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Building the business case for AI in HR

Artificial intelligence is on everyone’s lips but how does it impact HR? In the first of a two-part series on AI in HR, ThePeopleSpace asks Bernard Marr, founder and CEO of Bernard Marr & Co, why HR should be taking AI seriously

Ai in HR

Which companies and organisations are leading the way with their use of AI with their HR function?

As you would expect, some of the leading tech giants such as Google and Amazon are at the forefront of using AI in their HR functions. However, in my book Artificial Intelligence in PracticeI feature a case study about Unilever and how they are using AI to transform their recruitment process. By applying AI, they have managed to cut 80,000 hours of interview time while improving candidate experience. Every unsuccessful applicant now gets a full analysis of why they were not selected and what they could do differently next time.

What is the business case for using AI across the HR function?

Any business case should start with the customer (the person the HR team is providing a service to, be this an internal employee or an external job candidate). AI initiatives should improve the customer experience and reduce costs. I have seen many AI projects fail because they only focused on the cost element and forgot the customer experience. If, like in Unilever’s case, the AI project can improve the candidate experience, reduce bias and significantly reduce costs, you have a winning business case. When I work with HR teams to help them identify their strategic use cases we start with their strategic HR and business goals and then explore where technology such as AI and machine learning could deliver the best improvements. We don’t start with the technology.

How is AI being used to enhance HR?

Basically, any HR process can be augmented and improved using AI. I have worked with HR teams to apply AI in recruitment to improve the candidate selection and introduce intelligent onboarding and employee support chatbots, to name just a few. Many of the HR admin functions can be automated using AI, which in turn should free up HR people to provide the more strategic, interpersonal service they love to provide.

How can good ROI with AI investment be shown by HR as they build their case for using this technology?

This is usually super easy as long as you create a clear business case that is driven by the most important HR goals and challenges. If you then demonstrate an enhanced service level with reduced costs, many business cases become no-brainers. However, if they start as AI projects on the search for problems to solve, they rarely deliver benefits.

What are the current pressure points when designing and implementing an AI function into the HR process?

The pressure points are the same key pressure points HR teams have faced for some time: things like winning the war for talent and attracting talent; retaining and engaging people; dealing with the increasing administrative burden; providing insightful HR analytics; and reducing costs. AI can help with all of these.

How should different departments across a company support the use of more AI within the HR function?

The key functions that should support HR in any endeavour to employ AI are the IT department and the strategy department. If HR is able to align their goals with these two functions and can gain their support, then any AI project will be much more likely to succeed.

How are businesses funding their development of AI within their HR processes?

This very much depends on the business. Some, like Unilever or the tech giants, are doing a great job, while many others are struggling. I find that HR teams in large incumbent organisations and in medium- and smaller-sized organisations find it most difficult to adopt AI in their HR functions. Because they often lack the relevant IT skills and believe huge investments are required to make it happen. That’s not the case. With AI as a service (AIaaS), any business unit can start AI projects with limited skills and budget.

For a more detailed How To guide on building a business case for AI in HR, plus other resources, join the People Space Leaders Academy now!

Bernard Marr is the author of Artificial Intelligence in Practice: How 50 Successful Companies Used AI and Machine Learning to Solve Problems. He is the founder and CEO of Bernard Marr & Co and an internationally best-selling business author, futurist, keynote speaker and strategic advisor to companies and governments. 

Published 19 September 2019

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