The emergence of generative AI and foundation models has revolutionized the way every business, across industries, operates at this current inflection point. This is especially true in the HR function, which has been pushed to the forefront of the new AI era. In recent IBV research, 36% of CEOs identified workforce and skills as the most important factor impacting their enterprise. Expanding the use of AI capabilities across core HR processes in recruiting, retaining and developing skills and talent promises to deliver enterprise transformation and allow organizations to compete in a global market.
The future of HR and talent with generative AI
Traditionally, many HR processes, applications and technologies—from resume parsing, sourcing and screening, and candidate-skills matching—have benefited from and been closely aligned with automation and AI capabilities. In this new era, however, generative AI can deliver more using targeted advisors and the use cases that benefit from it will continue to expand. Processes such as job description creation, auto-grading video interviews and intelligent search that once required a human employee can now be completed using data-driven insights and generative AI. This not only transforms HR processes and enhances business operations, but also empowers HR professionals to innovate and focus on higher value work.
For example, IBM’s HR function has worked to build the capabilities of its internal AI-driven digital assistant, AskHR, over the past 8 years to answer 2,000 inquiries and automate more than 100 processes. AskHR has recently started pushing nudges to employees preparing for travel, sending weather alerts, and completing other processes. As AskHR continues to learn and expand its capabilities, human employees can look to save time on tasks and focus on more important work.
The evolution of AI capabilities in uses cases such as recruiting and acquisition has become increasingly sophisticated, reducing the cost and time associated with hiring new employees. With the ability to segment requisitions based on role requirements, talent availability and other mandatory criteria, recruiters can improve candidate skills matching, attract more diverse talent and increase their productivity.
Critical considerations for responsible AI adoption
While the possibilities are endless, the explosion of use cases that employ generative AI in HR also poses questions around misuse and the potential for bias. Widespread adoption and use of AI in HR applications raises many concerns about ethical implications and employee protections related to data and privacy. Before adopting AI into their processes, organizations must develop clear intentions for what responsible AI means to them, individually, and identify not only what they are willing to do, but what they are unwilling to do. Failure to adopt a responsible AI strategy can result in great reputational, regulatory, legal, and even financial impact.
Therefore, responsible AI use is essential to success across the entire employee lifecycle and must be accounted for in the generative AI strategy. As such, HR leaders cannot simply rely on data and AI to make decisions. You must involve employees throughout the process to ensure trust and gain organizational buy-in.
To ensure responsible AI use, IBM recommends organizations follow these five pillars of AI ethics:
Explainability. Earning and maintaining trust by making it clear that promotion decisions are made by human employees
Fairness by applying rules consistently and displaying the same data for all employees
Robustness. Guarding against adversarial threats and potential incursions to keep systems healthy
Transparency promotes andreinforces trust by sharing information with stakeholders of varying roles
Privacy. Data must be safeguarded throughout the entire lifecycle, from training to production and governance
Although we don’t know where the next level of generative AI will evolve, organizations must make these ethical pillars an integral part of the culture. HR leaders set the tone. They must challenge the rest of the enterprise on the ethical implications of AI and data privacy. They must also be able to explain to their organization how they plan to ensure their use of AI will be trustworthy, ethical and compliant.
Revisit the basics to reduce challenges
There are many considerations in introducing AI into HR processes leaving business leaders faced with decision overload on how, when, and where to use it to benefit their workforce. From questions about where to start, ensuring you have the necessary skills and technologies, and using quality data; the decision-making process can be complex, overwhelming and confusing. Additionally, there is a lot of pressure to integrate AI into more and more use cases, improve productivity levels and create new business models.
To simplify and determine the best course of action; however, you must go back to the basics, focusing on your strategy, operating model and people to assess your organization’s AI readiness.
Establish a clear and actionable plan that combines both the business and AI strategies. Create specific objectives and goals with defined measurements for success. Understand your existing workforce and identify any skills gaps. Plan for gaps by reskilling current talent, restructuring job roles, automating tasks, and leveraging ecosystem partners.
Evolve your operating model by reimagining the experience of your workforce as well as your customers to inform new ways of working. Visualize end-to-end processes and identify opportunities to apply AI and gain new efficiencies. Determine if legacy systems will integrate seamlessly and use AIOps to resolve any IT issues.
Invest in the talent and skills of your people. Create a culture of continuous learning. Success in the new AI era requires you put people, instead of technology, at the center of your strategy. Your human workforce is integral to the success of this digital transformation. Their expertise gives them unique insights into where automation and AI would improve performance. Foster an open communication forum for them to provide direct input and insights.
Be prepared to ask and answer the hard questions. Generative AI is transforming the way we work globally and there are many hard questions HR leaders need to be able to answer to make sure people, processes and technology work together to create business value, deliver on business strategy and improve operational efficiency.
Challenges become less of an issue by first aligning your organization’s overall business strategy with the generative AI strategy, defining end-to-end processes and workflows, and educating people and technologies on how everything will work together. No matter where you are in this process, IBM Consulting talent management experts can help answer you the hard questions, implement AI applications into your existing HR systems, accelerate digital transformation, and unlock workforce potential.