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HR Tech 2019: HR in the age of artificial intelligence

Five leaders in the AI space discussed AI and HR, including the myth that machines will replace people.
By: | October 1, 2019 • 3 min read
From left, Sarah Smart, vice president, Global Recruitment, Hilton Hotels; Andrew Saidy, vice president, Talent Digitization, Schneider Electric;, Jennifer Carpenter, vice president, Global Talent Acquisition, Delta Air Lines; and Michael Bland, Chief Learning Officer, TIAA, speak during a panel on artificial intelligence at Human Resource Executive's HR Technology conference at the Venetian, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Isaac Brekken for Human Resource Executive)

The words “artificial intelligence” get tossed around a lot these days in the HR space, but what does it actually mean and how does AI actually apply to HR?

At the opening day of the HR Technology Conference, Jeanne Meister, an author and partner at Future Workplace, led a wide-ranging discussion on “Re-Imagining HR in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” with a panel of HR leaders from some of the world’s largest companies, including Delta Airlines, Hilton Hotels, TIAA and Schneider Electric, an energy services firm with locations in 110 countries around the world.

Starting off the discussion, Meister got a laugh when she asked Michael Bland, TIAA’s chief learning officer, what he found most surprising about AI.

HRE at HR TECH: Follow along for full conference coverage here.

“The sheer number of AI vendors,” he said. “AI hasn’t been in HR that long, so where did all these companies come from?”

“I think any HR Tech attendee can relate, given the number of emails we’re getting from vendors,” said Meister.

Andrew Saidy, vice president for talent digitization at Schneider Electric, said one of the most concerning myths about AI is that people fear it’s going to replace them.

“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.”

Meister said there’s some confusion around just what AI means to HR.

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“As it relates to HR, I think AI stands for ‘augmented intelligence,’ not ‘artificial intelligence,'” she said.

Sarah Smart, Hilton’s vice president of global recruitment, shared how AI has helped the hospitality company enhance its recruitment process.

Hilton is in its fourth year of using a video-interviewing tool that uses “predictive intelligence” to analyze job candidates. It’s helped make recruiting at Hilton a more candidate-friendly experience, she said.

“It’s a highly competitive marketplace for the types of candidates we’re looking for, so we have to move quickly and show candidates the return on their time more quickly,” said Smart. “We’re seeing some really great results. We took down our time to fill a class from six weeks to one week, we have 400% more offers and our turnover rate has declined significantly.”

The tool is able to help recruiters determine more quickly which candidates have the most potential for the job, so recruiters can devote more time and attention to those candidates, she said. The efficiencies realized have also enabled Hilton to decrease its recruiting staff by 23% (those staffers were moved to other positions within the company).

“We actually consider the staff reductions to be way down on the list of the most significant accomplishments we’ve been able to realize,” said Smart.

For the remaining recruiters, their jobs have changed markedly, she said.

“It’s a different job now,” said Smart. “They’re tech implementation specialists, they’re recruitment marketers in a very data-driven way, and they’ve developed that skillset by going through the implementation journey.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor at Human Resource Executive®. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]

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