How Artificial Intelligence can help HR

Priyanka Anand
Posted: 12/04/2017

Introducing Artificial Intelligence to New Age Human Resource

Priyanka Anand is Vice President and Head, HR Global Operations at Ericsson

What I have learned from my experience in Human Resource is that the technology we use changes constantly but the fundamentals often remain the same. 

A veteran of the HR industry recently surprised me with his answer to my question regarding what he thought HR professionals had failed at, over the past 20 years. His answer: “being organized”! Today there is no excuse as technology is advancing quickly, and we need to adapt, but his comment gave me pause to think about what “being organized” meant, from an HR perspective. And this is where AI is playing a vital role to support us.

Human Resources is supposed to be the intermediary between the organization and the people, and is meant to lay the foundation for, and then manage, the rules of engagement. Our biggest challenge in developed and rapidly developing economies has been the shortage of skilled talent – and as demand bloats over time, the turf war between economies are making it grim for uncompetitive economies and the organizations working within them.

Looking at India, specifically, we are failing in driving innovations in the field of recruitment processes, service coordination, and effective central management. Recruitment platforms and social hiring, for example, have grown rapidly and are widely accepted, but the next level thinking, in terms of combining fresh hire training with recruitment, is still missing. This is an especially worrying gap, as the highest cost of employees are being recorded post attrition of fresh graduates.

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How to immediately ratchet up your HR performance – Providing a digital experience that mirrors the experience outside of work is tough, given how sophisticated digital engagement has become. Tier zero is what employees want. And the way to get there is via contextual knowledge, via process automation. 

Talent acquisition can be one of the most time consuming and frustrating aspects of business. Harsh deadlines and specific requirements, not to mention piles of applications and résumés, is tough for any recruiter. Tack on retention accountability, candidate experience and employer branding, and the job becomes even harder.

The Consumerization of technology

Over the past decade, HR technology has striven to improve candidate experience and quality of hire. Today, we have applications for everything, including candidate following frameworks, talk with input programming, date-book applications, benefits administration programming and anything else you can envision.

However, if the HR and recruiting products created today are not as easy to use as the apps on our phones, people just won’t use them. So, the pressure is on for recruiting and HR companies to create products that are easy to use for recruiters, hiring managers, applicants and everyone else.

AI is the today and the tomorrow

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and other “brilliant” technologies are no longer in the future. In fact, they are already driving many of the most innovative recruiting and hiring technologies available right now. Tedious, cumbersome and time-consuming processes are gradually being automated, which means recruiting teams are getting the opportunity to be more strategic than ever before.

Chatbots are an example of emerging AI and best represented by their use in social media messaging apps, whether LinkedIn or Facebook messenger, where applications automatically deliver accurate responses.

The most basic chatbots can be useful for initial candidate interactions and can improve career site retention. They can also schedule interviews and screen candidates with basic questions. But more sophisticated chatbots can also match candidates and do basic search.

AI will be incredibly helpful in finding patterns among data to enhance workforce planning, transforming recruiting from a largely transactional function – scheduling, interviewing, clerical routine stuff – into something that truly adds value to the company.

Impact of AI of recruiting

AI is at the top of the hype cycle right now, utilizing huge amounts of data and crunching it into something one can easily interpret or analyze. In the hiring context, AI will be able to calculate the probability that one person will be a better hire than another person, by looking for patterns that come closest to the criteria you input.

That's basically what recruiters do in their heads now when considering candidates, weighing some attributes more than others, maybe at a subconscious level, which at times leads to the wrong selection.

It's in crunching the large unstructured data that AI is playing an important role. We all use structured data, like figures on a spreadsheet, that can be counted and multiplied. Let us assume we interviewed 35 people, made 14 offers and had 5 accepts, that's expressing or deriving the results from structured data. But being able to look at what someone says or writes and understand it and make decisions based on it, such as reviewing résumés and online profiles—that is using unstructured data. And that's where AI is attempting to do better than recruiters.

AI can also process data much more quickly than the human mind, but it needs a lot of data to be of value. The more data you have, the better your decisions – but you need thousands of data points to get accurate predictions. 

A few more challenges to address

Quality issues around hires from our education system are a source of concern. As a business partner, HR needs to be innovative and move towards influencing quality and curricula in education. Employee retention is tied up in the same framework.

Another trend is moving to less conventional forms of hiring. Contracts are going to be the ‘next big thing’ in the Indian job market, and the change management is tough. Proactive work on compensation and rewards is the right approach, and some organizations have already been successful in this space but the learnings need to be shared, as it is currently being concentrated in limited industries.

The natural or conventional role of HR has been to optimize productivity but this has to move from the abstracts of motivation and training. Identifying poor work practices and resource crunches is now under the spotlight as HR moves to the next level of maximizing efficiencies through technology. Disruptive initiatives, both in terms of technology and internal practices in governance and service frameworks, have changed the new age HR. Project Management and communication have become the need of the hour for the HR professional.

Global HR surveys acknowledgement policies, processes and people management programs as the main focus; but few organizations are enlisting HR to connect the dots to enhance resource output, engagement with long term vision, business financials and technology. The strategic alliance of these elements supports a consistent approach in driving towards increased productivity without additional strain of size, cost or infrastructure.

We are working in a compact yet globalized ecosystem where we need to influence input at our end, and match it with output from the ecosystem, to meet our objectives. This can be managed when we leverage technology advances and a new age HR, which is “organized” and serious about its next role as quality influencer. 

Priyanka Anand
Posted: 12/04/2017