The COVID-19 crisis catapulted HR departments into the
It transformed the function into a strategic business partner to employers grappling with problems including how to enable their people to work at home, and how to ensure their wellbeing in the new era of remote working.
Fast-forward four years and HR has retained its seat at the C-Suite table, suggesting that the easing of the pandemic did not solve those problems.
The crux of this re-evaluation is that people no longer just want a salary from their employers. They’re looking for more.
Yes, pay remains important, but for many it isn’t
enough on its own. People want to feel that they do meaningful work that contributes to society.
Moreover, many are no longer prepared to waste time and money commuting when they are productive enough at home. And many choose not to work overtime and risk burnout for employers they feel don’t care about them.
In this context, businesses have had to lean on the HR function for support.
This has led to some improvements. For example, there has
been progress on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace. The same goes for wellbeing and career development.
Then, in November 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT, firing a cannonball into the world of work. Employees began to worry about job security, while firms grappled with balancing the potential productivity gains with security concerns.
A year on from ChatGPT’s launch, it’s time to reflect on HR’s position in the business and determine what influence the function has had on employers’ discussions about the
use of AI.
HR, AI and the future of work
AI was the main topic of conversation at the recent Workday Rising EMEA conference in Barcelona, which UNLEASH attended.
When we asked the question: “Does HR have a
seat at the AI table?” Workday executives gave much the same answer.
The software giant’s senior vice-president of strategic customer engagements in EMEA, Carolyn
Horne, explained how HR tech and transformation has become a hot topic not only for CHROs, but also for CEOs.
Workday’s chief responsible AI officer, Kelly Trindel, added: “I’ve seen that change since I started working on HR and AI. HR teams are switched on – and they’re coming to the C-suite with solutions.”
HR departments have been quick to acknowledge the benefits of AI, according to research by Gartner, while the function has also been applying the technology to its own work, meaning that it’s acting as its own case study.
Jin Yan, an economist at Revelio Labs, tells UNLEASH that AI is already starting to automate the repetitive elements of many HR jobs. But it is doing more than that by helping HR practitioners to focus on the more human aspects of their work.
“AI can also help HR teams predict talent needs by analysing turnover trends and build a more proactive recruiting practice,” Yan notes.
“For existing employees, AI can help HR teams build more personalized career development programs and improve employee engagement using data-backed insights.”
Helen Poitevin, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner,
writes in an UNLEASH OpEd that HR is influencing employers’ implementations of AI to ensure that it’s rolled out safely and responsibly.
Gartner’s research indicates that 60% of HR leaders are already participating in companywide discussions in this area.
Ultimately, businesses stand to learn a lot from HR about how AI will shape the future of work. Those that give the function no voice here do so at their peril.
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