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Is AI taking away the ‘human’ element from human resources?
Relying on automation can result in a lack of empathy and interpersonal communication with employees.
Imagine arriving at work, and your punch-in machine does not give you access. You quickly realize that you have been fired because you couldn’t complete monthly weekly work hours. HR was not even privy to the cause of this. AI made the decision.
It may sound like fiction, but this is not far from the truth. In fact, Amazon’s worst HR disaster has been firing an employee by a bot. There was also a time when an Amazon worker’s angry email to Jeff Bezos detailing how she was being underpaid due to an HR system glitch prompted an internal inquiry.
According to a recent IBM study, 44% of businesses are now attempting to integrate AI into their existing apps and business processes, while 35% of businesses implemented AI to benefit their enterprises last year.
But getting fired or being underpaid by an HR bot? This situation begs a few questions. Should all HR processes be automated? What if the HR system malfunctions? What does AI mean for HR?
AI SHOULD EMPOWER HR
“The primary objective behind automation in HR technology is to empower HR teams to become more efficient, strategic, and effective by reducing time spent on manual and repetitive administrative tasks. Automation in future-forward HR technology goes a step ahead by leveraging AI to augment tasks to deliver better outcomes,” says Chaitanya Peddi, co-founder of Darwinbox, an HR-tech platform.
Some HR procedures, especially regular administrative chores like benefits enrollment and timekeeping, can gain from automation. HR workers can focus on more intricate and subtle areas of their jobs by automating these routine duties.
However, experts say even if automation can undoubtedly simplify HR processes and lower expenses, not all processes need to be automated. One of the biggest worries is the likelihood that mistakes and biases will be incorporated into the system.
Relying primarily on automation can result in a lack of empathy and interpersonal communication with employees. Automation can undoubtedly increase productivity, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that HR is also about developing relationships and fostering a great workplace culture.
“There are certain aspects within HR that should not be automated,” says Peddi. “These include areas that require human empathy, judgment, legal expertise, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of employee needs.”
For instance, an HR representative will be needed to mediate and offer advice to resolve a problem between a worker and their management through active listening and compassionate communication. “Automation and tech lack the ability to understand the nuances of the situation and provide appropriate solutions,” Peddi adds.
AUTOMATED HR SYSTEMS CAN FALTER
Removing the human component from HR can be the worst debacle. AI is prone to malfunctions, which affects individual employees and the business. Failures can lead to employees being underpaid, or overpaid, inaccurate performance reviews, and other problems that can lower morale, decrease productivity, and undermine public confidence in the company.
Further, Peddi says, “HR apps are critical tools for managing human resources functions, such as recruitment, onboarding, performance management, and payroll. These systems also hold sensitive and confidential employee data, and any malfunction or data breach can have serious consequences for the organization, its employees, and its reputation.”
Hence, HR departments must have a system to swiftly identify and correct faults to deal with malfunctions. This could entail routine system audits and checks and staff feedback channels to find any problems that might have gone undiscovered.
“In addition to ensuring robust fail-proof technology and information security, HR technology providers should provide for testing and iteration. A controlled environment for experimentation will help HR teams identify and mitigate potential risks and issues, test different configurations, workflows, and settings, and validate the HR Tech solution’s performance. The HCM platform will augment the team’s ability to do this through its agile and easily configurable technology,” Peddi adds.
WHAT IS THE FATE OF HR?
A balance must be struck to maximize effectiveness while maintaining a personal connection. The human element, HR’s basic foundation, cannot be removed.
Whatever the future of HR holds, experts agree that AI should not be in charge. In fact, “There will be a need for greater collaboration between HR and tech departments now,” says Despo Michaelides, Chief HR and DEI officer at AXA Insurance Gulf.
“With the unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic, one thing is clear: technology is a key element to keeping your people happy and empowering them to work efficiently and effectively,” Michaelides adds.
Experts say collaboration between the HR and IT departments can create effective and efficient HR processes because each department brings a unique set of talents and perspectives.
For instance, HR and IT can collaborate to develop and deploy automated hiring and onboarding procedures that reduce errors and save time. The enormous amounts of data produced by HR procedures can be used and analyzed using technology.
While some would contend that in the age of AI, responsibility for the efficient operation of the HR department may go to the organization’s IT team, experts say it depends on the degree of automation a company uses. After all, human is an important element of HR. Businesses can only function with it.
Instead of fully automating the HR processes, Michealides says tech and HR leaders must focus on people-centered digital workplace experiences. They can work together to simplify the employee feedback process and act on the user-experience data they collect. “Online feedback channels like employee pulse surveys, open forum discussions, focus groups, and seminars give people a voice and make them feel that their thoughts and opinions are valued in the workplace.”
“Automated workplace solutions, for example, make the onboarding process faster, smarter, and more meaningful. Leaders can train and mentor people through personalized digital programs that make learning easy, accessible, and fun. They can also promote team building by celebrating and connecting with employees regularly through virtual meetups and hangout sessions,” she adds.
After all, at the heart of any organization, people are the driving force.