#HRTechConf: A Look at How AI is Powering HR and the Future Workplace

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During HR Tech in Vegas this week, I attended a session held by Marcus Sawyerr, President and CEO of YOSS USA, on AI Powering the New Workforce. YOSS is a freelancer platform co-created by The Adecco Group and Microsoft. It is a robust end-to-end solution that gives both enterprises and freelancers the right tools and services to maximize productivity, manages their projects and talents, and harnesses the benefits of more flexible ways of working.

Sawyerr is a subject matter expert on digital innovation in the world of work, and he led a discussion on how AI and other technology disruptions are shaping the future of work along with the implications for HR and business leaders. Given that this particular conference is focused on technology, and that AI is a hot topic in a lot of workplaces these days, I was excited to see this session on the #HRTech conference agenda.

AI and human resources is a topic I’ve been fascinated by for some time, and I’ve written about it in “9 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting and HR” and “30+ Talent Acquisition Technologies That Use #ArtificialIntelligence.”

In Sawyerr’s session, he talked about the ideal notion of “recruiting in your sleep.” As in having AI technology a company can leverage to collect the data, perform administrative tasks, and also connect directly with candidates to receive very relevant, shortlisted candidate profiles. How could this change the role of the HR Specialist? Machine learning has the potential to free up not just time spent on administrative tasks, but the speed data collection and therefore reduce time-to-hire, something that’s incredibly important in this tight talent marketplace.

Those attending the session at the conference know and recognize that AI will transform our HR and recruiting function as well as the larger business. About 80% of the room raised their hands when Sawyerr asked attendees. I think this is interesting and if this same question was asked at a non-technology HR conference such as SHRM Annual, I think the hands raised would be much, much less.

Recruiters need to consider where they have the most value, specifically in empathy, understanding and critical thinking. These aren’t things we can teach AI (at least, for now), so these human components of human resources aren’t going anywhere. In HR, considering your current skill set, what you want to focus on improving are these human-focused skills, your emotional intelligence, your adaptability, and your ability to critically look at big picture strategies within your company.

How Does AI Power HR and the Future Workforce?

So how does AI power HR and the future workforce? It goes beyond recruiting. Consider that AI can perform tasks like scheduling, shift assignments, and—given enough information—“learn” how to communicate with employees in the same way a recruiter or HR specialist would. Technology that was formerly available to developers is quickly becoming commonplace.

Once people are in the door of your company, AI can impact the productivity and efficiency of your workforce on a large scale. What we see happening in the future, personal development for employees is put into the employee’s hands, enabling HR and team leaders to spend their time on higher level tasks. With AI, training and development can give your workforce the tools they need to progress in their careers.

Of course, there’s an impact on the workforce in general based on AI. Jobs that are high frequency, high volume, and highly predictable, lend themselves to AI. Screening employees for recruiters? Done. Transportation tracking and scheduling? Done. Nobody really knows how many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence, but we all agree that for every job replaced, a new job or skill has been created. Consider the positive impact of AI on customer service, starting with an AI chatbot that frees a customer service staff to work on more personal and escalated customer issues.

Where Can You Leverage AI within Your HR and Recruiting Business?

If you take a look at every aspect of the HR value chain, ask how you can alleviate the repetitive tasks in order to spend more time with candidates. One of the major future skills needed will be critical thinking. Your company’s AI can handle the basics, we will need to upskill our human workforce to handle the complex.

In order to leverage our human skills of empathy, critical thinking and creativity, someone is going to have to train AI models on new strategies and new developments. There aren’t enough people currently being educated for AI and we see that in a skills shortage, so if you want to be adaptive for the future workforce, this is something you should consider now.

Additionally, when it comes to data protection and privacy, many companies are still playing catch up on who owns data and how to protect it.

The bottom line: Have a clear AI strategy. We have historically seen “mobile first” and that is rapidly shifting to “AI first,” Be prepared to tackle the obstacles your company will face with artificial intelligence. At the end of the day, we’re still dealing with people and people have feelings that must be considered when you’re adapting to a new technology.

I think the larger question is how do we educate ourselves on the future of AI and how our employees, as well as ourselves, can fill in the gaps after a new automation or AI strategy is implemented for the business. As an individual, I think the concern is also about how do I protect myself from becoming obsolete. Your employees will likely have these same questions which is where I believe training, development and continuous learning come into play.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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    • There are some programs through universities and colleges, however, this is exactly the feedback that I gave to LRP who host the conference. There is a huge learning curve and the information and resource divide is very strong. I’d like to see more resources for newbies who are interested in learning. Personally, I have attended local meetups and read a number of books and resources on the topic to get me additional knowledge as well as interviewing experts and meeting with them to better understand the landscape.

      Thanks for the comment, Mike!

      Jessica

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