Will Artificial Intelligence take over HR?

Written by: Fleming. Team

Nowadays, artificial intelligence can already be found in many industries and plays an increasing role in everyday life. For example, in 2016, two Belgian hospitals introduced the first robot receptionists, which took up assistant reception duties. Similar robots work in around 300 hospitals, retirement homes and care homes worldwide.

However, the full potential of the use of artificial intelligence in the workforce sphere is yet to be realized. Boston Consulting Group's predictions say that nearly one-quarter of all jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots by 2025. The pace of automation and the impact of AI, however, will depend on many factors such as technological development, cost of technology, possible cost savings as well as social and regulatory acceptance.

How can the rise of AI affect HR?

Based on nine key factors, a recent study by Michael Osborne and Carl Frey from Oxford University’s Martin School calculated the susceptibility of 720 occupations to automation. It revealed that HR jobs have a 90% chance of being automated by 2035. Out of these, however, only mechanical and repeatable jobs are vulnerable. Employees working in HR administrative jobs who are responsible for writing reports or drawing up spreadsheets will be easy prey for smart software. On the other hand, managerial positions, where a high degree of social intelligence and negotiating skills are needed, will be at much lower risk of being replaced by machines.

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What will the near future look like?

There are three main areas where AI can intervene in HR processes in the upcoming years. Rob Harding, Chief Information Officer at Capital One (Europe), sees AI in the role of virtual help desk. “The AI technology is so sophisticated that it can even understand sentiment, recognizing when the caller is getting frustrated and then referring the conversation to a human. It can then listen to the response and update its own learning to better deal with the problem in the future,” he explained for HR magazine UK.

The second potential use of AI lies in recruitment. Sarah Burnett, an analyst at Everest Group, can imagine that AI could help improve the accuracy of identifying potential candidates according to a specific company's needs. For the beginning, however, smart technology should be used only to narrow candidates down from thousands to a select few.

Nigel Sullivan, HR director at TalkTalk Group, would like to get the most out of AI use in the retention process. He believes that "AI could help an organization to look into an employee’s emails, speech and social media to see how they interacted and how they may have reacted to specific situations and whether this fits in with the culture of the organization,” as he presented to HR magazine UK.

How should HR people prepare for the change?

McKinsey&Company stated that currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45% of the activities people are paid to perform. However, in the future it will be inevitable that HR employees will possess human skills that set them apart from machines' abilities. Those doing routine calculating or reporting or who work at jobs with high repeatability and low social inputs will have to gain new skills and start acting right away to be ready for what the future will bring.

To discover more about the rising age of artificial intelligence and its impact on HR, join our upcoming HR Transformation Forum, taking place on 8 – 9 June 2017 in Berlin.