How AI Can Put the "Human" Back Into HR

Patrizia Ciuppa

Artificial intelligence in human resources sounds like an oxymoron. But when it comes to solving HR’s biggest challenges — from simplifying the recruiting process to developing employees — AI is actually a company’s best friend. We invited renowned analyst and author Ben Eubanks to help us understand AI's role in making HR more "human".
 

Our Q&A with Eubanks touched on:

  • Dispelling fears around AI
  • The benefits of AI (beyond time savings!)
  • Tips for discouraging bias
  • AI’s role in boosting employee experience, engagement and retention
     

Read on for key takeaways, or watch the full episode below! 
 


Organizations should be transparent about AI
 

As the Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, Eubanks — who just released his second book on AI in HR — spends a lot of time talking with HR leaders around the world. In years past, he said, companies wondered if AI should be integrated into HR practices. Now the question is: how much?  
 

An important consideration as AI becomes more mainstream is the transparency regarding its usage. Eubanks noted a study where job candidates were given two different explanations regarding how AI was being used in the hiring process. One group of candidates was simply told the company was using AI technology. The second group received more detail. They were told that AI was being used to evaluate skills and match resumes to open jobs in an effort to help candidates be more successful. 
 

The results? Candidates in the second group viewed the explanation more favorably. Organizations should be up front about how and why AI is being used to gain the trust of employees and talent prospects. 
 


AI is not replacing TA professionals
 

The fear that AI will eliminate vast swaths of jobs is still out there. But the only jobs at risk, Eubanks said, are jobs that begin and end with repetitive tasks that could easily be handed over to a machine. 
 

TA, recruitment and HR professionals depend on relationship skills to acquire and manage talent. Rather than eliminate those jobs, AI helps alleviate the burden of day-to-day tasks. With more time in their schedule, HR teams can focus on relationship building and become true talent advisors for the organization. 
 


AI offers a lot more than time savings
 

Eubanks’ research shows that organizations using AI-driven tools for two or more years are twice as likely to prioritize relationship skills. And they're 5X more likely to focus on business impacts, analytics, and proving the value of the talent function
 

This finding is especially noteworthy, according to Eubanks, because it transforms the role of TA from simply filling jobs to optimizing business functions — like better serving customers or delivering products faster. “It allows us as recruiters and HR leaders to do the things we’re excited to do, to hand off those things we don’t love and really focus on things that get us out of bed every morning,” he said.
 


Resource — The Definitive Guide to Artificial Intelligence for Recruiting


Organizations that adopt AI initially see amazing numbers in terms of time saved, to the tune of a day or more per week. However, those numbers tend to flatten over time, Eubanks noted — and then it’s time to optimize and fine-tune. That may not sound as exciting, but that’s what ultimately leads to improved candidate conversion, Eubanks pointed out. 
 

Here’s how: recruiters, once freed from repetitive scheduling and screening tasks, have time to focus on converting candidates already in the talent pipeline. For example, they can reach out personally and help an applicant finish the apply process. And the organizational leaders Eubanks hears from now view technology as integral to success. “[They’re saying] ‘We are now professionals that leverage technology in order to hit objectives and goals,’” he said.
 


Reducing bias requires the right human feedback loops
 

AI’s role in discouraging bias and promoting diversity and inclusion is a far-reaching topic. Eubanks revealed what he believes should be the No. 1 consideration when evaluating vendors in the technology selection process — and that’s the diversity of the team developing the product.
 

“Ask about the diversity of the people building the products … that’s one flag you can use to determine if they have a well-rounded perspective,” he said. “Are they gonna be surprised … when they release [the algorithms] and find out, oh wait a minute, we only trained this on a data set of middle-aged white men?”
 

As for HR pros and recruiters? “You need to be experts on bias and what it looks like in your organization,” Eubanks said. For example, make sure that any criteria used for candidate matching is relevant and appropriate to rank, and won’t create a bias against a certain demographic group. “It’s up to you to look for those things and throw a flag when you see them,” Eubanks emphasized. 
 


AI-driven career pathing improves Employee Experience
 

We all know that people are leaving jobs at historically high rates. Eubanks explored this trend in a recent research project. He found that what employees want right now more than anything is flexibility and autonomy. 
 

In a perfect world, every manager would sit down with every team member individually and ask, “What do you want to be, and how can I help you get there?” But this just doesn’t happen. 
 

AI-driven tools can help make this magical world a reality, Eubanks said. AI can match employees’ skills, experience, and career goals to internal opportunities and illuminate an attainable career path. “The value of AI in this is putting the power into the hands of the individuals that are trying to make their own career decisions, or it’s about enabling managers to have better conversations there,” he said. 
 

Resource — Artificial Intelligence for HR (2nd edition), by Ben Eubanks
 


AI can help HR boost engagement and retention 
 

Empowering employees to grow within the organization unlocks engagement and retention, Eubanks pointed out. One way to look at it? Hiring an employee from within recreates all the positive feelings of receiving a job offer: “It re-engages them all over again.” 
 

And beyond the feel-good factor, internal mobility can translate to money saved for the organization. Research shows that retaining an effective employee results in better performance and higher engagement — not to mention saving on the cost of on-boarding a new employee. 
 

AI tools help HR and TA professionals get more granular insight on employees and job candidates, allowing for better problem-solving and individual relationship building. “It allows us to be the hero as HR and talent leaders. That’s such a fun, fun place to be,” Eubanks concluded. Amen to that. 
 


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