The buzz around generative artificial intelligence (AI) – and AI in general – is everywhere, but is HR ready?
As organizations develop their policies for the effective, safe, and ethical use of AI, getting ahead of its potential benefits and risks should be high on the to-do list of HR professionals.
The current state of AI and automation
Here at Valoir, we recently conducted a global survey of more than 1000 workers across industries and job types to understand the potential for AI and automation and how much of work has already been automated.
We found that workers have automated an average of 20% of their work tasks in the past two years, with low-code and no-code platforms and AI.
The data also showed that employees in HR roles are far more likely than their peers (with the exception of those in IT roles) to have experimented with AI.
76% of HR employees have tried AI either at home or at work – nearly twice as many as their coworkers in sales, and more than twice as many as their peers in customer service.
This is good news, as experimentation and a practical understanding of the potential and limitations of AI is key to understanding how it will change the work lives of your employees.
AI’s potential for job replacement
Our study also explored AI’s potential to automate or replace the work day.
We asked employees how much of their work day they spent on 13 common activities that could be automated or replaced by AI.
Examples include reading and responding to e-mails, managing scheduling, and entering data, as well as activities that had low automation potential, such as creative thinking.
The data showed that the opportunity for AI-driven automation in HR is 35% (slightly less than the average opportunity for all workers).
This is largely because those in HR roles spend more time in virtual and in-person meetings than their peers in other job roles.
Although it’s likely that AI will enable shorter and more efficient meetings in the future, person-to-person interactions will still be a key part of HR’s role.
The key opportunities for generative AI-driven automation in HR today are in:
- Talent acquisition. AI can help generate job descriptions and employee profiles.
- Performance management. AI can help managers and employees draft performance reviews, and help HR with automated summarization of feedback gathered in the performance review process.
- General HR. AI can draft knowledge base articles and survey questions, and update benefit and other documents.
Clearly there’s a lot of potential for generative AI in HR, but there are also clearly risks.
HR will want to keep a human in the loop for the foreseeable future.
The department will also need to look to solutions that have secure data retrieval, dynamic grounding, toxicity detection, and zero retention capabilities to reduce the risk of hallucinations and toxicity and ensure data security.
Addressing the human factors
Beyond the technical capabilities of the solution, it’s important to remember that human factors are the ones most likely to get organizations into trouble with AI.
The good news is that HR’s role as the steward of sensitive data has already prepared HR teams for dealing with data for AI.
And HR can play a key role in helping define policies and practices for how AI can be applied to maximize outcomes and reduce risk.
Here are some things to be considering:
1. Rethinking your training strategy
Now’s the time to start looking at your onboarding and training processes and redesigning them for future roles that are AI assisted.
The good news is that AI is likely to reduce overall training time and time to full productivity for employees in a number of roles.
In a recent study we found that early adopters of AI in customer service, for example, were able to reduce average training time for agents by an average of 30%.
The challenge is in creating training that teaches employees to how to leverage AI assistants effectively and use critical thinking to recognize and avoid toxicity or hallucinations – which is far more difficult than training them on manual processes and tasks.
2. Thinking of AI as an assistant, not a replacement
Whether you’re thinking about the application of AI in HR or more broadly across the organization, recognize that the fear of being replaced is real.
Workers across all roles have concerns about being replaced, and when we asked them what share of their co-workers they believed could be replaced in the next two years.
HR employees believed that nearly two-thirds of their peers could be replaced – the highest percentage of any cohort.
However, even the cohort with the least expectation of replacement, customer service employees, believed nearly a third of their peers would be replaced by AI.
Training employees on how they can focus on higher-level, more rewarding activities, reduce busywork, and leverage AI for their personal benefit will be an important consideration in your change management strategy.
3. Creating clear, consistent policies for the ethical use of AI
Although your compliance and legal peers will be focused on AI policies that protect against regulatory and other liability, HR can focus on the human aspect of AI policy focused on trust.
Establishing policies now that embrace the opportunities for AI value while protecting employees, customers, and the organization can ensure you maximize value while minimizing risk.
HR’s track record with vetting technology vendors’ standard for data privacy and security can be brought to the table for AI vendor decisions as well.
4. Getting your data house in order
Now is the time to inventory not just HR data but all your operational, financial, and customer data to ensure you can take advantage of AI.
Obviously the greater the volume and accuracy of data, the greater the likelihood you can effectively train AI models.
As regulations around AI develop, data hygiene and visibility will be important for taking advantaging of the rapidly-evolving AI space while ensuring compliance and customer and employee trust.
4. Identify some quick wins
HR can lead by example by identifying opportunities where assisted authoring can drive efficiency and productivity while making it easier for managers and employees to find the information they need and complete HR-related tasks.
5. Pick a trusted vendor
Ultimately the successful adoption of AI comes down to trust.
Although the technology you select is important, so is trusting your vendors’ approach to models and data grounding, commingling, and retention.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you get answers you understand and are comfortable with.
Beyond all the hype, there are real opportunities for AI to drive efficiency and employee productivity in HR and beyond.
AI will have a greater impact on the ways humans work than any technology before it.
Recognizing the human factors around AI adoption, and taking the lead in beginning those conversations, is not just HR’s responsibility.
It is a prime opportunity for HR to take the lead in building the next-generation workforce and a next-level employee experience.
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