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Human resources (HR) is an area that is ripe for automation, and in particular, the kind of automation made possible by artificial intelligence (AI). HR, after all, is a cost center at most organizations, which means organizations are always looking for ways to keep costs as low as possible.

And yet, HR is rife with complex, time-consuming processes that, so far, have required the unique logic and intuitive thinking that only humans can provide.

A New World

But all that is changing with the newest generations of AI-driven HR platforms. Globality’s Sonia Mathai notes that everything from hiring and onboarding to scheduling and benefits management, and all the way to termination and access control, AI is creating a new brand of HR that is leaner, more accurate, and less costly than traditional HR.

For one thing, she says, AI-driven HR is available 24/7, delivering user-friendly services via fully conversational chatbots that provide immediate responses to most questions with no wait-listing. At the same time, AI can provide a more personalized experience due to its access to real-time data. And as seen with AI in other business units, all of this allows human reps to shed the rote, repetitive aspects of the job to focus on more creative, strategic solutions to endemic issues.

HR is such an important function at most companies that it should not be deployed lightly or haphazardly, according to Thirdera CIO Jeff Gregory. In a recent interview with Venture Beat, he pointed out that HR acts as the “steward of a company” and maintains the pulse of the health and development of employees. So it must consistently present the right information even when employees do not ask the right questions. For this reason, AI must learn the ins and outs of HR processes and resource utilization just like any employee, which is why it is best for it to start small and then work its way up to more complicated and consequential functions.

Be careful that AI doesn’t get you into legal trouble as well, says Eric Dunleavy, director of litigation and employment services at DCI Consulting Group, and Michelle Duncan, an attorney with Jackson Lewis. It’s one thing to use AI to prescreen applications, evaluate interviews, and mine social media. It’s quite another to have it decide who gets hired or promoted, particularly with the numerous examples of AI showing bias in regards to race, gender, age, and other factors. In the end, it is up to the company to ensure that all employees, whether human or digital, abide by established laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Crunching Numbers

Perhaps the most profound impact AI will have on HR is in analytics, rather than hiring or employee self-service tools. At its heart, HR is a numbers game, according to Erik van Vulpen, founder of the AIHR Academy, and AI is a whiz with numbers. For instance, AI can delve deep into turnover data to divine why employees are leaving and what can be done to correct it. As well, AI can assess the impact of learning and development programs, or determine which new hires will become top performers.  Ultimately, this will replace the “gut feeling” approach to decision-making in traditional HR shops to one that is more data-driven and quantifiable.

It’s been said that employees are the enterprise’s most valuable resource. In this case, organizations should proceed with caution when deciding how quickly and how thoroughly they want to integrate AI into their HR processes. People who take their jobs seriously might not maintain that attitude if they feel they cannot get a fair shake from an algorithm.

The best way to avoid this is to ensure that AI is trained to deliver positive outcomes, preferably ones that benefit the individual and the organization alike. If this is not possible, then there should be mechanisms in place, either human-driven or artificial, explaining why a given result has emerged and what the employee may do to alter it.

In the end, we all want to be treated fairly no matter who, or what, is making the decisions.

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