AI is fueling HR’s transition from administrative to strategic. Until recently, the main benefits of technology were to help HR operate more efficiently and save time and money by automating repetitive tasks. Today, AI technologies enable HR teams to solve organizational challenges, elevate the employee experience, and improve every facet of the business—from recruitment to offboarding.
“For us as HR leaders, AI will change every process we touch. The way we source, assess, hire, train, develop, pay, and move people is all being informed by AI.,” said Josh Bersin, HR thought leader and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. “In the 25 years I’ve been an analyst, I’ve witnessed many transformative changes. I believe AI will be the most impactful change yet.”
There’s a lot to be excited about, but the full benefits of AI won’t come at the snap of a finger. It’s a long and winding road with short-term benefits in automation (task lists and time entry), medium-term benefits in augmentation (predictive analytics), and long-term benefits in the amplification of human activities (virtual AI recruiters to pre-screen candidates).
Here are some examples of applying AI and HR automation to three areas of the employee lifecycle.
The recruitment process can be lengthy and costly, making it the perfect starting point for an AI takeover. Recruiters need to source a large and diverse talent pool, and for that, they need to encourage people to apply to open roles. Recruiters can leverage AI to create more engaging recruitment channels and job descriptions and increase the number of CVs coming their way. Chatbots can interact with candidates to answer questions and provide more information about the role and company culture or match a prospective candidate’s skills to open roles throughout the organization.
AI can also help recruiters mine these interactions for insights that lead to more inclusive job descriptions and a smoother process. Chatbots get smarter with every interaction and increase the likelihood that great candidates will leave their CVs. Based on past data, AI can also predict how long it will take to fill a job, allowing recruiters to reprioritize open roles and keep stakeholders aligned.
Onboarding is a critical opportunity to make a good impression on new hires and engage them from the start. The last thing you want to do is bore employees with admin tasks, waste their time, or leave them ill-prepared, confused, and unsure of who to turn to for help. Automation can solve all of that and make your whole onboarding process better.
The average new hire has to complete 54 activities during the onboarding period, from filling out and signing documents to software set-up to orientation and training sessions. Many of these onboarding tasks can be automated, saving time—and staving off boredom—for both the HR team and your new hires. Smart docs can help new hires fill out documents faster, and onboarding automation can leverage document extraction technologies to process, route, and store information. An AI-powered platform can also allow systems to communicate and trigger actions to keep everything aligned. HR teams can leverage AI automation to order equipment and software before a new hire starts and create user accounts for email, Slack, and any other work apps they’ll likely need. AI can automatically schedule meetings for training, intro sessions, team lunches, one-on-ones, and any other onboarding programs, so when your new hire opens their calendar the first day, they can know exactly what’s ahead.
Chatbots and AI assistants can also have a significant impact on the onboarding process. 40% of new hires say getting a response from HR takes too long. Chatbots can provide immediate answers to any questions 24/7, ensuring new hires feel supported and have access to everything they need from day one.
3. Career development
Career development opportunities are instrumental for growing organizations. But the common problem is that employees aren’t always sure what new skills they need or are so overwhelmed by the number of options they choose nothing. AI can help your employees acquire the relevant strategic skills to help the organization’s (and their own) development.
Using AI, IBM developed a solution to their upskilling problem, called “Your Learning.” The AI-powered platform provides employees with a personalized learning portal with smart recommendations, targeted learning channels, and enhanced media (course materials, peer reviews) to make it easier for employees to find and enroll in the courses worth their time. A chatbot is also available to answer questions 24/7. 98% of IBM employees visit the portal every quarter, completing an average of 60 hours of learning per year.
Learning and upskilling are only one part of the equation. IBM also wanted to provide high-quality career guidance to all employees, regardless of their level within the organization. Their solution is Watson Career Coach (WCC), an AI assistant that interacts with employees to understand their current skillset and where they want to go and then helps employees create a concrete plan to get there. WCC gets to know the employee based on background information and by asking and answering questions using natural language. The AI assistant can then match employees to open roles. If the position requires more skills and experience, Watson works as a career navigator, helping employees plan for the future by building the necessary skills.
AI and HR: The possibilities that lie ahead
While previous technology has led to incremental changes in how HR departments operate, AI offers exponential improvements to HR processes and the employee experience. If you’re not sure where to start, Debora Bubb, Vice President and Chief Leadership, Learning and Inclusion Officer at IBM, breaks it down, saying, “Ask yourself: what things would be better if they were done 24/7? What would be better if it were done at scale? What would benefit from greater consistency? What would be possible if we leveraged broader expertise to see beyond our current limits? These are good candidates for AI.”
The applications and benefits of AI in HR are as vast and limitless as the technology itself. What’s clear today is that AI is proving itself as a game-changer by powering HR automation, enhancing the candidate and employee experience, and enabling HR to become more data-driven, efficient, and effective.