The HR Function of the Future – How Artificial Intelligence is going to impact your job
If you want to see the HR Function of the future pop down to Amazon and buy yourself an Echo Dot. For less than $50 you will get your first glimpse of how HR is going to be disrupted by Artificial Intelligence (AI). If you thought your life had been disrupted by your Smartphone or your Ipad think again. The real change will come when Alexa moves from your living room to your office. Within a few years she will be your very own personal assistant. Who knows, one day she may be your boss – so folks, I suggest you get to know her pretty quickly!
Let me explain. For those of you not familiar with Amazon’s Alexa, she is a voice-activated device that is constantly listening and is always at your beck and call. Already she can play any music you want, tune in to any radio station, answer millions of pointless questions, call your friends, control your heating and TV, create shopping lists and so much more.
But this Alexa is just the beginning. Amazon are already working on Alexa for business and, get this, even a version where you don’t even have to speak out loud – you just say the command in your head and Alexa detects what you are saying. This is not science fiction. This is science fact.
So how could AI (think a souped-up Alexa for business) impact the HR Function. Here are just some of the changes coming down the turnpike.
AI will provide the deep-dive data to focus the recruitment process. Resumes will be scanned to identify the most attractive candidates based on proven data analytics. What factors in a candidate’s background are most likely to lead to a successful hire? The hidden biases that we all have to guard against will be a thing of the past – AI will tell us who to interview based on proven data analytics not subjective prejudices.
Actually, Alexa may one day even conduct the interview for us. Certainly she will select the questions and pick up on any discrepancies in candidate answers far more effectively than we can. It’s not here yet, but a webcam enabled AI recruitment tool will surely be available shortly.
Who knows, in the office of the future we may not even meet the candidate until the day they turn up to work.
The on-boarding (and pre-boarding) experience will also be very different. The new recruit will be offered an online portal that provides hyper-local and truly personalized data. Think of an online buddy who will tell the new hire what working for your company is really like – where are the best areas to live, what sort of accommodation to choose and where to shop, drink, socialize and even go jogging. None of this is science fiction. In fact the company where I am proud to be Strategy Director (Benivo) already offers this service to over 50 major global multinationals. The technology is out there and hyper-local is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception. We call it Welcome as a Service. Visit us at www.benivo.com to see the future.
AI will also monitor the pre-boarding tasks undertaken by the new recruits. Data analytics will warn the employer which recruits are likely to fall by the wayside based on how efficient they are in completing the various on-boarding tasks on a timely basis.
You may be amazed to know that as many as 10% of new graduates do not turn up to work on the first day (often because they have accepted a better job offer elsewhere). AI will analyze trends to warn you which employees are at most risk of being no-shows.
AI will handle vacation requests. As you submit a request, technology will advise whether your request is likely to be approved based on predictive workflows. You may even be incented to take vacation at certain times of the year – for example by offering a weeks vacation for 4 days at certain times of the year or conversely making 5 days cost 6 days at other times. This vacation pricing would be fluid and will change by demand in the same way that airlines alter pricing in real time.
Feedback will also be instantaneous and delivered in real-time. Alexa (or one of her siblings) will be listening to your client calls. After the call, Alexa will provide feedback on how you handled the call and give advice on what follow up you should do. In fact, Alexa will probably offer you advice before the call and perhaps even suggest the best time of day to make that all-important sales call.
Alexa will be listening to the tone of your call. If you sound tired or stressed, she may suggest you take a vacation or perhaps just gently suggest you have a quick trip to the water-cooler to de-stress before your next call. Who knows, she may even make that call for you. And guess what, the person on the other end may be Alexa’s sister!
Many aspects of HR operations will be voice activated. Standard processes will be fully automated. For example, you may just have to say “Alexa, prepare a job offer letter for candidate X, or an assignment letter for candidate Y” and the job will be done. Visas and work permits could be renewed automatically without any human intervention.
Learning & Development
AI will also be heavily involved in the talent management and learning & development areas. Obviously, more and more courses will be based on intuitive cognitive technology and many will be virtual reality based.
But that is just the start. The Alexa (or similar AI device) in your office will be listening in to every conversation and monitoring ever email and keystroke. It will then identify your training needs. Based on your business activity (and indeed inactivity) it may recommend sales courses, interview training, technical training and so much more. Think of it as having an online mentor sitting in on every meeting, every telephone call and reading every email.
AI may even help you write those emails (or write them for you). Think predictive text on steroids!!
Performance and Reward
Given that Alexa has been listening in to every conversation, who better to undertake your performance review. Forget six-monthly reviews, AI appraisals could be instantaneous either on demand or on a daily basis. Or even in real time! Your performance will be constantly tracked and any improvements or deteriorations highlighted. Peer determined data analytics will set the benchmark and Alexa will predict when you are ready for promotion or, more alarmingly, when you may need that difficult conversation about poor performance.
Reward is another obvious category for AI disruption. Salary bands and scales can all be set through deep dive date analytics and individual salaries allocated based both on market value and individual performance. Salary surveys will be automated and instantaneous as industry groupings share data seamlessly.
AI will also help with the design of incentive plans. Data analytics will predict which incentives are most likely to achieve the desired results as efficiently and effectively as possible and bonus plans may be tweaked on an ad hoc basis as and when the AI algorithm suggests performance incentives need to be tweaked.
If all this sounds like hell, then don’t worry Alexa will also be there for you! With every keystroke being monitored and every conversation being overheard, Alexa will know (perhaps even before you do), when you are thinking of moving on.
Once again this is not science fiction. US company Veriato already has an AI platform that is designed to single out employees that may be heading for the exit door. It reviews your online activity and uses an algorithm to analyse your data against a baseline of normal activity. Based on that knowledge it flags outliers and can predict which employees may be thinking of leaving.
Where does that leave me?
Change is the only constant in life but the speed of change is now accelerating at an ever-faster rate. In fact some commentators have predicted that change is now happening at a rate faster than human’s ability to adapt to that change. In short, we are living in scary times.
There is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence will revolutionize both the workplace and the HR function itself. Indeed it already is. Jobs will be lost in much the same way as they always have been. When I started work we had a word-processing pool and a telex department – you don’t see many of them today. Skills disappear – again how many people today can do 100 words of shorthand per minute – but are replaced by new skills.
The jobs that will be lost first are those that are repetitive and which can be replicated through machine learning, even if the jobs are themselves highly skilled. Take for example, the hospital radiographer who writes a report based on your ultrasound scan. That highly skilled job will be lost to an AI machine which will compare your scan to a database of thousands and write a far more incisive report in a fraction of a second.
Similarly, within the HR function many routine jobs will be lost. The good news however is that many more jobs will be created to deal with the strategic and ethical issues that AI brings. For example, who sets the criteria that determines which algorithms are adopted, who maintains the balance between data and privacy, who handles the more subjective issues of exception management and above all, who knows when to switch Alexa off !
(originally published on LinkedIn: The HR Function of the Future – How Artificial Intelligence is going to impact your job)
Brian Friedman is a visiting professor at ESCP Europe (the oldest established business school in the world) and is Strategy Director at Benivo. Prior to that Brian was the Founder of The Forum for Expatriate Management and Managing Partner of EY’s Human Capital practice