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How HR can leverage AI at work

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From Surrealist pop culture mashups to plagiarism fears — see: New York Times’ lawsuit against ChatGPT — artificial intelligence remains a hot topic in 2024. As the future of work evolves rapidly, how AI is used in the workplace continues to be top of mind for HR. 

No, robots won’t replace us (yet) 

Generative AI is what Lucy Beaumont, solution lead at software company SHL, calls “the elephant in the room.” And yet, companies are looking to generative AI to find efficiencies and redesign their workflow accordingly. “Some roles will change. Some roles will no longer be there,” Beaumont said. “We’re going to see massive gains from an HR perspective.”

Beaumont touched on concerns regarding candidates or employees using ChatGPT to complete talent assessments — something HR professionals raised questions about during a Society for Human Resource Management seminar in Savannah, Georgia, last November.

“We’re definitely in a stage where it’s new” and slightly to very unregulated, Beaumont said. In the U.S., compliance around AI remains a battleground, with the state and federal governments cracking down on AI. New York City has restricted the use of artificial intelligence in hiring practices, with some tech and labor experts citing fear of AI replicating racist, sexist, ageist, ableist or classist thought patterns.

SHL is based in the United Kingdom, where restrictions on AI usage mainly pertain to data protection and intellectual property. No current U.K. laws govern the use of AI tools at work, according to a research briefing published last August. 

The U.K. appears set to invest in AI on the job; it published its national strategy on AI in 2021, including developing and training the workforce in AI skills as a core component of that strategy.

How HR can leverage AI at work

United States Vice President Kamala Harris delivers an address on artificial intelligence policy at the U.S. embassy on November 1, 2023 in London, England. The vice president was in London to attend the AI Safety Summit hosted by the United Kingdom.

Carl Court via Getty Images

 

Use cases for work can be simple. Predictive text functions in word processors nudge along the report-writing process. Calendars ask all the right questions to save managers from scheduling conundrums. Google and Microsoft unveiled AI assistants last year; Slack also rolled out new AI-related functions. 

A few experts have dreamed up a different future for AI in recruiting. In discussing 2024 DEI trends, a tech exec told HR Dive that AI analysis of people data can help hold employers accountable for leaving (some) bias at the door.

“There’s always been a concern around psychometrics and the fact that is it going to be abused or cause more bias. The reality is that humans are inherently biased,” Beaumont said. “So any decisions that we make are subjective.” 

AI can step in and account for human bias, she explained, adding, “The reality is, it’s already a lot better than people making these decisions.” Beaumont compared the situation to driving confidence. “Ask a room of 100 people, ‘Are you a poor driver, a good driver, or a really good driver?’ I bet 90% will say, ‘I’m a really good driver.’ Statistically, that can’t be true,” Beaumont quipped. “You can’t all be ‘really good’ drivers. Like we’ve got to have a curve here.”

Sentiment seems to be split on the role of AI in hiring, data from the Pew Research Center shows. About 3 in 4 respondents said they’re opposed to AI making final hiring decisions, for example, but about half of respondents said that AI would be better than human beings at treating job candidates fairly. 

Beaumont remains optimistic about AI improving diversity and inclusion objectives for HR. “It has an opportunity to be the great leveler over the next couple of years, for sure,” she said.

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