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AI: Keeping the ‘human’ in HR is key to the profession

Experts say artificial intelligence is unlikely to replace human-to-human interaction
Some companies are investing in AI technologies to help streamline human resources work

The importance of “a human touch” to the human resources profession might mean artificial intelligence is less likely to disrupt the industry.

Cissy Pau manages Vancouver-based Clear HR Consulting, which consultants with small businesses on human resource issues. She said she doesn’t see her clients adopting AI in the near future, except for some administrative tasks.

“Some AI technologies have been used for years, such as resume screening and new employee onboarding, and I read about using AI for talent management as well,” said Pau.

“But in my experience, HR is about interacting with people, and you must have humans interacting with you. The human-to-human interaction where I spend most of my time would be a hard one to replace.”

Pau spends a “tremendous” amount of her time helping clients manage employee and interpersonal issues, which, she said, requires strategic conversations and approaches with involved parties.

“They're not something I can automate,” she added.

Some companies – especially larger ones – are investing in AI technologies that can help streamline HR work and have benefited from doing so, according to Anthony Ariganello, president and CEO of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) of British Columbia & Yukon and CEO of CPHR Canada.

For example, some companies have used advanced technologies to screen job candidates by asking them certain questions and testing their technical skills. Using AI in this instance could help standardize the hiring process and may help to reduce explicit or implicit bias.

“Sometimes we have biases that we are not even aware of, but machines may not have a bias,” said Ariganello.

“A sophisticated AI tool or machine can probably identify and eliminate some of these biases in the recruitment process to ensure a more diverse and inclusive work culture.” 

He added that AI can also help analyze data and offer a predictive analysis. Normally, an HR professional would need to manually review years of records to understand, for example, the rate of turnover within a company and the factors that may be contributing to it. AI can do this much more efficiently.

Although leaders in B.C.’s HR industry say it is open to the opportunities AI might bring, Ariganello agrees that the human element of the profession cannot easily be replaced by machines. 

However, HR professionals should get ready to respond to how AI adoption in other areas of an organization might impact the employees they work with.

“What you don't want is to have employees start using ChatGPT, for example, with the organization not knowing that they're utilizing it. And maybe the data is corrupt or has been taken from something that's copyrighted. That's the risk it poses for an organization,” Ariganello said.

“HR really needs to be on top of this to make sure that if we're allowing employees to use these tools, we can't expose the organization, either to lawsuits or cases of misinformation.”

HR professionals will also need to have an evaluation process ready to review the accuracy and authenticity of information provided by job applicants, who may use AI tools such as ChatGPT to create resumes and other submissions, said Pau.

Ariganello said he hopes to see some AI regulation and oversight soon. 

“Perhaps this is happening so quickly, that we might have to one day say, ‘Oh, we have to take a step back,” he added. 

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