There’s been talk lately about how innovations in computing algorithms may replace humans in the workplace. The latest estimates from McKinsey suggest 400 to 800 million people could be displaced from their jobs by automation in the next decade. In response, corporations are scrambling to reskill valuable workers and employees are seeking new credentials to stay relevant in our changing, technology-driven work world.
But some argue that the human element is what makes certain jobs so valuable to the corporate mission. Take Human Resources functions, where the keyword is “human” and the work of recruitment and hiring is people-driven. Surely the robots won’t displace these workers anytime soon. Right?
Well, not exactly.
2020, Technology, and Your Hiring Team
The Human Resources team is tasked with developing and sustaining a healthy and positive company culture, a vital workforce, and low turnover. Involved in those functions are training, employee supervision, orientation, and recruitment. In a tight labor market, the recruitment function is more of a sales role, as career developers scramble to entice top talent. But it is the Human Resource Manager that helps retain workers by creating an environment that keeps employees engaged in the vision and values of the company.
This may sound like the kind of role where human beings can distinguish themselves from technology, but technology is making an impact by eliminating some of the busywork from HR functions. Payroll automation has been around for years, but now there is also artificial intelligence (AI) in recruitment chatbots, tools to manage remote teams, facial recognition during video interviews, self-service training tools, and so much more. To get ready for the robots, let’s break the HR functions down to determine the impact of technology on recruitment hiring, and orientation.
Automating the Hiring Front End
Hiring generally starts with an application. While candidates have applied to automated cloud-based systems for years, technology is progressing even further into the interview process. Today, there’s an influx of new recruitment chatbots and video AI interfaces that prequalify candidates before the face-to-face interview.
- Recruitment chatbots are automated communication interfaces programmed to conduct and record basic interviews after a candidate has applied to a job. Chatbots are popping up on websites everywhere these days, but these tools are new for recruitment. Like standard web chatbots, recruitment chatbots are designed with machine learning algorithms that use predictive learning to adapt to human responses. It’s the same programming behind Siri and Alexa. These tools capture and “learn” from input they receive.
- AI interviews with facial recognition are the next (and possibly creepiest) new wave of hiring tools. This technology eliminates a Recruiter from the front end of the hiring process. Once the applicant’s resume is on file, the interview starts with a few games to evaluate their personality and screen for work ethich or other characteristics. But the robots are just getting warmed up—next, an automated video screen tapes a candidate’s responses to a series of set questions. Sophisticated AI algorithms measure facial expression for mood, personality, and possibly, honesty. Inc. reported on this new trend and says the companies offering these services don’t say if they can tell whether a candidate is lying. While there is plenty of research showing that lying can be detected from subtle facial clues, Interesting Engineering reports we have a long way to go before AI facial recognition can reliably spot fibbers.
Where does all of this leave Recruiters and Hiring Managers?
We know recruitment teams are heavily tasked with sourcing, cultivating, interviewing, and hiring talent. It’s a big job with a lot of time spent reviewing LinkedIn profiles and resumes, talking to candidates, and pre-qualifying potential employees. Chatbots can converse with an early candidate to ask them questions about their work experience, interests, proximity to the job, or anything else you program the bot to discuss. These tools can also automate the candidate interview scheduling process. They can even answer basic inquiries regarding salary ranges or other details. All of these functions can save Recruiters and Hiring Managers time, while improving how quickly companies respond to applicants.
Could AI video interviewing eventually replace human Recruiters? The jury is still out.
Early reports from companies like Unilever say using AI can speed up the interview process; their case study said they upped entry-level hiring from 840 to 2,600 when using these tools. But what kind of backlash will come from candidates who know their facial expressions will be analyzed by a machine? How self-conscious would you be if you knew a robot was measuring your micro flinches and facial tics? Can the machines tell if a candidate is just having a bad day? Interviewing with a human being allows candidates to share that they had a flat tire on the way to the interview or had a death in the family last week that may throw them off their game. But an AI could discard them before they ever get the chance to tell their story.
The one thing AI cannot replace during the interview process is the all-too-human gut check. Despite all our measurements, metrics, and testing technologies, AI cannot replace is human intuition. At least, not yet.
Technology in Backend HR Functions
The robots aren’t just taking over the front end of the recruitment process. Technology is impacting behind-the-scenes HR functions as well. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports an increasing adoption of employee self-service (ESS) and manager self-service (MSS) tools. They predict that 87% of companies will use ESS and 80% will use MSS tools in the next few years. This means employee retention, training, and other interactions may soon be outsourced to a computer.
