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Here’s where we are in the AI ‘Hype Cycle,’ according to HR tech leaders

Jill Barthhttps://hrexecutive.com/
Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist with bylines in Forbes, USA Today and other international publications. With a background in communications, media, B2B ecommerce and the workplace, she also served as a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services for nearly a decade. Reach out at [email protected].

Last year, McKinsey issued a report calling AI “the next productivity frontier.” This analysis predicted that artificial intelligence would usher in massive financial gains to the global economy to the tune of $2.6-$4.4 trillion annually.

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Many HR leaders are concerned with how their departments fit into this formula. More than half will implement AI into HR tech soon, according to Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” report, which predicts that 60% of enterprise organizations will adopt responsible AI for HR technology by 2025.

Hype cycle history

Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” methodology provides a framework for business executives to understand the maturity of emerging technology. In many ways, it provides an adoption benchmark.

According to a January 2024 report from Gartner: “AI dominates this year’s edition.”

While AI didn’t dominate the years before 2023 and 2024, it was a topic. To add some perspective on the landscape, consider this quote from a Gartner report from January 2019: “Four years ago, AI implementation was rare; only 10% of survey respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or would do so shortly,” said Chris Howard, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “For 2019, that number leaped to 37%—a 270% increase in four years.”

And that was five years ago.

Making ‘meaningful’ use of AI

In 2024, many HR leaders will vet AI-driven tech solutions on behalf of their organizations, but treating AI like a 21st-century gold rush is a mistake, warns Eddie Kim, head of tech at all-in-one HR platform Gusto.

When asked where artificial intelligence exists in the hype cycle today, Kim told HRE that “AI should help, not hype.” In other words, AI should be meaningful for the people who use it. If your organization isn’t there yet, there is still work to do.

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Kim gives the example of his company, Gusto, which caters to small businesses. “We’ve decided to focus our AI efforts on the resources these business owners lack most—time and money,” says Kim. “If we can build solutions with AI that save our customers one or the other or both, then we’re doing our job.”

Arvind Jain, CEO of AI-powered workplace search platform Glean, says that for any major technology that debuts, there’s an initial “enthusiasm or overestimation about what is possible in the short-term.”

Eddie Kim, Gusto
Eddie Kim, Gusto

In 2023, HR leaders shifted from viewing AI as a novelty to considering it a legitimate tool for organizational success, says Jain. He says that after last year’s intense fervor around AI, CHROs are now exploring how to implement the new tech safely and effectively. Jain warns that this phase requires meaningful organization-wide conversations that examine data privacy, AI biases and unintentional errors.

He believes AI will usher in transformative advancements, but they won’t happen overnight. “When it comes to generative AI in HR, I find that people are significantly underestimating how much it is going to change the ways that HR professionals can do their jobs and how it will positively impact the employee experience in the long run,” says Jain.

Next up in AI for HR

“With the AI landscape continually evolving, it’s hard to say what exactly could come within the next year,” says Jain. HR leaders must position AI as an “assistant rather than a replacement” of the people in their organizations, he offers.

Arvid Jain, Glean
Arvid Jain, Glean

In the next six to 12 months, Jain thinks more HR teams will invest in an AI strategy. He says these organizations will discover “practical ways to use the technology to reimagine their workflows and become more efficient.” However, Jain expects it will be longer before teams see the impact of those moves.

He anticipates further evolution at the intersection of generative AI and HR in two key areas: training materials and onboarding. “Gone are the days of having employees sift through long PDFs, webinars or folders to find answers to work-related questions,” he says.

HR teams will be required to help build employee guidelines around AI usage in 2024 if they haven’t already, says Jain. A big part of this will likely be providing employees with hands-on training and a forum to ask questions and share concerns about the impact of AI in their day-to-day work. To build this across enterprises, many find themselves amid collaboration efforts. “HR and IT leaders should work closely to determine how AI technology best suits the organization and its employees,” he says.

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