AI talk: four experts on its impact in HR

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Does artificial intelligence have a naming problem? Are we ready for it in HR? And just who is FRiDA the robot? Four experts give their views

Sian Harrington

Automation and AI at work

HR is bottom of the list when it comes to driving forward the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, according to early findings from research by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), to be released next year. So, will AI and automation aid good people management? Four experts offer their insights.

Andrew Spence, HR transformation director, Glass Bead Consulting 

“AI has a naming problem. The best way to look at it is in the general context of automation. It is an opportunity to look at insights. We can’t predict what jobs will be like in 20 years’ time but I think the future is bright.”

Cheryl Allen, HR director transformation Atos

“Different tech terms are bandied around under the name of AI but automation has a different impact to analytics when it comes to work. We have introduced FRiDA the robot in HR at Atos to take on mundane, repetitive tasks. It has replaced four full time equivalent roles – not four people but task components – enabling us to reinvest in new skills such as data insights. You need to be open and explicit with employees about the changing world. If you do automation correctly it is an enabler to humans to add more value.”

FRiDA – Friendly Robotic Engineer Delivering Advantage

Megan Marie Butler, AI analyst for HR, Cognition X

“If you look at AI in the HR market, there are some 450 products. Compare this to around 3,000 in sales and marketing. Talent acquisition accounts for more than half the market at the moment with chatbots and game-based assessments popular. AI makes prediction cheaper so it is a different shift to previous technological advancements. To survive people will need digital literacy, soft skills and a growth mindset.”

Robert Nitsch, chief operating officer, Institute for Apprenticeships and former HRD of the British Army

“I worry that we seize tech terms to give credibility. We need to use terminology that resonates with staff. We are in danger of an allergic reaction if we don’t. So, I tend to use the term ‘digital’. But AI can help us get rid of the tyranny of process and bring agility to HR. However, we need to guard against degrading human contact. There is a danger of leaders becoming too data dependent. We need to be data savvy with emotional intelligence. It’s a hugely expensive process and the technology is disruptive and may lead to unexpected outcomes. I see it as a continuum rather than step change but we mustn’t promise staff things we cannot deliver. This will only lead to disengagement.”

14 November 2018. The panel was speaking at the CIPD’s annual conference in Manchester
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