Does the use of AI in HR get a fair hearing? Here, Dr Alex Linley, co-founder of Capp and distinguished positive psychologist and author, argues that this could be due to failures in implementation - and provides tips on how to get it right.
AI is not a replacement for HR professionals. It does not have the wisdom and humanity that HR professional bring to their jobs. It is a tool - and a very useful one with much to offer. But, as so many HRs know and are learning, it can only reach its potential if its capabilities are understood and used wisely.
From my experience in dealing with AI in HR, here are five key points I'd like to share.
1. It's not just for data scientists
Recruitment and talent management are a mix of art and science. HR professionals use a combination of skills from people-based specialisms such as psychology through to more data driven expertise such as codifying the skills base. HR professionals may prefer to recruit someone with potential to do a role rather than years of experience of doing that role already, because they have more capacity to grow with a firm. For internal recruitment AI can provide behavioural talent data that feeds in to the mix, giving the HR professional fresh insights with which to identify and support the best talent.
2. AI doesn’t provide definitive answers
Even so, there’s a danger that we feed information into an AI and expect it to sift through data and provide us with definitive, correct answers such as “these two people are perfect for our new role”. But AI is not a calculator. Two plus two always equals four, but people are not numbers, and managing human talent is a much more complex and subtle matter than doing some maths. So, there is nothing wrong with questioning what an AI delivers, indeed it is arguable that the AI’s output should always be questioned.
3. The human element is vital
If someone is under-performing, the HR professional will be inclined to work with them to learn if their motivation, personal circumstances or other non-work factors have a role to play, or if they really do find the work itself too much of a challenge. Assessments will be made about finding remedies, and human insights will come into play.
AI can play its part, providing behavioural talent data to help HR make better decisions, perhaps revealing some factors that the HR team can’t easily spot. But the AI is not the lead here – that’s the job of the human HR professional.
4. AI does what it is told
AI looks at data and makes decisions on the basis of parameters it is given. So, suppose it is asked to scour CVs for a particular role, and use parameters around existing employees to help make suggestions. If it ‘sees’ that the vast majority of recruits to similar roles are men, it could discount applications from women. And vice versa. Gender is an obvious example of how bias can creep in to recruitment. There are many others, some so far embedded they can be difficult or even impossible to surface. If there is a bias in an AI parameter, it will be applied. A key skill is to spot bias and root it out.
5. Don’t abandon your wisdom
All of the preceding points lead us to this final one. Wisdom is that spark of extra magic dust that HR professional bring to their jobs. It is based on psychology, on the intuition that comes through working with people, on the fact that we interpret and mediate the world. AI can’t do that. It needs us to do it. Used at its best, then, HR AI helps us address our uni-focal view, broaden our perspectives, and eliminate our prejudices (both known and unknown). But it isn’t all-knowing, and it shouldn’t make our decisions for us. It’s a helper, an assistant. We are still the boss of it.
Dr. Alex Linley is the CEO and co-founder of Capp and its international brand Cappfinity. He previously had a career as a distinguished positive psychologist and noted academic. He has authored and edited eight books and published over 150 articles and book chapters. He was Visiting Professor in Psychology at the University of Leicester and Buckinghamshire New University and holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Warwick.