AI is coming, but is HR ready?

A new report from software company Sage titled The Changing Face of HR finds that 82% of HR leaders anticipate their role will be “almost completely unrecognizable” within 10 years. And yet, despite this predicted sea change, the survey’s findings reveal that most of these leaders consider themselves and their organizations poorly prepared for such a transformation.

For example, nearly half (43%) of the 500 HR leaders at mid-sized organizations surveyed believe their organization will not keep up with related changes in technology during the next decade. Fewer than one in three consider their skills at an “expert” level for the change, 57% say they can’t invest in new technology because of resourcing restrictions and only 25% consider themselves tech-savvy.

“It’s clear that while many companies are adopting new technologies and making advancements within their HR departments on their journey towards a ‘People’ function, just as many remain resistant to invest,” says Paul Burrin, Sage’s vice president of people. “How HR departments recruit, onboard employees, engage their workers and encourage productivity plays a vital role in the future of work. Companies ignore this at their own peril.”

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Sage’s report, which was released during the recently concluded HR Technology Conference, also finds that 24% of HR leaders are using artificial intelligence for recruitment while 56% plan to adopt it within the next year. AI itself is a complex topic within the HR space, with some not even sure how it applies to the profession.

During a panel discussion on AI and HR during the conference, Jeanne Meister, a partner at Future Workplace, said that as it relates to HR “I think AI stands for ‘augmented intelligence,’ not ‘artificial intelligence.’ ”

Another panelist, Schneider Electric Vice President for Talent Digitization Andrew Saidy, noted the fears many have that AI will spell the end of many jobs.

“I think it’s a myth that it’s going to replace so many jobs,” he said. “AI is creating the jobs of the future, not destroying jobs.”

Indeed, at companies such as Hilton and Accenture, AI is helping HR practitioners do higher-level work in recruiting while automating more mundane tasks.

At Accenture, for example, the HR department’s strategy of integrating machine learning into recruiting has enabled recruiters themselves to “spend their time on the most important things,” said Tracy Patterson, managing director for HR services and transformation in North America and Europe.

These include selling candidates on why a job is important and how the offer is competitive within the industry, said Patterson, who spoke during a breakout session on the conference’s second day.

“As companies across the globe evolve in response to the advancement of data analytics and new technologies like AI and automation, HR and people departments must do the same,” says Sage’s Burrin.

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.