Partnering with Machines—and Taking All the Credit

Despite the worry that AI will eliminate jobs—particularly in manufacturing—most experts agree that the proliferation of the technology will create more opportunities than it eliminates. Gartner, for instance, expects AI by 2020 to create 2.3 million jobs, while eliminating 1.8 million, and accounting for a net 2 million new jobs by 2025.16

It’s also estimated that one in five employees engaged in “mostly non-routine” work will rely in some way on AI, which explains why AI augmentation of human tasks remains a hot topic.17 Global companies in every sector are currently figuring out where the handoff from bot to human can—and should—occur, as well as how certain union jobs and regional labor regulations might be affected.

Organizations should not think in terms of how AI displaces their workforce, but how to improve the reach of their workforce. And we, as employees, need to learn and understand how we can make ourselves better with the additional benefit we get from augmentation.”18

CTO of a large, multinational technology firm

According to Elon Musk, we’re already farther down this rabbit hole than many realize. “We’re already cyborgs; your phone and your computer are extensions of you, but the interface is through finger movements or speech, which are very slow,” he told Vanity Fair last year.19 “For a meaningful partial-brain interface, I think we’re roughly four or five years away.”

Augmented talent management.

While the thought of a brain interface is surely concerning even for early adopters, the current world of AI is serving human resources well by enhancing workers’ ability to deliver on distinctly human activities. With automation freeing up more time, and data analysis informing better decision-making, HR professionals can dive deeper into critical talent management areas, including:

With AI, input can be automated and performance scoring can be standardized, which is a welcome change for a periodic task oftentimes crowbarred into an already-full workload. As the bulk of the report is generated automatically, managers can focus on empathizing and connecting with employees to better uncover opportunities for improvement.

By alerting you to workers who are a flight risk, AI functionality can save you time in proactively assessing employee engagement and potential. HR professionals can instead devote more personal attention to engaging and thus, saving rock-star employees.

Similar to movie and product tips by Netflix or Amazon, respectively, both employees and prospects can be sent “good fit” job recommendations. And “candidate-to-candidate” matching can inform you of the applicants most closely resembling top performers. As AI automation nurtures your wider talent pool, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in seeking out highly desired passive candidates whose hiring would be a boon for your company.

With a complete view of employee performance and core HR data, AI functionality can determine which path for advancement is right for certain employees. You can spend freed-up time matching young professionals with in-house mentors based on personality, work style, and other criteria best determined by your own judgement.

With a wide data set that could encompass financial and supply chain data, AI-generated forecasts for future staffing needs can allow you to plan staffing accordingly and get ahead of the fiscal year-planning curve with upper management.

Looking forward, what’s most exciting is the concept of “employee behavior 2.0.” AI will soon be able to provide HR organizations the ability to analyze and understand things like employee sentiment, engagement, and culture. And HR teams can capture metadata from emails, feedback platforms and other sources to analyze communication patterns, workflows, bottlenecks and even identify internal experts and/or mentors based on tone, context and other cues. Surely the thought of systemizing and standardizing the pulse-taking of employee engagement is a potentially revolutionary one.

This apparent mandate is great news for human resources professionals, who are still fighting for a permanent seat at the corporate strategy table. By proudly and effectively owning the role of AI best practice advisor to other departments, human resources can help leave behind their maintenance-focused, policy-enforcement image of the pre-SaaS days.

Although HR professionals can’t possibly keep up with every AI application in every job category, they can become knowledgeable internal consultants on the topic of how to boost employee performance via AI-related technologies and how to estimate potential productivity increases.”23

In the (near?) future, when facial recognition is linked to engagement level during a board meeting or customer visit, or location-based intelligence matures enough for the business world, will your company’s various lines of business turn to HR for advice? Let’s make sure they do.

Figure 3: One financial services company’s division of labor (Vanguard).24

Cognitive Technology

Cognitive Technology

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