In the next few years, look for large companies to automate responses to basic HR questions from employees. These interactions will be increasingly handled by self-service and chatbots. In enterprise organizations, everything from time-off requests to training is now handled with technology. SHRM says there are pros and cons to the use, or some would say overuse, of technology automation. Some of the benefits include:
- Employees have improved access and a more timely response to questions and tools. One glance can tell them how much of their vacation time has been used, the amount of their last pay stub, or even what training classes are available to improve their skills. None of this is especially new, but today, it’s more common and user-friendly.
- AI-driven training tools can help new Managers understand protocols while automating processes to ensure that no steps are missed.
- For employers, the benefits are cost-driven. Self-service eliminates the cost of the HR middleman, saving companies time and labor expenses.
But SHRM is also quick to point out the drawbacks of replacing HR functions with computerized self-service and robot-assisted Q&A:
- If companies fail to properly train employees in the use of these tools, they will either be underutilized (and not provide financial ROI) or used incorrectly. There are also security risks associated with access to HR data.
- Chatbots are only as good as their programming, and internal HR rules and external compliance regulations can change quickly. In the same way that you would set up a protocol to account for human errors, you should have a fallback protocol for when the chatbot makes a boo-boo.
Employers considering adding chatbots or other self-service backend functions should look for vendors that have a “human in the loop” policy. The best chatbots know to alert HR when a candidate is growing frustrated because their questions are not being answered. And, as with any tool, you should measure the effectiveness and return on the investment to ensure everything is working as it should.
Employee Retention Goes Self-Service
Employee wellness is an important part of retention. It also saves employers money with less sick days and increased overall productivity. Wellness affects job performance so employers have tasked HR teams with decreasing burnout and improving employee work-life balance. These initiatives help retain employees longer, something that is highly desirable given that unemployment numbers are still so low.
Increasingly, retention is a function of the robots. Employer benefits plans distribute wearable devices and offer self-service tools for employees to improve their health and wellbeing. The HR Daily Advisor says real-time feedback, social engagement, and mobile responsiveness can all be “managed more effectively with the well-informed and age-appropriate use of technology.” SHRM agrees that employee retention can be aided by the use of technology. For example:
- Technology can help employers gain information on their employees, such as their goals, training interests, and hobbies.
- It can also help with employee pulse surveys designed to gauge how people are feeling about the culture, their work, or new corporate initiatives.
- Performance appraisals have been tech-centric for years in most companies, but now written reviews can be sent automatically to the employee, their Manager, and others, and then automated up the chain of command for approval.
- Technology can improve communication and let employees know their opinions matter, which is crucial for retaining them.
- These tools also enable remote work. Global Workplace Analytics says up to 90% of your employees want a remote work option. If you can provide it, they may be more likely to stay engaged and productive.
- Dispersed workforces call for virtual training, and the cost savings alone is worth it. Instead of sending an HR team to a remote office to train employees (yes, some companies still do this), workers can be trained or reskilled from wherever they’re working with virtual training that eliminates travel costs.
None of these technology innovations can take the place of a strong workplace culture, which is the pillar of an engaged workforce. But these tools can streamline basic functions and help HR teams focus on what matters in the organization beyond the busywork their job requires.
However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. How can companies achieve the best of both worlds by harnessing technology while still making the best use of their valuable Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and HR teams?
Finding Balance by Putting Humans Back in Charge
Human Resources is still a job for human beings. Relying too much on computer automation can create a sense that the company is cold, uncaring, and robotic. Not good. Focusing too strongly on metrics, numbers, and algorithms takes away from what HR teams are ultimately tasked with managing: the people behind the machines.
Chatbots are cool right now, but there are all kinds of glitches in the machines that can create a bumpy candidate experience:
- There are language barriers even when you type. Slang and abbreviations sometimes don’t cut it with an AI. Candidates may grow frustrated when the robot just doesn’t understand them.
- Chatbots are not empathic, and they won’t understand a joke or other verbal nuance that often is part of the recruiting process and helps hiring teams get to know their candidate.
- AI can make decisions, but they are decisions based on previously recorded outcomes. If the data isn’t in the computer, the robot won’t compute.
- Humans will have varying responses to interviewing with a chatbot. There always needs to be a human fallback when the candidate simply isn’t comfortable with an automated response.
- Like all computer functions, chatbots have security risks that are vulnerable to hacker attacks. Imagine if a hacker got hold of your chatbot? They are prime targets because they are automated and unstaffed. Just recognizing a hacker infiltration could take time.
All of these concerns are arguments for keeping the human in Human Resources. Recruiters and Hiring Managers are candidate advocates that can help tell the story of a candidate and facilitate the relationship with a future Manager. Human Resource Managers get to know employees and can facilitate stronger engagement between the company and workers. People are messy and complex, and computers can only take human interactions so far. While chatbots, AI, and automation are currently all the rage, allowing these tools to encroach too far into the HR space could depersonalize the hiring process.
Artisan Talent believes in the human process of hiring. Talk with our team about your hiring 2020 hiring initiatives.