Future Friday from the Archive: Artificial Intelligence and the HR world

AI can be a big boon to HR if we get past problems with data.
AI can be a big boon to HR if we get past problems with data.

This post was originally posted in October of 2016, but I thought it was an appropriate replay with all the discussion occurring about AI. As I have continued to read on AI, there continues to be a divide between the dystopian and utopian points of view. One article ended a discussion with this comment:  “Yet for effective harnessing of the full potential of AI in the U.S. workplace, it will require a collaborative “open mindedness” on the part of employees, companies and educational institutions to recognize, learn and adapt to this “brave new world.” 
Last week I attended the #Dreamforce conference, the annual conference of Salesforce.com, while in Chicago the #HRTech Conference was held. At #Dreamforce, I watched a demonstration of Salesforce.com’s new Artificial Intelligence component called Einstein. As I sat there watching what Einstein could do for sales and marketing I was wondering if anyone has anything similar underway in HR.

Versions of AI

Last year I was at an IBM conference and learned about Watson, IBM’s version of AI. IBM doesn’t really call it AI, they refer to it as cognitive computing. The ability of Watson has been used to help people look for intelligent life; decide what is the best wine for them to drink; helps retailers understand customer’s buying habits; and help doctors determine what is wrong with their patients. Salesforce.com’s Einstein is used to help predict which customers will buy more when a deal is more likely to close and which customer is likely to drop out. It is embedded into their CRM and is usable for any user who pays the subscription. The common theme in both these is the big data available to the systems.
Since the key to AI is data and lots of it, I thought that perhaps some larger company out there may be collecting data to use. I have to believe they are, but then maybe not. Jessica Miller-Merrell wrote in a summary of HRTechThe challenge faced for Chief Human Resource offices, is that developing multiple talent management and development programs simply takes time, effort and man or woman power. In this competitive talent and business landscape, it is often time we do not often have.”

What is possible?   

Jessica’s remark was made in connection with one of the possible uses for AI in HR, coaching, and development. David Creelman in a 2015 TLNT article suggested that coaching or manager behavior would be a good subject for AI. He said “It’s possible to imagine algorithms that recognize the patterns of effective managerial behavior and by scanning an individual’s email, messaging and calendar can give them wise tips in real time. Might we one day have a ‘manager behavior check’ that works much like a spell check? That would be a big win.
One of the other areas that I see as having a direct correlation to the current use of AI, especially the sales use, is in recruiting. If Einstein can determine what kind of company is the perfect customer for your company, why can’t an AI system determine who is the perfect candidate for your job? Creelman asked that question when he wrote: “Might there come a day when AI can know enough about individuals, the team they are joining, and the work they need to do that matching would be much better than it is today?” I foresee that AI could analyze candidates social media usage, there resume and other information and determine if they are a “fit” for the current organization. It is the use of that data however, that may cause some problems.


Rob May, writing in Recruiter, said: “Dealing with humans is messy because people are complicated and we don’t yet have the level of granular data on individuals in some areas to feed into AI algorithms to make better predictions.” Additionally, with humans, we have their concern for their privacy. People get “squirrely” if they think you are collecting data on them. But for AI to be effective you need to have the data.
Even internally, where improving management behavior would work wonders for many companies, collecting data and having that analyzed makes people nervous. HP has used AI to determine which employees are most likely to leave, yet as I understand it, they did not release that information to managers. What is the value of data collection if you don’t make it actionable?

What are the possible uses?

May says there are several possible uses for AI in the workplace. One is prediction in recruitment. Another is workflow analysis, even something as simple as scheduling candidates for interviews can be accomplished more effectively with a little dose of AI. The last area he suggests if mass personalization. He talks about it in terms of coaching, where AI will be able to determine the proper course of training for someone, it is also possible to use it to help determine the proper mix of insurance and healthcare coverage.
Creelman sees AI as impacting three areas in HR. These include coaching, organizational design and matching people to work.
Another possibility is that presented by Donal Daly, the CEO of Altify, and author of the book Tomorrow Today, How AI Impacts How We Work, Live, and Think. (link below) Daly says that the most likely use of AI will be Augmented Intelligence rather than Artificial Intelligence. Augment Intelligence, rather than totally replacing people at work will be used to make them more effective. I think this may be the best use of AI for HR. Let’s make recruiters, managers, and employees better at doing their jobs.
But we have to collect the data, and that is the rub (borrowing from Shakespeare.)

2 thoughts on “Future Friday from the Archive: Artificial Intelligence and the HR world”

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest