Article: Navigating AI in HR: Possibilities, practicalities and strategies by Brian Sommer

HR Technology

Navigating AI in HR: Possibilities, practicalities and strategies by Brian Sommer

In a keynote session at TechHR PULSE Mumbai 2024, Brian Sommer, Founder of TechVentive, explored key areas of AI in HR, including opportunities, concerns, possibilities, and key strategies.
Navigating AI in HR: Possibilities, practicalities and strategies by Brian Sommer

“When considering the implementation of AI in HR, it's crucial to ask the right questions and conduct thorough due diligence,” said Brian Sommer, Founder & President of TechVentive, while delivering a keynote at TechHR PULSE Mumbai 2024 by People Matters.

Kickstarting the session on ‘HR & AI: What’s Possible, What’s Practical & What You Should Implement (Or Not!)’, Brian stated a fun fact: ‘You can't spell Mumbai without AI. I find that kind of ironic.’

Evolution of Artificial Intelligence

Recalling his journey into AI knowledge, which began in 1984 at Accenture, through a colleague who worked on concepts like Lisp, a programming language for AI, Brian said, “Back then, computers lacked the capacity for such advancements. Fast forward to today, and most of us are AI users in some form or another. Have you ever noticed your phone predicting your text messages? That's AI at work, analysing patterns to anticipate your next word.”

He added, “AI now primarily focuses on natural language processing and machine learning, but generative AI stole the headlines last year. This category poses unique challenges.”

AI in HR: Possibilities and Practicalities

Discussing the possibilities and practicalities of AI in HR, Brian identified five key areas: Opportunities, Concerns, AI's intersection with HR, Developing Countermeasures, and Establishing Policies. He said, “For instance, imagine receiving a cover letter generated by AI, should you still consider the candidate? These are policy decisions HR departments need to address.”

Further quoting Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff who stated, "Hallucinations are not a feature," Brian added, “Yet, some in tech downplay the importance of ensuring AI outputs make sense. Recent incidents, like ChatGPT generating gibberish, underscore the need for caution. Asking the right questions is crucial, as highlighted in my recent conversation with an Oracle executive who revealed customers often overlook key aspects of generative AI. Additionally, we're aware of individuals exploiting AI vulnerabilities, a risk job seekers might pose too. These instances emphasise the importance of proactive measures. AI holds immense promise, but understanding its nuances and potential risks is essential.”

AI in HR: Opportunities

Navigating the opportunities of AI, Brian underlines that HR vendors are showcasing various solutions, such as chatbots and process automation tools. These tools can predict skill development needs or identify competencies, similar to predictive features in smartphone text processing. However, using such tools may raise legal concerns about sharing employee data with third parties. Another set of tools assists in complex problem-solving, like automating accounting transactions. These tools utilise pattern recognition to streamline tasks, such as payroll integration with the general ledger. Moreover, vendors offer solutions to identify probable skills in employees. Sharing a basic example, he said, “A manager likely possesses proficiency in Microsoft Office or Google applications, even if not explicitly stated in their resume. These AI-driven tools can uncover tacit skills like these. While these AI applications show promise, they come with boundaries and varying levels of risk.”

Adding a recent key finding by Boston Consulting Group in a report on ‘How Generative AI will transform HR,’ which stated the potential of AI to free up HR professionals' time for strategic tasks. “However, misconceptions about AI often lead to concerns about job loss. Despite this, AI typically augments rather than replaces human roles. Hence, while certain job functions, like call handling, might face some vulnerability, the overall impact is often mitigated by natural attrition,” emphasised Brian.

AI in HR: Where to invest?

In justifying AI investments, HR organisations focus on reducing errors, enhancing productivity, and optimising processes, such as interview scheduling. Generative AI tools, touted for their transformative potential in job description generation, are abundant. Brian underscored, “Yet, it's unnecessary to invest in costly third-party products for this. Many online resources offer similar capabilities at minimal costs or for free.”

While AI adoption in HR promises efficiency gains, concerns about job displacement abound. However, AI typically complements rather than supplants human roles. So, despite some vulnerabilities, particularly in roles like call handling, the overall impact on job loss is often overstated. “Ensure not to include external data in HR applications that may not be relevant to your organisation, as this could impact your ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) efforts. It's crucial to consider the environmental impact of AI tools before purchasing them, especially given the significant increase in data centre capacity allocated to AI. Environmental concerns arise due to the high water and electricity consumption associated with powering large server farms. Therefore, it's advisable to conduct thorough research and seek transparency from vendors regarding their environmental practices,” he added.

AI in HR: Developing countermeasures and policies

Sharing about Gartner's Hype Cycle model that illustrates the typical trajectory of new technologies, from initial excitement to eventual disillusionment and subsequent stabilisation, Brian said, “The hype surrounding AI may have peaked in 2023, leading to a more realistic assessment of its capabilities and limitations. Sam Altman of OpenAI predicts that new AI models will generate only moderate interest, similar to a new iPhone release. Despite this, it's essential to address copyright issues that may arise from AI-generated content, as well as ensure transparency and accountability in AI development and deployment. When considering the implementation of AI in HR, it's crucial to ask the right questions and conduct thorough due diligence.”

Highlighting Ben Eubanks' book: ‘Artificial Intelligence for HR: Use AI to Build a Successful Workforce,’ that provides valuable insights into the potential applications of AI in HR, serving as a useful resource for organisations navigating this complex landscape, he added, “It's essential to implement robust countermeasures to mitigate the misuse of AI, such as unauthorised job applications generated by AI bots. These countermeasures should address the limitations of existing systems, such as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), and consider the potential impact of false positives and false negatives on recruitment outcomes. Policy decisions regarding the acceptance of machine-generated cover letters and resumes should be carefully considered to maintain the integrity of the recruitment process. Implementing measures to deter the use of generative AI tools to replicate job descriptions can help safeguard against unethical practices and ensure fair competition in the job market.”

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Topics: HR Technology, Strategic HR, #TechHRPulseMumbai, #ArtificialIntelligence, #HRCommunity

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