Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics in the HR and People industry. That’s why we asked more than 500 HR professionals and thought leaders from across the globe how they think AI will transform the industry.
One thought leader we spoke to was talent advisory consultant Gautam Ghosh. He’s closely followed the fast evolution of chatbots in the workplace, where they’re increasingly used to manage appointments, submit leave forms, and help employees stay abreast of training and volunteer days.
Gautam believes progressive People and HR departments will increasingly use chatbots to craft positive and individually-customised employee experiences.
“In 2018 I think AI enabled chatbots will be mainstream and will function as virtual employee assistants prompting employees to take vacations, keeping track of appointments, skill development and feedback,” he said.
Other experts echo this sentiment. They believe AI can not only help HR and People teams significantly reduce admin tasks, but also generate data-driven insights to personalise employee experiences and enhance retention programs.
Head of engagement at CIPD, David D’Souza, agrees chatbots will quickly become ubiquitous in People and HR teams. “They have the potential to make real differences to the efficiency of HR teams whilst also improving speed – and potentially accuracy – of response for employees,” he said.
The pitfall of AI, and how to sidestep it
One area organisations are increasingly using AI is to eliminate bias and promote diversity. The benefits of diversity are long established, and the issue of unconscious bias is considered one of the more challenging to overcome, since the recruiter is not even aware of their bias!
However the pitfall of AI lies in the way it works – simplistically. AI starts with a set of instructions, and iterates those based on successive interactions. For instance, CAPTCHA forms used to identify humans Vs computers aren’t initially programmed to know which images contain signs or storefronts. Rather, the AI driving CAPTCHA learns from thousands of inputs to identify which are human or computer generated. So, if many people clicked on a decorative balcony awning thinking it was a storefront, CAPTCHA would eventually consider that image to have a storefront in it.
AI in recruitment is subject to the same potential concern. If an AI tool iterates based on biased human interactions, unconscious or otherwise, it will eventually reflect these biases. Some experts therefore propose removing human involvement in the early part of recruitment as the only way to address this unfortunately ingrained trait.
Despite these concerns, AI has shown good results in reducing recruitment bias. It can be programmed to disregard any information which could trigger bias. In Australia this would typically be age, gender, place of qualification, and home address. In the US it would include ethnicity, which is often recorded by organisations to monitor diversity.
Two apps designed to avoid unconscious bias are Textio and HireVue.
Automate the bias away with Textio and HireVue
Textio is an augmented writing app designed to identify unintended text patterns and predict responses. For example, Australian powerhouse tech company Atlassian use Textio to phrase job ads so they appeal to female applicants, removing unconsciously masculine-oriented words and intent.
The tech industry is famously male-dominated. While a 2018 survey found Australia has the second strongest female tech representation in the world, women still only make up 28% of the industry’s workforce.
Atlassian’s efforts to equalise gender representation has borne fruit. After 2 years the company increased its female technical graduate applicants from 10% to 57%. After 3 years they had an 80% increase in female technical hires and tripled representation of black and Hispanic engineers.
HireVue seeks to automate the bias out of recruiting in a different way. The AI-driven app offers modern gamified suitability and psychometric testing, plus video interviewing, to provide companies with deeper insight into a candidate’s suitability.
Global CPG giant Unilever implemented a new end-to-end graduate recruitment solution incorporating HireVue to eliminate unconscious bias from early screening. Unilever’s experience also clearly demonstrates how an AI solution can help improve the candidate experience and make the hiring process more efficient.
Formerly taking four to six months, Unilever’s graduate recruitment process now only takes two weeks, leaving candidates significantly more satisfied than the previous ‘human operated’ system.
This 3-minute video provides a brief overview of Unilver’s experience with HireVue. If you want more insight into the case study, you can also hear from Australian Melissa Gee Kee, VP of HR at Unilver, explain how she designed and implemented the new system.
The case study highlights Unilever’s ambition to update its extremely old and clunky graduate recruitment program with a modern solution that felt warm, human and non-robotic. Gee Kee said the HireVue platform is “better and more efficient at selecting candidates than an in-person interview.” At each stage of the recruitment process, candidates now receive an A4-page of feedback to assist them in future recruitment processes.
Will AI take the ‘human’ out of HR?
Our research indicates an appreciable minority of HR professionals display some suspicion toward chatbots. Many feel they will create a cold, mechanical and dehumanised recruitment experience.
An app that goes some way to dispel this perception is Mya – a chatbot that uses machine learning, natural language, and API-connected technologies to communicate directly with candidates. It can do so via text and email, by updating registered employment details, scheduling appointments, and more.
Mya’s capabilities go beyond those of most chatbots, with the ability to mimic (to some extent) the speech patterns of candidates when scheduling appointments. So natural or human are interactions with Mya that three quarters of candidates interviewed by the app didn’t realise she was a bot. It boasts a 93% completion rate of screens – well above that of regular online forms. And Mya can help recruiters decrease in time-to-hire by 79%.
The app also boasts significant efficiency benefits, helping recruiters save up to an estimated 75 of their time by automating their communication workload. Mya can help source and screen candidates, answer questions and schedule appointments. When unable to answer questions, the app escalates to the (human) recruiter.
You can’t get a job from computer games, and other lies your parents told: Knack
Another app that aims to humanise the recruitment experience is Knack, which uses games to reveal the aptitude of candidates. The app combines the fun and stickiness of games with science-based testing and algorithms, providing recruiters with actionable insights to attract, engage, and recruit the best people from a wider pool of candidates.
Will AI replace HR and People roles?
A common fear within the general workforce is that AI will make many traditional roles redundant. While popularly known as ‘artificial intelligence’, what we’re seeing in HR is more ‘augmented intelligence’.
We’re seeing this exciting new technology used to support, rather than supplant HR professionals. It helps them be more efficient and effective, so they can spend more time in substantiative discussion with clients and potential employees.
How are HR and People leaders using technology to get ahead?
Download our research from over 500 HR leaders on the challenges they’re facing – and how they’re overcoming them.