Every time you use Google maps, calculators, or email spam filters, do you know you’re using AI? Probably not. This is because AI is mostly associated with “out of this world” science fiction, the fear that “robots are stealing our jobs,” and incomprehensible jargon like “machine learning” and “block chain.” But in reality, AI is simply the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would have previously required human intelligence. With artificial intelligence, a computer can "think" for itself without being programmed to do so.
In March, HR professionals from across Kenya gathered in Nakuru for the College of Human Resources Management (CHRM)’s summit on Artificial Intelligence: Future-Proofing the Workforce.
The conversations focused on demystifying artificial intelligence (AI), a seemingly intimidating concept which is often misunderstood, especially by HR practitioners who often hear that “robots are stealing our jobs.”
One crucial lesson emerged from the summit. AI is here to stay, and it is time Kenyan companies, especially HR leaders embraced it.
Why HR should embrace AI
As a manager in any organisation, AI can make your job easier and more productive. In HR especially, the increased data we have on talent thanks to technology can help us in all aspects of talent management.
AI, predictive analysis and automation now allow you to monitor performance, optimise workflows, increase employee satisfaction, and dramatically improve the recruitment process. AI applications like chatbots mean no more data entry and no more sifting through CVs.
Isn’t it time that HR was seen as less administrative, and more like the essential strategic function that it is? By letting AI-assisted platforms complete the administrative tasks for you, you focus more on tasks that need a human touch. Here are some areas of HR that AI is improving:
Employee engagement: Today more than ever companies are grappling with how to retain their good talent. Organisations such as Infosys limited, have created an algorithm to identify employees who may be about to quit their job so that they can intervene and improve job satisfaction. Humu, founded by Google’s former HR head Lazlo Bock, uses AI to send workers personalised “nudges” throughout the day. These could be reminders to recognise a colleague who has been doing a good job or to consult the opinion of a shy co-worker more often. They are tapping into AI to increase productivity, retention, and morale of employees.
Recruitment: Hiring is cumbersome for companies of all sizes, but for firms like Unilever who receive more than one million job applications in a year, it can be particularly daunting.Unilever uses Artificial intelligence in the initial stages of their recruitment process allowing candidates to be initially assessed via video interview from their own homes. Applicants record responses to automated questions on their computer or mobile phones, which save time that, would have been spent on interviews.
According to Unilever’s Chief of HR, automation of their preliminary screening has saved them 70,000 person-hours of interviewing and assessing candidates.
Candidate satisfaction: AI is also beneficial for job applicants who benefit from fair selection processes, increased opportunities and improved communication through automation. For example, with the automated interviews used by Unilever, applicants who live far from the company’s offices can be considered for jobs they wouldn’t have typically been able to interview for.
HR should lead the way
Accountants feared that Excel would replace them before realising it is more of a helper than an enemy. Human resource managers in Kenya should, therefore, be at the forefront of the ever-changing workplace and actively create room for new ideas instead of resisting them.
We can also view this as an opportunity to upscale rather than losing jobs. No matter how advanced AI gets, complex and soft skills are still king. Develop your analytical skills, creativity, sound judgment and critical and problem-solving thinking. These are crucial in any job, in addition to attitude, accountability and trustworthiness.
Let’s forget the human-like robots we see in sci-fi movies! There are multitudes of practical applications for AI in the talent space.