their awareness of any potential and actual favouritism or prejudice.
Beyond recruitment, AI can provide quality control for a talent assessment process by improving the performance of the humans who are making the promotion decisions. Business leaders undertake talent promotion and development exercises based on their knowledge of the people working for them. The insights are often subjective as not all employees have equal visibility with leadership or have access to management “sponsors” who can drive more awareness regarding their achievements and skills.
AI can therefore play the role of an ‘equaliser’, guiding companies to avoid promoting individuals that are “like them”, leading to improved diversity in the workforce and reducing bias in decision-making around promotions and leadership potential. AI analysis of behavioural questionnaires can guide this process to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
AI-based assessment can also combine advanced neuroscience and data-driven techniques to analyse candidate responses for job suitability. Based on a growing body of data, AI can “learn” over time to better predict a candidate’s degree of job fit and future performance. Such an application enables HR mangers to better evaluate candidates’ and employees’ skills, experience and other specified criteria.
AI’s predictive capability can even help talent retention. The technology can more effectively identify matches for promotions and internal job opportunities from existing talent by predicting a candidate’s ability to perform a specific skill or succeed in a specific role. The result could be better opportunities for existing talent to advance and the opportunity to reduce both turnover rates and cost-to-hire.
Talent retention and development are vital issues for organisations. Companies can use AI to model future-state scenarios for their business and then design development paths that will allow people to perform in future jobs, even for roles that are yet to be defined.
SuccessFactors in the use of AI tools for HR
Various AI HR tools are already in the market. One emerging area is machine learning being used in the recruitment sourcing cycle to bring together potential candidates and job vacancies. This helps reduce cost-per-hire and time-to-fill.
We can already expect AI to scout for the best candidates, matching them to an organisation’s available roles. But AI will be able to eventually take the process further by approaching matched candidates via automation, almost acting as a corporate recruiter or headhunter.
SAP SuccessFactors, for example, provides cloud-based software and has leading AI HR channel partners equipped with not only technology expertise but domain knowledge in HR best practices and consulting skills to understand, recommend and implement the right HR solution for each organisation.
Among SAP SuccessFactors’ key features for recruitment is the Job Analyser, where AI and machine learning provide recruiters with market data on competitive jobs, skills and salary information. Recruiters can review the “hireability” of their employees for redeployment before they recruit externally, identify workforce availability by geography, and even support diversity efforts by scanning for gender biased language in job descriptions. This information will help a recruiter recommend potential adjustments to a job advertisement to ensure a high quality and timely hire.
This software can also provide a digital assistant, which lets users instantly access information and take action by speaking. The assistant learns and evolves over time and provides a personalised experience to each HR professional.
AI the aid, but not the panacea for HR pains
To ensure that AI and machine learning tools are used correctly, HR managers must get the process correct. Their critical skills must include an understanding of AI and machine learning – the technologies’ advantages and limitations – to be able to offer visibility and ‘explainability’ regarding what is being evaluated and how an evaluation was derived. They must then ensure that the correct data is collected, and that the right data integration and evaluation tools are being used. These are key considerations because they are components used in writing AI and machine learning algorithms.
Another key success factor for HR transformation, is transparency, and HR must ensure that the workforce understands that the AI HR framework is fair and equitable.
Ultimately, technology is not a panacea for HR or recruiting pains. It is an aid.
AI will be increasingly used in HR but there will continue to be HR managers who are still needed for face-to-face employee engagement. The strength of AI is its ability to offer a win-win situation – which is to better empowers both candidates and employees to find a job or career path that meets their aspirations, and enable HR and business leaders to meet their organisations’ growth objectives.