With spending on cognitive and Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems expected to reach US$77.6 billion by 2022 (more than three times the US$24 billion forecast for last year), South African companies would do well to consider its impact on their existing and future systems. Its potential in traditionally people-driven processes such as human resources (HR) is significant.
Nearly half of respondents in a 2018 Deloitte survey say that their organisations are deeply involved in automation projects, with 24% using AI and robotics to perform routine tasks, 16% to augment human skills, and 7% to restructure work entirely. It is therefore not a case of ‘if’ AI is embraced in the workplace, but rather ‘when’ it happens and to what extent a business will leverage it to streamline operations.
AI can fundamentally change how a business manages its workforce to increase productivity and employee engagement. At a most basic level, AI can automate the admin-intensive function of reading and evaluating applications for new positions.
Research done in the US indicates that the average time spent by recruiters looking at a resume varies from five to seven seconds. Using AI to review CV’s can eliminate 75% of applications with the balance to be scrutinised by HR departments and the relevant managers. This streamlines the recruitment process significantly.
Once appointed, AI can assist new employees not only with their onboarding (that can be customised on an individual level), but it can also enhance training and skills development. Using Machine Learning, HR can plan, organise, and coordinate training programmes across the organisation with very little (if any) human intervention required based on the unique skills required by the individual.
Another example of how AI is transforming the HR landscape is IBM Watson. This AI environment uses cognitive engines that take over much of the admin-intensive tasks of HR departments. Things like annual leave requests, sick leave, determining an employee’s mental state (and recommending that person to take leave from work if they feel stressed) are all managed automatically by the system. This leaves HR staff free to deliver more strategic value to the organisation.
Advanced data visualisations and built-in intelligence provide an in-depth view of HR processes and workforce activity in one dashboard through interactive charts and visual graphs which measure, report and analyse relevant industry metrics.
Additionally, the Deloitte study shows that AI provides people with invaluable skills and capabilities they previously did not have access to. For example, Airbus and Nissan are finding ways to use robots alongside workers in factories. Walmart recently deployed virtual reality technology to improve in-store training by simulating customer environments. All these elements enhance the work experience and empower employees to be better at their jobs and improve customer service.
By doing things like automating business processes, AI can reduce the perceived bias often associated with HR departments. This can happen subconsciously and take the form of discrimination based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, religious status and disability status. Seeing as AI decisions are made using sophisticated algorithms based on big data, analysis, and other insights, the HR function can now remove this negative association almost entirely.
AI is here to stay and can significantly enhance job functions across the organisation. Its ability to supplement the experience of HR professionals can help transform the business for the better. However, it does require a willingness from executives to embrace the technology in new and innovative ways. Even then, AI (just like any other technology) is not a silver bullet that can radically transform the business. It becomes part of a bigger process as companies push for change.
HR Workforce Management
Rousseau Kluever, Senior Client Partner at Decision Inc, looks at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the human resources department.