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It’s Time for Organizations to Get Serious About AI Strategy

If your organization is still taking a wait-and-see approach to artificial intelligence (AI), it’s time to stop holding off and to take action. A SHRM survey of HR leaders found that as many as half of HR departments could be using AI by 2025. You don’t want your organization to be left behind as your competitors deploy AI, but you also can’t afford to adopt AI tools in a disjointed fashion. Instead, you need to move beyond experimentation and embrace a strategic approach to AI.

Overcoming Barriers to AI Adoption

Perhaps your organization is reluctant to invest in AI because of uncertainty about how it will impact your workforce. Your AI strategy needs to consider how your use of AI will impact your talent needs. AI tools are at their most powerful when they’re used to enhance human capabilities, rather than replace human workers. Your AI strategy should account for how your talent needs will change, as well as how you’ll reskill your workers to perform effectively in this new environment.

Worries about AI replacing workers may make headlines, but cutting jobs is the least common perceived benefit of workplace AI initiatives, according to a Deloitte study. Instead, the most significant driver behind adopting AI solutions is using technology to improve a company’s products or services, with optimization of internal business functions coming in second. Your AI strategy should ensure that your use of these tools aligns with business goals so that you’re focused on the most important outcomes.

Others are hesitant to embrace AI because of concerns about data privacy or bias. These concerns are valid: Amazon famously scrapped an AI recruiting engine because it showed biases against women. However, organizations are overcoming these potential barriers by carefully vetting AI tools and by combining human and artificial intelligence—for example, by ensuring that humans always review AI-assisted decisions. Taking a strategic approach allows for risk assessments to be conducted and safety protocols to be put in place, without losing alignment with business goals.

Understanding the Possibilities

Along with optimizing internal functions and automating certain tasks, AI has tremendous potential to empower better decision-making through more effective data capture and analysis. Many organizations have reams of data available to them, ranging from applicant data to worker engagement scores. But human workforces often struggle to decipher, organize, and analyze all of this information in a timely fashion. AI can manage data, simplify workstreams, provide analysis, and make it easier for human workers to use this information to make good decisions and develop new processes or ideas. For HR departments, that could translate into developing personalized learning experiences, optimized recruitment workflows, and skills inferences.

“I’m bullish on what this means for people in HR departments,” said Bryan Hancock, a partner at McKinsey & Company specializing in talent. “I think AI can reposition HR on a journey from being transactional to being strategic.” By freeing up HR departments from much of their record-keeping and processing functions, as well as making recruiting more efficient and automating the dissemination of benefits and policy information, Hancock expects to see HR professionals getting out from under paperwork and into higher, more strategic functions.

An IBM survey found that AI decreased the total HR cost per employee after two years by 22%. However, those gains didn’t happen immediately. For the first two years of AI use in HR, organizations reported an increase in cost per employee. But after using AI in a business-as-usual mode for more than two years, the cost per employee began dropping significantly. That delay in seeing a return on investment is all the more reason for organizations to prioritize their AI adoption strategy now.

Pursuing AI Strategically

The best uses of AI involve a combination of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. AI is most effective when it frees up humans to do what they do best—think strategically, creatively, and empathetically. Rather than waiting for the AI bubble to pop or an AI epiphany to appear, now is the time to get intentional about how AI can fit into your organization’s strategy. Assemble a team of smart minds who can think deliberately and strategically and develop a plan for maximizing the benefits of AI to move your organization forward. 


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.