Artificial Intelligence: Keeping the Human in HR

The first human resources department was created in 1901 by the National Cash Register Company. It was formed after a personnel strike and was basically a defensive branch of the organization meant to fend off risks. The department was responsible for record keeping, employee safety, payroll, and handling grievances.

Today, the role of HR professionals has expanded exponentially to include a wide array of duties, including:

  • Hiring, transferring, promoting, and terminating employees
  • Maintaining and explaining human resources policies, procedures, and laws
  • Processing new hire paperwork
  • Informing applicants of job duties, responsibilities, benefits, working conditions, promotion opportunities, etc.
  • Addressing complaints or harassment allegations
  • Managing the hiring process, such as posting job listings, reviewing resumes, performing interviews, handling background checks, and so on

Beyond these regular tasks, a company may have on staff an HR Specialist responsible for additional duties such as workforce planning, training and development, compensation analysis, employee performance and improvement planning, employee and labor relations, and risk management.

Artificial Intelligence

Many of HR’s responsibilities are routine processes, which is part of the reason that artificial intelligence (AI) is discussed so often within the field. Turning over these rote activities to AI means freeing up our HR professionals for more intensive activities which can improve employee/employer relationships, increase learning and growth, and ensure that success is within reach of each individual worker as well as the organization itself.

Recruiting, for example, involves an excessive amount of time simply sifting through resumes. Finding the right candidate can seem like an endless cycle of reading resumes, interviewing candidates, and performing background checks – all of which may never uncover a true match for the role.

According to a study by The Ladders, hiring managers and recruiters only spend six seconds looking at each resume. Using an eye tracking technique, evidence shows that professional recruiters were primarily weeding out job hoppers, focusing on whether the applicant meets educational requirements, and determining a candidate’s career progression. “It’s a snap decision,” says Will Evans, head of user experience at The Ladders. Evans was also responsible for the study.

A full-page resume, when done right, can be a fount of information for a potential employer. Yet recruiters are spending a mere six seconds reviewing that resource. And with the sheer quantity of candidates, it seems unlikely that they could ever truly benefit from the full content available in each resume they receive. At least not if they intend on hiring a new employee in a reasonable timeframe. However, with the help of AI, HR professionals can reduce a pile of resumes to a short list of matches for the role in a matter of minutes.

Beyond the resume, AI helps with other recruitment activities, including assessing a candidate’s online presence, matching him or her to the company culture, and ensuring an overall fit with the role.

“AI offers a host of new capabilities for HR departments, such as decoding video interviews to determine cognitive ability, identifying workers’ career options, and training managers to improve their leadership skills,” says Richard Coombes, Deloitte’s leader of HR transformation. “It also gives HR teams the opportunity to offer an always-on, personalized, concierge-type service to their organizations, which would not otherwise be viable.”

Keeping the Human in HR

Artificial intelligence offers a myriad of capabilities that can improve results and speed up processes in the HR department. It can:

  • Review resumes faster, decreasing time to hire
  • Increase productivity and retention by hiring more qualified candidates
  • Reduce hiring biases
  • Improve onboarding from managing paperwork to answering new hire questions
  • Write improved job descriptions for open roles
  • Improve employee engagement by scheduling meetings and coaching employees
  • Increase efficiency and save time for HR professionals

Sure, AI can take on a lot of tasks formerly handled by the HR department, but AI can’t replace HR employees entirely. AI manages tasks which center around data processing or repetition. It can improve both speed and accuracy of such activities, making it a highly effective tool for HR departments. However, it cannot replace the “human” side of human resources.

HR managers know their employees and understand the company in ways that cannot be machine taught. They are capable of reviewing the resumes of a select few candidates and performing face-to-face interviews in order to determine the best fit in the organization. They can personally recommend specific classes, training sessions, or team-building activities to improve employee engagement.

With AI involved in the department, HR members can grow in the personalized opportunities within the role, shaping company culture and brand, better understanding employees’ needs, and addressing potential issues in the workplace. AI can improve HR functions in ways that humans cannot. But a computer – regardless of its programming – cannot take over the role of the HR department; it only makes it more manageable – and more intelligent.

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