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Four signs your HR department is ready for AI

AI is one of the many technologies that has seen continued investment during the pandemic and there are tell-tale signs that a HR department is ready for AI, even if you might not think it is.

AI is a technology that has been around for a long time already and has opened up many different avenues in the business world. However, despite the benefits, a recent Gartner study found that many organisations remain reluctant to apply AI, particularly in HR. In fact, only 17% of organisations are using AI-based solutions in their HR function. While the study suggests this trend will rise, with an additional 30% of organisations exploring AI in HR by 2022, it’s clear that HR remains behind on the use of this technology, missing out on the key benefits that AI can bring, not only to the department operations but also to their employees and the wider business too.

Choosing an AI-based solution for your organisation can be tough, especially when it is unclear how the technology can truly impact the business or what is required for the solution to be as effective as possible. The pandemic has allowed us to embrace all kinds of technology and we shouldn’t fear that change because it’s made us more agile in the long run. AI is one of the many technologies that has seen continued investment during the pandemic and there are tell-tale signs that a HR department is ready for AI, even if you might not think it is. So, if you’re on the fence about whether your organisation is prepared to take on AI, here’s a few signs that might just convince you:

  1. Data, data, data
    AI is nothing without data. It’s the fuel for the engine and is mandatory when it comes to building an AI solution and for technology to be affective. As well as having the data itself, it also needs to be in a format that AI understands although many AI solutions are capable of processing complicated data sets.

Of course, data is not straightforward. People data is especially complex, and organisations must tread carefully when dealing with personal details. Most people data tend to fall into two categories. The first is structured data which is data that occurs through quantifiable events, for example number of training courses employees have completed and attrition data. The second is textual, unstructured data from CVs, job profiles and performance reviews. Both of these data sets are large and varied and while the latter, textual, unstructured data comes in qualitative form, it can all be interpreted by AI as long as the AI solution is capable of asking the right questions and forming the right formulas so that it can make comparable data points.

The beauty of AI is that it also has the ability to learn and adapt the more data it is given, meaning that over time the solution becomes more robust to generate valuable insights. In addition, in many cases, AI software is trained by vendors in the global marketplace, allowing small businesses to benefit from their value.

So, if you’ve got the data, AI can handle the rest.

  1. The need to scale without increasing burden on the team
    The impact of the coronavirus crisis has accelerated digitalisation, with many organisations wanting to scale certain elements of the business to better serve current and future challenges. The fast changes brought by the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly highlighted the need for a rethink on skills with some organisations having to pivot operations while others are having to dramatically change their plans. These business changes require a workforce with new skills or updated skills, and this had to happen quickly and continuously.

Traditional skills matching techniques involve a lot of time and people power – think about the time it takes sifting through CVs, for example. But as skills and skills matching become more prominent and companies want to scale up, traditional techniques become less productive and more of a burden for the team. Plus, the time is takes for teams to do admin tasks, means that there is less time for value-added tasks that have much more impact on the wider organisations. By transferring the responsibility of tasks such as data input and data analysis to AI, teams are able to better spend their time and resources elsewhere.

Allowing AI to find the skills gaps in your organisation, for example, means that teams can spend more time plugging the gap instead.

  1. Improving relationships between managers and employees
    Managers play a crucial role in employees’ workplace happiness and with remote working remaining in place for organisations across the world, having a continuous, high-quality relationship with your manager remains a high priority for employees. Maintaining a relationship virtually can be challenging, and the pandemic adds lots of external pressures – like childcare, health concerns, mental health, and more – which adds to the challenges for managers already pulled in multiple directions. AI has the ability to strengthen these relationships by equipping managers to have more meaningful data-driven conversations, particularly around development and future career paths.

Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL), for example, discovered how AI was able to support meaningful conversations with employees using an AI skills ontology to identify the skills that were most important for roles both currently and over the next six to 12 months. When matching these skills with the workforce, employees felt that they were finally being understood and the company was interested in their personal growth. As the AI solution progressed and became smarter, it could recommend additional skills and learning courses to help drive their careers further and managers were better equipped to conduct more meaningful and personal performance reviews.

While AI’s initial role is to gather, compare and contrast insights, it can be applied as a human-centric tool because of the impact it has on people, especially in terms of personal development, training and learning.

  1. Futureproofing your people and the organisation
    Since the pandemic struck, preparing for future challenges has never been a more important message for organisations. All industries adapted in one way or another, some changing the way their organisation operates forever and it’s the organisations that are able take on learnings that will be able to face future challenges.

The pandemic has changed people’s perspectives on the world and organisations have taken a particular hit depending on their response to the crisis and whether they’ve put their people first or not. The likes of Airbnb, for example, were forced to make redundancies due to the decline in tourism last year and the CEO made a public statement praising the work of its employees during the pandemic, and ensured that their skillset would be valuable, wherever they went next.

Even as organisations continue to weather the pandemic storm, employees and skills development must remain at the heart of the strategy. As we’ve seen with DPDHL, AI has the ability to make predictions on what skills will matter in the future, while still giving employees control on their career choices. By using AI, organisations not only have a better vision of what the future might demand, but they can also plan and prepare in order to meet those demands.

There has never been a better time to adopt AI solutions in the workplace. Organisations have already shown their agility and resilience in the past year and in some ways are already ready to take on new challenges and technologies such as AI. It’s important to remember that the capabilities of AI go beyond functional, they can have a huge positive impact on people too and while you might be thinking your organisation isn’t quite ready for AI in the HR department, every organisation involves people in one way or another and its people that can make AI show its real potential in the workplace.

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