Digital Optimism: How AI Will Put the ’Human’ Back Into ’Human Resources’ in 2019

In the war for talent, the field of human resources is the front line for innovation. To beat the competition and hire top-tier candidates, HR departments must leverage the right technology to get things done fast, while still retaining the human touch that is critical to recruiting and retention success.

Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, digital platforms and services are developing faster than ever. As more and more routine processes become fully automated, employee productivity can increase significantly – but no machine is perfect. It is up to HR to find the perfect balance between AI and individual input.

In light of these disruptive trends, I asked some leading voices in HR for their thoughts on the future of technology at work. Here’s what they had to say:

1. AI Will Free Up More Time for Innovation and Creation

Fear not! AI may make for an excellent teammate, but it is unlikely to take over the world. Even the most advanced technology cannot replace the human mind and its ability to innovate, connect, and dream. What technology can do, however, is give more people more time to pursue the kind of creative thinking the drives business success and improves our lives.

With their ability to save us time on the most mundane of tasks and administrative duties, AI and automation have become chief enablers of this creative thinking.

“[The] jobs up for replacement are those that are routine and standardized and focused on gathering and sharing information,” says Dave Ulrich, HR expert and cofounder of advisory firm The RBL Group. “Relationship jobs that require creativity [are] less likely to be automated.”

2. Technology Will Be Simplified for the Benefit of the Entire Employee Lifecycle

Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research, predicts program streamlining will be a key trend throughout 2019: “Over the past few years, basic areas such as scheduling and communication have become overcomplicated, with companies using too many providers and too many capabilities. … Companies are becoming smarter about the technology investments they make in talent acquisition, and simplicity is helping to drive many of these decisions for 2019.”

As an organization implements more products and platforms, it can be difficult for HR staffers to maintain nimble, efficient ecosystems. In the year ahead, more companies will adopt agnostic cross-platform tools to streamline communication, offer easier learning curves for new employees, reduce stress, and increase happiness for existing employees (leading to improved employee retention). Most importantly, companies can increase revenue thanks to newfound efficiency and increased employee productivity.

3. Scheduling Will Continue to Be an (Addressable) Challenge

The HR profession is full of time-sucking processes, including employee onboarding, benefits rollouts, and performance management, to name only a few of the laborious tasks that fall on HR. One of the most frustrating of all activities for HR is scheduling. Simply getting two or three people together at a meeting can be an arduous challenge.

“HR teams spend too much time and money on scheduling,” Laurano says, adding that it is “a major source of frustration” in the industry.

The issue won’t resolve itself, but effective solutions are making their way into the workplace. AI is particularly valuable in this area. For example, AI-based virtual teammates that can sync internal employee schedules across programs and platforms to easily find and book meeting times are becoming increasingly popular. Armed with such tools, HR pros can change scheduling from a thorn in their collective side to an automated routine.

4. Millennials Will Infuse the Workforce With Digital Optimism

Millennials became the largest generation in the US labor force in 2016, and the size of this talent segment continues to grow. As the first generation to be raised on digital devices, millennials – and, by extension, the US workforce – are more “digitally optimistic” than their predecessors. That is, they believe in the benefits of digital innovation and are willing to embrace and experiment with the latest technologies. Millennials are bringing this optimism into the workplace, spurring a massive shift in how organizations view and relate to workplace technology.

“People are already beginning to rely on Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Bixby, and Siri,” says Trish McFarlane, CEO of H3HR Advisors. “The more we use these support technologies in our personal lives, the faster we will be ready to embrace them in the workplace. Organizations that can articulate the value [of automation and AI] to employees will see the highest rates of early adoption and overall success.”

One thing is clear about where HR is headed for 2019: Automation is key, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. Rather, this stage of HR evolution is about humans and machines working together. As AI takes care of the tedious administrative tasks that limit employee productivity, connection, and creativity, HR can start to put the “human” back into “human resources.”

David Karandish is the CEO and cofounder of Catch this article – plus tons of exclusive content – in issue five of Magazine, arriving later this week!

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