Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will AI remove the human factor from HR in future enterprises?

The changing market demands invariably create the ‘need’ for enterprises to look at enhancing their operational efficiencies and stay healthy on the profitability front. In a highly competitive marketplace where enterprises are looking at every possible opportunity of staying ahead of their competitors, it has become imperative for businesses to wear the ‘change jacket’ to stay competitive.  

Given this scenario, the arrival of much-hyped artificial intelligence (AI) has set tongues wagging about its ‘deployment’ across various industries. It won’t be a far-fetched exaggeration if this machine learning technology is considered as an ‘extended helping hand’ to the existing processes of involving humans across diverse workflows. In fact, the layman’s version about artificial intelligence is that it can carry out tasks performed hitherto by humans, in terms of human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.

The deployment of artificial intelligence is well and truly underway across industries, but there is a great deal of buzz about how this machine learning technology will enhance the efficiency parameters of the human resources (HR) department.

There is little doubt that artificial intelligence will transform the way how HR departments function across the globe. For starters, artificial intelligence can play a big role in a candidate’s application screening process. There are various AI tools that can keep the candidate engaged after he/she has applied for a position in a company. There is a growing trend nowadays of asking candidates a set of questions pertaining to that position, which helps the hiring manager to get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s credentials for any position.

Artificial intelligence also ensures adequate candidate engagement. Sample this – a candidate applies for a job through the company’s website or through some job portal or recruitment consultants; it is only natural for companies to take time to respond, in terms of taking the process forward. Such a situation can leave a candidate impatient and clueless about the way forward. This is where artificial intelligence can optimize candidate engagement by sending out automated email or messages that the selection process is on and avoid any unwanted communication gaps.

Artificial intelligence can be of big help when it comes catering to unsolicited applications – a classic case of a candidate applying for a job after the job application process is closed. In such cases, AI can facilitate reengagement of such candidates by providing them an opportunity to update their individual records, which could have gotten updated from the last time they were engaged.

There is also talk that the HR department does not quite adhere to the follow-up process as seriously as desired. This is evident is cases when an offer letter is rolled out to a candidate and there is a time gap of one or two months for he/she to join depending on his notice period. It is increasingly seen that many candidates don’t turn up on the day of joining, thus defeating the whole exercise of a hiring team’s screening, interviewing and selection process. AI can help to substantially prevent ‘no-shows’ by engaging the soon-to-join candidates and ensure they are motivated to turn up on the day of joining. This area of focus is crucial because candidates at times, have multiple offers at hand and care little about adhering to promises of joining a company on a particular day, as monetary gains drive most, if not all, to resort to such tactics (of not taking up a job as promised with the acceptance of the offer letter).

Artificial intelligence can smoothen the existing onboarding process. Normally, a candidate goes through an induction programme, where a HR personnel introduces him to the company, company’s culture, policies, and processes. AI can minimise the physical presence of HR personnel by providing new candidates with required company information.

Artificial intelligence can also be handy in optimising the employee relationship management process. A lot of routine queries such as leave, salary, bonus payment, etc are addressed by HR personnel and AI can address these queries via a chatroom or emails. Of course, there will be queries that will demand human interaction and in such cases AI can set up meetings between a candidate and the HR personnel.

Deploying artificial intelligence across the HR department won’t come cheap. AI are highly complex machines and would entail high costs. Such machine learning technologies have software programmes that need regular upgradation to meet the needs of the changing environment. To top it all, such AIs requirement lofty repair and maintenance costs. Cost is not the only factor here – in the event of any severe breakdowns, the process of recovering lost codes and reinstating the system can also be a time-consuming exercise.

Artificial intelligence is seen as an answer to many corporate woes but it must be pointed out that it cannot probably replicate humans. It is important to understand that AI do not carry any emotions and moral values and performed their tasks in a ‘programmed’ manner with little or no scope of making the judgment of right or wrong. AIs are incapable of taking decisive decisions when a situation warrants if a complex scenario crops up.

Humans deliver better productivity with experience but the same cannot be said about AI. In fact, artificial intelligence will only witness wear and tear with time. AI cannot be expected to work passionately as care or concerns are outside its purview. They not capable of distinguishing between a diligent worker and an inept worker.

It will be too much to expect original creativity from artificial intelligence as it cannot match the thinking power of the human brain and lack emotions.

Of course, the big talking point of artificial intelligence is centred on whether machines will replace humans and create large-scale unemployment. It could be true to some extent that robots will carry out the jobs until now performed by humans, but it is hard to see AI replace humans in all work streams of a company.

The advent of artificial intelligence is seen by companies as a mechanism to not just up their performance efficiency parameters but also trim labour costs by getting things done through machines. It is also impractical to see that AI will entirely replace human personnel and that the HR department will functional through robots. Surely, AI will make the working of the HR department more efficient than ever before, but it will be inappropriate to suggest that AI will take away the jobs of HR personnel. The HR department across industries will embrace artificial intelligence going forward, but this is not to say that human intelligence will be wiped off from the corporate landscape.