Artificial Intelligence and human resources?  Impact and considerations for the employee experience and organisation culture

Posted: 6th September 2023 Julie Leo, HR Consultancy Director

Coverage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the impact on the workplace has grown exponentially in recent months. A day doesn’t seem to go by without another news article about the impact of AI on jobs, AI replacing news presenters, AI creating a new industry, a new AI tool is released, or AI is creating new problems and challenges for us to manage.

Undoubtedly AI will become an increasingly large part of the way we all work. In fact, it already is. The challenge is therefore a live one, and one which should not just be seen as a technology issue. The impact of AI will cover all areas of organisations, including the employee experience and organisation culture. As a sector that has such as strong emphasis on people, it is critical therefore that the voice of HR is heard in the discussions on how AI will shape the workplace in the housing sector.

Here at Altair, we have been looking at the impact of AI on organisations in the sector. This article focuses on the impact AI could have on HR teams, employee experience and organisation culture. This includes some of the potential positive impacts, as well as some areas which we HR leaders should be considering.

Let’s start with some of the positives on how HR teams can use AI to support their activities:

Improved efficiency in core tasks

HR teams are faced with managing large and cumbersome processes, with a high volume of activity e.g. recruitment, appraisals, training, onboarding etc. This is an area where AI can make a significant difference and we are already seeing specialised AI tools come to market which can help HR teams run high volume activities at a much more efficient cost. Whilst reducing cost and increasing efficiency, it also enables HR teams to focus on higher value add / strategic activities.

Personalised learning and development

The new generation of AI will give organisations the ability to analyse employee performance and identify personalised training and development plans. This empowers employees to acquire new skills and grow within the organisation, contributing to their sense of professional advancement.

In addition, AI can be used to facilitate coaching and mentoring by offering questions, insight and challenges to individuals based on a specific question, problem or area they wish to explore.

Improved employee support

AI driven virtual assistants can provide instant support to leaders and employees, answering queries and resolving issues.

Because the new generation of AI can take on roles they can give this advice in a specific way e.g. in the role of a leader, as a HR specialist. The new generation of AI learns from trillions of data sources and will also learn from interactions, this way advice can be specific and tailored to organisational approaches.

Predictive analytics

For years people functions have been trying to find ways to use data to undertake predictive analytics, rather than the more traditional and most commonly used looking back at previous data and statistics.

AI can assist People functions to predict employee turnover, potential performance issues, sickness levels and suggest ways to manage this proactively. This proactive approach can aid retention and improve the employee experience by addressing issues before the escalate.

Improving and streamlining recruitment

AI can analyse the requirements of a role, focusing on the critical skills, knowledge and experience needed. AI can then use this to carry out a first sift of applications to identify those applicants that best match the skills and requirements of the role. Because AI will focus on skills and requirements this can help with reducing bias and creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Because the new generation of can take on specific roles, organisations can also use the technology to undertake first stage interviews and set tasks for the applicants and generate a list of suitable applicants from this. AI technology can also streamline the way applicants interact with the organisation.

These are some real positives for HR professionals to consider.

There are other areas which, if not managed carefully, could create unintended consequences and challenges to deal with.

Some key points which HR professionals in the sector should also be thinking about now in relation to AI, include:

New skills

The shift to using AI is going to create some significant changes in the skills required by organisations.

For example, we will all need a baseline understanding of how to use AI in our day-to-day roles. It would be prudent therefore for organisations to be implementing L&D programmes which not only upskill all employees in the use of AI, but also highlight the limitations and risks. It is also likely that over the coming years we’ll see a greater need for AI expertise within organisations (to manage and develop AI tools) – potentially through ‘AI Manager’ type roles (sitting alongside other more traditional functions).

HR leaders in the sector should also be thinking about the changes in the skills and expertise required in organisations.

Overemployment

Supported by home-working and increased efficiency through the use of AI tools, a whole sub-culture has developed of ‘overemployment’. The basic idea of overemployment is that individuals are now able to simultaneously (and successfully) hold two, three, four or even more full-time roles. This creates a new challenge for HR teams in managing the workforce of employees and contractors.

Lack of control on data sources

The new generation of AI in that is pulls data and information from trillions of sources. This is different from earlier AI iterations which carried out actions and provided information based on a controlled set of workflows or automated processes and responses. This means the responses AI gives is less controlled than in previous automated chatbots, workflow automation, etc.

There is a key role for HR in considering what quality assurance processes should be put in place to protect the organisation, but also ensuring sufficient training and upskilling of staff is completed to ensure a full understanding of AI tools and ensure they are used effectively.

Increasing bias

A key current potential weakness of AI is in its potential for replicating human bias, which in the context of HR creates significant concerns. We have already seen some examples of this such as Amazon who implemented AI tools to support in recruitment processes, but then quickly had to remove the tools when they found they were making biased decisions.

It is important therefore that there is control and guidance in place around how organisations take forward the use of AI to ensure that there are no unintended consequences.

Job security

The fear of jobs changing or even disappearing are a real concern and will impact negatively on employee’s morale. This is a key challenge for Boards, Executive Teams and HR teams in the sector. Whilst there are significant benefits to be realised in implementing AI, the change will not be easy to implement, especially if employees see it as a threat to their own roles. It is important that any changes are clearly communicated and provide assurance on the positive aspects of automating some aspects of employee’s jobs, giving them the ability to concentrate on more value-added work including problem solving, exploring more innovative approaches, etc.

Whilst the potential benefits of AI are huge, the knock-on impacts on employee experience and organisation culture needs to be managed pro-actively. HR teams have a key role to play in shaping the debate on how AI can be used within organisations – not only in supporting their own activities, but also in considering the wider implications for areas such as employee experience, culture and skills. The development of AI is only likely to increase in speed, so giving time and space to the topic now will ensure organisations are well placed in the future.

If you want to know more about how AI can impact on your employee experience or culture of you organisation contact:

Julie Leo
HR Consultancy Director

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