When we hear the words AI and robots, we tend to think of science fiction, factories and, dare I say it, Terminator and the fear that the computers will take over. The truth is AI and automation are already part of our everyday lives and have been for some time.
Ever used Google maps to give directions? Clicked on recommended products in Amazon? Had a chat with a chatbot whilst looking for advice on a company website? We all know that there isn’t a person behind the screen plotting routes, finding other things we might want to buy or responding to our questions in an odd-but helpful kind of way, but did we really think of this in the same category? Probably not, and that’s not surprising given the gradual way these technologies have seamlessly embedded themselves into daily life.
Now, what does that mean for HR practitioners? The concern here is that a function already seen as admin and compliance based will become even more distant from employees. Also, let’s be honest, no HR professional wants conversations about policies and how to book holidays replaced with formulaic answers from the company chat bot. Learning and Development practitioners will never see Netflix style learning recommendations as a substitute for valuable time spent discussing career goals and training catalogues with colleagues. Recruiters need to talk to candidates so they can discuss the role, assess fit and give a great experience, not sift through piles of applications from an automated application.
But, in today’s time-poor world, why is this the case? Deep down, HR are not technophobes or 21st century luddites too afraid to embrace the Digital Revolution. We like smart phones and online shopping and the fact that Netflix can advise us on what to watch next when we are too tired to work it out ourselves. No, it’s because we recognise that the value of our role lies in the relationships that we build across the business. The advice, guidance and challenges we give allow the organisation to grow and improve as an environment for our employees to thrive.
So how do we implement this technology in a way that allows us to have our cake and eat it (i.e. cut out the valueless admin and give more time to spend on the value add)? The answer is to ask the people we work for, our employees. In the past HR *might* have been guilty of implementing systems and designing processes that make our lives easier. Instead we should look to:
Change the focus. When looking at adopting AI or Automation in your organisation, don’t view this technology as an inevitable thing that “you have to do because progress” but as a tool to make work life better.
View the whole process from start to end. Challenge every interaction with your stakeholders to say, “how can I make this the best way to recruit/train/advise my employees ever?”
Automate the admin. No one has ever said “Oh I can’t wait to fill out that form”
Most importantly, do not forget to look after yourself. Retrain your team to make the most of the technology you adopt. If the employee experience is going to change, so is your role, so make sure you understand the solution, can correct the errors and interrogate the data that will be produced.
Done properly, AI and Automation will make HR the people focused, insight driven department we’ve always wanted to be, the complete opposite of robotic.