What AI can mean to HR? Time for a reality check!
11/07/2018

What AI can mean to HR? Time for a reality check!

When you consider the potential of AI in HR, Gartner’s Hype Cycle for emerging technologies is spot on. The potential is huge, but when you look at what has already been realized, disillusion is nearby. So let’s try to take a look at the slope of enlightenment. Aka, ‛Where reality meets the dream’.
HR digitization in Flanders comes from far but, even so, still has a long way to go. More details, all the figures and some useful tips for pursuing your continued HR-digitization can be found in the white paper: “HR digitalisering in Vlaanderen – vandaag en morgen. Een huidige stand van zaken en vooruitblik op de toekomst”.

The many faces of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in many forms. Some of our own AI experiments use technologies such as machine learning, conversational interfaces, augmented and virtual reality, and Virtual Personal Assistants. 
We haven’t looked at deep learning, brain computer interfaces, smart robots or other experimental technologies yet. In our view, it will take a few more years until these technologies are ‘smart’ enough to be used productively in the workplace.

Endless possibilities but…

When data scientists explain Machine Learning, the potential from a HR business standpoint seems endless. We could predict…

• Who’s at risk of leaving our company
• Who will be an outperformer
• Who are the best candidates for a vacant position
• What would be the right recipe (prescription) for increasing employee retention, lowering absence rates, etc.

The possibilities truly are endless. The models, algorithms, tools and computing power are there.

What about the data?

It’s all about data

Data needs to be of good quality and abundantly available to generate relevant results. Having data on a population of 1,000 people over a 5-year period probably isn’t enough to train a Machine Learning model to come to significant conclusions. In our case, anyway… it wasn’t.

One issue is this: administrative HR data – mostly stored in state-of-the-art HR Information Systems – is often too limited to reach significant conclusions!

This problem could be overcome by enriching the centrally stored HR data with insights from social media, email usage, sentiment analysis, other external data… But this brings us to the limits of what is ethically justified. Especially in this new GDRP era.

So lots can already be done, but there are still some data hurdles on our way!

Intelligent chatbots for HR

Chatbots also offer a window of opportunity for AI within HR.

Consider this scenario; you’re ill. Normally you would go the doctor, get your sick note, come back home, open your PC, logon to the network using a VPN connection, open your HRIS application (if you can find it), go to the sickness registration page, enter start and expected end date of your sick leave and upload the note… Not something you look forward to when your nose is dripping and you have a 40°C fever.

But simple administrative transactions like this are perfect for chatbots. Your company’s chatbot can inform your manager, activate your ‘out-of-office’ and upload the sick note to the right place. These cases are already being implemented today by using common bot frameworks with some cognitive intelligence behind it.

It just gets a little trickier with more complex cases (like cutting your sick leave short because you’re feeling better…). In those cases, it’s still good to have a human ‘back-up’ to deal with the out-of-the-ordinary.

Virtual Reality… getting ready for serious lift off

Virtual Reality has hit the consumer market; however, adoption is still below expectations. The reasons are obvious: the investment from both content provider and consumer are quite heavy and the results don’t yet deliver the type of experience users expect.

But the tide is turning.

The workplace has changed dramatically (anywhere, anytime, any device, anyone) and there is now serious traction regarding the use of VR for connecting coworkers.

  • With VR, there’s no need anymore for a heavy setup and high costs for videoconferencing; just put on your VR glasses and join a meeting room as you would in real life from behind your kitchen counter. You don’t even have to dress up for the occasion.
  • VR is also gaining traction in the field of employer branding and onboarding. Multiple examples exist today of companies creating VR movies for job applicants, thus enabling them to already get a feel of the company they will be working for in the near future.
  • VR for training purposes is also becoming of major importance in sectors where precision, operating procedures and extreme conditions apply.

AI for HR holds great promise

In short, AI for HR holds great promise and much is already possible today, especially in the fields of chatbots and VR. But there is still a lot of AI ground to cover for HR people everywhere.

Want to learn more about AI and human resources? Check out our report (in Dutch):
“HR digitalisering in Vlaanderen – vandaag en morgen. Een huidige stand van zaken en vooruitblik op de toekomst”

This report, prepared by delaware and vacature.com, contains a section on AI in HR and is downloadable for free, online.