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Can AI keep the ‘human’ in HR?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has become somewhat of an industry buzzword, there’s no denying that the technology is significantly transforming businesses. From automating time-consuming tasks to analysing data with greater efficiency and accuracy – AI is helping employees to work smarter. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that investments in AI are increasing and AI engines are increasingly becoming a common fixture in the workplace. To varying degrees the technology is already integrated across many industries, including within HR departments. 

Despite the obvious benefits that AI can bring, there is real concern that the technology poses a threat to job roles such as HR managers. While, the technology may enhance key responsibilities such as recruiting, assessments and management practises, it won’t replace HR managers and/or HR departments completely. Advances in machine learning have particular relevance for HR professionals and it’s important to understand the opportunity that AI presents, as well as the impact on areas such as compliance, employee on boarding and expenses.

Keeping the ‘human’ touch in HR

AI has the ability to free HR managers from menial tasks, allowing them to focus on more complicated processes. If we take the approval of expense claims as an example, it’s easy to see how machine learning software can be used to remember and enforce a company’s expenses policy. The technology is particularly effective in using algorithms to identify and predict data patterns and could be used to monitor claims. This means the days of looking through receipts and identifying dates and VAT numbers are long gone. Instead AI engines would read receipts and audit expense claims, as well as forwarding abnormalities for human investigation and approval. This ensures that the expense claims reaching the HR department are accurate and valid, whilst rejecting those which aren’t – such as claiming two lunches on the same day. It also relieves the hours spent on administrative drains, as invalid claims can be quickly flagged which saves manual handling times and boosting productivity. Ultimately, this frees up the resources of the HR department and allows them to deliver more value to other activities such as training and staff retention.

AI has the ability to support HR processes and with machines carrying out calculations, compliance and verifying information, HR managers are able to receive accurate data faster as well as reduce errors. It also provides a heightened level of visibility and transparency of an organisations overall spend and claiming habits, allowing the HR department to analyse and drill down into individual areas of spend, enabling more informed decision making for cost reduction opportunities and policy change.

AI won’t lead to job losses

Research suggests that 66 per cent of CEOs believe AI will drive significant value to the HR department, so where does this leave the roll of the HR manager and how will AI impact the HR function?

Increasingly we’re seeing a job shift rather than a job loss when looking at AI’s impact on human resources. Automation is certainty freeing people from performing manual checks and increasingly the technology is allowing HR professionals to enhance employee experience, help reduce operational costs and gain valuable new insights. It’s this focus on value-added contributions that’s encouraging HR professionals to work more collaboratively with their business counterparts in departments such as accounting and operations. By translating data into useful information, HR managers are able to ensure the correct interpretation of data and actively support business decision making.

AI won’t replace human interactions but it will make doing so easier, especially for HR teams who are relating important information to other departments in the business. For instance, frequently asked questions and commonly raised issues can be automatically handled – freeing up HR managers time allowing them to prioritise more strategic issues. What’s more, the machine learning component of these systems means that the technology will only get better at dealing with common issues and queries.

Increasingly with the mainstream adoption of AI, areas such as duty of care are becoming more accessible and important to HR managers. For many businesses, managing drivers and vehicles is a huge responsibility and impacts their financial, environmental and duty of care obligations. Failure to comply with regulations can lead to financial penalties and because of this we’re seeing HR professionals take a keen interest.

Previously the process of checking driving licences could be arduous and involve filling in forms to gain permission to check against DVLA data. Now that process can be completely automated and is built into expenses systems, saving time and money, giving HR staff more time to work on the tasks that matter most.

The future of the HR department

It’s no secret that technology and smartphones in particular are set to deliver more compelling and personalised experiences. Gartner research predicts that by 2022, 80 per cent of smartphones shipped will have on-device AI capabilities. This change is set to impact HR department and very quickly the industry will see the implementation of optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Allowing HR professionals to convert different types of documents, such as scanned paper documents or images into editable and searchable data will further streamline tasks and provide teams with the reliability and performance they desire. We’ll also see more intelligence from smartphones when performing functions. For instance, if an employee is driving, the smartphone might prompt the user to see if they would like to make a claim for their mileage, or auto populate an expense claim by scanning a receipt. Finally, technologies such as chatbots will become increasingly widespread throughout the HR department. Allowing employees to access important information about policies and procedures from anywhere and at any time. Not only does this reduce the administrative burden on HR teams but also meets employees desire for more efficient self-services.

The adoption of AI and machine learning technology has the potential to create greater opportunities than ever before. The pace for adoption isn’t set to slow, so it’s important to look at incorporating automated tools to increase efficiency, boost productivity and streamline processes throughout the human resources department.

Neil Everatt, CEO, Selenity (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Neil Everatt is the CEO of Selenity, a cloud expenses software company.