Artificial Intelligence and Human Resources – a juxtaposition?

The third feature in our new series; The Recruiters Insight. Each month, the HR Heads LinkedIn audience vote for a hot topic of the month - and HR Heads Director Jen Gaster provides her insight as a specialist recruiter with over 20 years experience of the ever changing market. This month's topic: AI in HR.

Technology has many practical applications that are commonly spoken about today including robotics, driverless cars, healthcare, finance and law.  But does technology present more problems than it solves?

The Juxtaposition:

Automation enhances efficiency but threatens traditional roles. Instant communication can distract and overwhelm. Boundless data leaves us rich in information but swamped by issues of ownership and privacy[1].  In HR, we have all been affected by the legislation and regulations of GDPR and the excess workload that it created in 2018.

There is so much talk about new technology and AI in the workplace currently that I wonder if managers feel anxious about their level of knowledge about AI, machine learning, big data, cyber security and the internet?  We need to get comfortable with technology, have enough of a grasp of it to ask the right questions and be able to constructively challenge the answers.

The Benefits:

The benefits of technology, AI, and machine learning are obvious to state. Efficiency drives, economic advantage, speed, processing power are all significantly better when provided by technology over humans.

The Downside:

However, there are thought to be 3 areas where the human has an advantage.  According to Matthias Holweg (Professor of Operations Management at Said Business School, University of Oxford), there are 3 human qualities that remain challenging to automate:

  1. Complex social interaction
  2. Creativity
  3. Sensory Perception

AI and HR:

So, does the use of artificial intelligence and developing technological platforms create an opposing position when used in HR?  The clue is in the name: Human Resources; it is the most valuable resource in a business, it’s people. 

In recruitment – automation and algorithms are thought to replicate the unconscious bias found in traditional processes whilst reducing face to face contact.  It is easy to see how some believe that technology removes humanity from the workplace.  We parse CV’s using keywords to sift and create virtual ‘yes’ and ‘no’ applicants. This might be the same process as if done manually but would be completed much quicker. The sourcing, sifting and processing of applicants whilst allowing the applicant to track their progress is one great advantage of AI.

And yet, I still want to see the CV’s myself, read between the lines, understand the style of that individual and appreciate how the CV has been put together. There is room for improvement on all kinds of HR processes with the help of AI, but some tasks are better suited for the human side of human resources and I believe recruitment is one of them.

The most futuristic collaboration between AI and HR, in our opinion, is Tengai – the interview robot who won’t judge you! Currently being tested by Swedish recruiters, Tengai is built to take the form of a human face and will sit across from the interviewee at eye level asking a series of set questions previously programmed by the hiring company.

The idea behind this is to offer candidates job interviews free from any of the judge or bias that hiring managers and recruiters often bring without any conscious realisation. To keep the whole experience ‘human’, Tangai has been given a kind tone, warm glow and is able to blink and tilt her head.

Although none of us want to believe that unconscious bias is common when it comes to recruitment, a recent survey for TNG suggested that 73% of job seekers in Sweden believe they have been discriminated against while applying for a job based on their ethnicity, age, gender, sexual preferences, appearance, weight, health or disability. How many of you reading this can honestly say you’ve never judged, or felt judged, during a job interview?

While we are wowed by this technological advance, we aren’t sure we will be taking Tengai into our interview process when she arrives in the UK speaking English in 2020. We can see the benefits, of course, but what about the all-important impression the hiring company needs to make on the candidate? An interview, contrary to popular opinion, is as much for the candidate to explore the hiring manager as vice versa. As clever as Tengai is – you need human interaction to form a relationship. 

In Conclusion:

AI technologies offer a variety of exciting tools that can take on the burden of repetitive, low value tasks. By automating these processes, HR professionals can dedicate their valuable time to handling more complex duties that require extensive human interaction, such as career development and cultivating a more engaged workplace.

[1] Jim Carrick-Birtwell, Changeboard March-May 2019

To vote for the next topic of The Recruiters Insight series, make sure you are connected with us on Linkedin.