How CHROs Can Be Pioneers in Using Artificial Intelligence

July 3, 2018

How CHROs Can Be Pioneers in Using Artificial Intelligence

Most of us have read the headlines about how artificial intelligence will displace and automate jobs, but do we know how to use artificial intelligence to enhance our people practices? The implications from artificial intelligence (AI) are just starting to be felt in the workplace with Gartner predicting that by the year 2022, one in five employees will be working alongside a digital assistant.


But while AI is getting ready for business, many executives are not prepared. A McKinsey survey of 3,000 business executives across 10 countries and 14 sectors found that few firms have actually deployed AI. In fact, 41 percent of these business executives admit they have not implemented AI because they are not exactly sure what AI can do for them, how it can help their organization, how they can integrate AI into their company, or how to assess the return on investment in the technology.


The time is now for CHROs to be pioneers in leading their organizations, partnering with CIOs and leaders of transformation, customer experience, corporate communications, and employer branding to develop a strategy for how AI can transform and enhance the employee experience. One key finding from the McKinsey survey of early adopter companies using AI is the focus on using AI for growth and transformation initiatives and not solely on automation and cost savings. CHROs have an opportunity to assume a leadership position by being creative and strategic in using artificial intelligence across the employee life cycle from sourcing new hires to on-boarding, career development, and coaching.


So in this context of becoming an HR pioneer, here are five areas CHROs and their teams can start to learn about and craft a strategy for how to best leverage artificial intelligence for HR.


1. Be curious about how AI can impact you, your team, and your HR function

Start researching AI tools you can use in your daily work life where AI will help you work smarter. For example, consider “gateway” products that will help you better understand how AI can improve your personal productivity and impact finding top talent for your company.


2. Understand the most important business problems to be solved by using AI.

According to a recent Forrester survey, 85 percent of customer interactions within an enterprise will be with chatbots in five years’ time, and this will provide opportunities to explore the use of chatbots for enhancing not only the customer experience but also the employee experience.


HR is ripe for taking a leadership position in this and here are some ways AI can enhance the employee life cycle:


Talent Acquisition

Some companies such as Marriott receive more than 4 million applications in a given year and using artificial intelligence can streamline the talent acquisition process by:

  • Improving the speed and effectiveness of the candidate experience
  • Increasing the diversity of the talent pool
  • Offering greater personalization in the hiring process, allowing candidates to select components of their offer that best fit their needs


New Hire On-boarding

Chatbots can serve as a mobile HR assistant that helps employees get answers to FAQs.


Career development

Learning is moving from a "one size fits all," to personalized pathways for learning along with recommendations from peers on relevant learning solutions. Artificial intelligence can provide more of a "Netflix” like learning experience for employees.



One of the areas HR is struggling with is how to offer coaching at scale. Using artificial intelligence can provide an employee with recommendations to pursue alternate career roles and the relevant training needed for these.


This means the focus of using AI in the workplace is not on job loss but on how AI can improve the candidate and employee experience. Research reveals 50 percent of job seekers do not hear back after submitting their resumes through traditional corporate channels, so one can see why using artificial intelligence to re-invent the recruiting process is one of the first areas HR leaders are examining in using AI for HR.


This is happening in technology firms such as IBM and Cisco, but also in companies outside of the technology sector.  In a recent Forbes column, I described how both Marriott and Hilton are using AI to deliver an improved candidate experience by conversing with a candidate via a chatbot during the recruiting process. By using AI powered video interviewing and Ally, the Hilton chatbot, the Hilton Talent Acquisition team has seen a 40 percent improvement in interview hire rates and a Net Promoter Score of 85 percent.


3. Begin to collect data on the business problem to be solved using AI in the workplace.

McKinsey Global Institute research finds a focus on entire occupations being displaced is misleading. While nearly all occupations will be affected by automation, McKinsey finds that  fewer than 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated using current technology. But, 60 percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their activities automated.   


One first step in learning more about how artificial intelligence can impact HR is to examine how AI can be used to improve the overall candidate and employee experience. For example, let's take the role of a recruiting coordinator who spends a percentage of her time screening resumes, scheduling appointments with candidates, and answering frequently asked questions about the company, benefits, and policies. What if this recruiting coordinator were given back 30 percent of her time to close new hire offers, communicate the vision and culture of the organization, and become more of a talent influencer than a recruiting coordinator. This is the power of using AI for HR!


 As the focus of artificial intelligence pivots from automating a job role to understanding how to augment and upskill the role, the key will be to develop a strategy for how to best leverage AI across the people practices of an organization.


4. Put yourself in your employees' shoes: Transparency is key. Make sure employees understand the benefits of AI and don’t fear its ability to make certain tasks superfluous.

The benefits to using AI at work are numerous, from improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the candidate experience to providing employees greater personalization in developing their own career path, all using machine learning recommendations.


But CHROs and their team must also be aware of barriers along the journey as HR experiments with artificial intelligence. A survey of 3,000 employees across 8 nations conducted by Kronos Incorporated finds three out of every five organizations (58 percent) have yet to discuss the potential impact of AI on their workforce with employees. However, two-thirds of employees (61 percent) say they’d feel more comfortable if their employer was more transparent about what the future may hold for them and share what the company will be doing to upskill them.


In addition to the growing importance of communications on why and how the organization will leverage artificial intelligence at work, HR leaders must also be vigilant to deep-seated employee fears, namely fear of job loss and an uneasiness in learning new skills, to be able to truly embrace these new technologies.


All of this points to a close collaboration between CHRO and the corporate communications team to communicate the vision and strategy for using AI in the workplace.


5. Bring along a coalition of stakeholders on your journey to explore using AI in the workplace.

Using AI in the workplace is not an HR issue, rather it is a business one. This means it requires HR leaders to bring together a coalition of stakeholders from a variety of titles, levels, expertise, and geographies to develop a shared vision for delivering business results using AI.


As we contemplate the future of HR and how to integrate AI into the workplace, standing still is not an option. As HR leaders we need to work with business stakeholders to create urgency, identify a business problem to be solved with AI, and develop a strategy for using AI for enhancing the candidate and employee experience.

The Authors: 

Jeanne Meister is Founding Partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory and research firm working with HR leaders to prepare them for what's next in transforming the HR function. Future Workplace has created an online course Using AI 4 HR To Enhance the Employee Experience featuring IBM, Marriott, Hilton, Intel and others who are using AI and realizing business benefits across the organization.