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The AI revolution is here: How to optimize AI for HR

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Brandon Roberts
Brandon Roberts currently is the Group Vice President of People Analytics and AI at ServiceNow. He has 20 years of experience in people analytics, AI/ML and workforce planning and has spent his career building and leading teams in this space at ServiceNow, Pinterest and Qualcomm. He’s passionate about using data and AI to drive better decisions and outcomes at work and is a published author on a variety of HR topics including advanced analytics, employee experience, cross-cultural psychology at work and equity/inclusion in the workplace.

There’s no doubt that generative AI is reshaping business, work and life as we know it. According to a recent Accenture study, ninety-seven percent of global leaders believe generative AI will be transformative to their company and industry.

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Many of the business leaders I’m talking to today are experimenting with generative AI. Leaders are piloting use cases, building policies and collecting feedback. As this exploratory phase continues, one thing is abundantly clear to me: Implementing a generative AI strategy is an HR responsibility just as much as an IT responsibility. That’s because generative AI is a human challenge as much as it is a technology challenge. It’s going to revolutionize how organizations manage talent and will fundamentally change how HR gets work done. We need to embrace that.

HR’s role in generative AI

Every conversation about the benefits of generative AI—productivity, performance, personalization—also leads to important questions about job displacement, data privacy and ethics.

These are innately human issues that point to a need for trust and transparency. Successful generative AI implementation isn’t just about being first; it’s about doing it right. It’s about collaboration, sustainability and driving value—and doing so responsibly. That means being discerning about the needs you’re filling and the pain points you’re solving.

It also means taking the time to build clear policies that address these critical areas:

  • The rapidly evolving regulatory landscape
  • Ethical AI and preventing bias
  • Protecting employee and customer data and privacy
  • Implementing new org structures and operating models to support AI
  • Offering training, coaching and resources to teach employees how to use generative AI, and reskilling if parts of their jobs are augmented

HR leaders have a responsibility to lean in and lead, working in close partnership with other leaders across the business, to solve these key challenges and set the vision for the company.

Building a culture that embraces AI

An effective internal generative AI strategy must be clear about the purpose it serves for employees. It should set people up for success, make their jobs easier, and encourage learning and growth. Transforming a business with generative AI is impossible until employees understand how it will transform their work. This requires a relentless focus on change management, enablement and communication.

As leaders, we need to help our employees understand:

  • Why is generative AI central to the business and people strategy? Will it boost productivity, performance, profitability or experience?
  • How will generative AI change an employee’s role and how work gets done?
  • Who is going to be impacted by generative AI?
  • What are we doing to prepare employees for this transformation? Do we have training in place to help employees build the skills they need? Are we creating new roles or responsibilities for impacted employees?

By 2030, activities that account for up to 30% of hours currently worked across the U.S. economy could be automated—a trend accelerated by generative AI, according to McKinsey. This doesn’t have to mean that generative AI will put people out of work.

I like to think of generative AI as an extension of our people that augments the work we’re doing. It can accelerate resume screenings and surface candidates with the right skills so recruiters can focus on high-impact work, like relationship-building. It can personalize onboarding to improve the experience a new employee has from day one. It can summarize employee survey results so teams can easily leverage the most important feedback and act quickly without manually sifting through pages of text. These are just a few examples that show the power of generative AI to transform how organizations manage talent.

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If we can build a culture with trust, transparency and training at the foundation, we can create an environment for employees to thrive in partnership with AI. We can empower our people to focus on innovation instead of tactical tasks, to turn imagination into action and to do uniquely human things like create, experiment, empathize and invent. If we can lift our people as we embrace generative AI, the outcomes will be transformative. It is clear to me that generative AI will expand what people can accomplish and vice versa.

Welcome to the generative AI era

Driving lasting impact through generative AI can only be done by investing in the potential of people. We should use technology to augment our work lives so that we can focus on what lies at the very root of being human: innovation and ingenuity.

We are only just beginning to understand generative AI’s vast potential. While the concerns are real and we must have guardrails and guidelines, I’m optimistic it will ultimately empower people and unleash creativity. Every successful transformation I have seen has been people-led and tech-enabled. In the generative AI era, talent—paired with the right technology—is what will set your organization apart.