There have always been pioneers who have pushed the boundaries of HR, people who make the function that focuses on people more strategic and more valuable. Their success has primarily come down to treating people more like humans and less like ‘resources’.

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), some are concerned that the ability of machines to perform tasks once done by humans could result in people being treated more like machines. 

However, I see a new world in which HR professionals are seizing the opportunities presented by AI and ML to redefine their roles and end the notion that HR is an administrative or transactional function once and for all. When used responsibly, AI and ML technologies will augment human decision making, not replace it, by providing people with insights, predictions, and recommendations to help them be their most productive selves. 

The more we see machines ‘thinking’ like humans in the workplace, the more we’ll see HR professionals combine these enhanced analytical capabilities with uniquely human intuition and empathy, to help create a better workplace for all.

Promoting the skills and culture needed for an AI-enabled workforce

In light of the enormous potential of AI and ML, leveraging these technologies is becoming a must for organisations. A Workday study found that most (81%) leaders think AI is required to keep their business competitive. Yet almost as many (72%) feel their organisation lacks the skills to implement it fully.

The AI and ML evolution has the potential to benefit all types of workers, not just those in technology related fields. Employees do not need an in-depth, technical background in AI and ML to utilise the capabilities embedded with this technology, as many of the benefits that come from AI and ML functionality are embedded within the platforms and applications being used by employees daily, increasing productivity and augmenting their potential.

The greatest returns on efficiency and productivity are more dependent on an employee’s decision making skills and the ability to ask questions and respond to new insights generated by AI and ML. However, these skills are not necessarily captured in traditional recruitment processes today. 

For this reason, HR professionals play the important part of understanding and mapping a large and diverse range of skills across their organisation. Skills provide a common language when identifying the capabilities of a workforce, and with this understanding come benefits in talent acquisition and retention, upskilling and reskilling, and overall employee engagement. 

There are many ways that AI and ML can assist in this process. Business leaders can utilise AI and ML capabilities to quickly understand the skills portfolio of their workforce and identify skills gaps, enabling them to prioritise these skills for development purposes, job matching and even when hiring. 

Once the gaps are identified, AI and ML can be used in the recruiting and screening process to identify skills in a CV or a job description and filter those skills based on context. AI and ML recommendations can also assist employees by suggesting the best mentors or most beneficial training content and courses, allowing them to close their skills gap through development and identify the best fit for their talents. 

AI and ML technology can fundamentally improve the way we work and foster greater equality in accessing opportunity by shifting towards a focus of skills. Internally, HR professionals can leverage AI and ML to uncover previously unseen skills matches and tap into a more diverse talent pool. Opportunities for advancement can be given to those who have the right skills and talents, allowing people to experience possibilities in their career that they would have previously not thought possible. 

The second side of this is cultural. AI and ML will augment how people work, so organisations will need people and leaders who are open to change and comfortable adapting to new ways of working.

HR professionals need to grow an organisational culture that rewards innovation and experimentation, and supports employees as they explore new AI and ML capabilities. 

Here, promoting an understanding of AI and ML through training courses, helpful resources, upskilling and open conversations within the business can be used to build confidence in the capabilities of these technologies.

HR professionals should work with leaders to develop a clear and compelling vision for an AI and ML, enabling the workplace and leading by example. By pioneering the use of AI and ML, HR can serve as a role model and demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to being an innovative and progressive business.

Using new insights to help people shape their careers, at scale

HR professionals can take advantage of AI and ML by empowering people to take control of their own career journey. The future must be more dynamic, flexible, and capable of allowing people with both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds to participate effectively. 

Helping people discover new opportunities and allowing mentors to achieve their goals drives the organisation forward. It empowers managers to have better conversations with their people, and improves employee engagement, effectiveness and productivity thus leading to a lower rate of attrition.

To conclude, HR professionals have a unique opportunity to shape the future of their organisations by embracing AI and ML.  By steering its adoption, HR can ensure AI and ML is seen as an enabler, rather than a threat.