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AI Is Changing the Way HR Works

New technologies and artificial intelligence can be used to improve performance appraisals, open enrollment and employee development.

A brain surrounded by social media icons.

​The rise of machines like those seen in the “Terminator” movies may instill in us a healthy fear of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, but wise HR professionals will focus on how today’s developments can give rise to positive changes—namely, greater efficiency in day-to-day operations and a better employee experience.

It’s no surprise that modern technologies—from process-streamlining apps to communication-improving bots—are altering the way we work. What is shocking, however, is the fast pace of their diffusion into the workplace.

Here are three examples of AI that have been fully accepted in businesses today and are changing the way we practice HR:

Crowdsourcing and performance data. For better appraisals, business thought leaders encourage the use of timely data from a wide array of sources. Companies such as GloboForce, an employee recognition software provider, claim that crowdsourced information provides more-holistic pictures of performance at more-regular intervals than traditional appraisal methods.

At first glance, that may seem intuitive. But many HR professionals are skeptical about the accuracy of such software with regard to performance data flow, which takes into account large volumes of information. For instance, after a meeting, Karma Notes asks fellow attendees about an individual’s effectiveness as a team player. What’s daunting is that the app poses this question after every meeting. What’s more, the process raises questions about people’s motivations for providing feedback. Some may be driven by a hidden agenda. The technology is being further refined to gather information related to deadlines and budgets, too. Almost 100 Fortune 1000 companies are piloting this type of crowdsourced performance system. More than ever, that puts the onus on HR professionals to better understand data management and analytics, and to account for relationship dynamics when interpreting such records.

Bots and benefits questions. If you’re like most HR practitioners, you’re happy just to survive open enrollment season. But those fortunate enough to leverage AI via their HR information systems (HRIS) usually don’t have it so bad. Some of today’s HRIS-based chatbots, for example, can automatically reply to employees’ benefits questions with answers tailored to your workforce. That means you spend less time fielding inquiries. While these tools are never perfect, most use a form of AI that makes information delivery extremely customizable. To take full advantage of that, you must build truly dynamic, consumer-oriented Q&A databases that reflect your workers and their preferences.

Algorithms and learning preferences. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of countless technologies that support learning and development activities. Among the most interesting are apps that use AI to create interactive tests and assessments to match test takers’ personal learning styles and engagement levels. Similar to Lumosity’s interactive brain games, these tools generate countless data points about users as they learn, including their pace and learning style. For HR, such innovations highlight the need for customized learning paths and data-driven approaches to employee development.

It’s clear that AI’s increasing role in HR represents an opportunity for you to drive value through data. Some would cry, “The machines are taking over!” The truth is that the machines are already here. It’s up to us to define how best to use them. 

Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, is senior vice president for knowledge development at SHRM.

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