Start Using AI For HR: Identify Your Business Problem

August 16, 2018

Start Using AI For HR: Identify Your Business Problem

Whether you know it or not, you are using artificial intelligence (AI) every day. You may be listening to your personalized playlist on Spotify or using Waze to navigate your route in traffic. These companies have developed a highly personalized user experience powered by AI technology.

So while artificial intelligence and machine learning have become a part of our everyday life, we may not understand  how to propose ways to leverage the power of AI to personalize our people practices.

In thinking about getting started using AI for HR, I recommend first gaining an understanding of the basic definitions of artificial intelligence and machine learning so you can consider how AI can be used to solve your most pressing HR issues. 

Artificial intelligence is the umbrella term and refers to computer systems performing tasks that exhibit “human like” intelligence. 

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence designed to make algorithms smarter as they learn from human activity and behaviors. 

The US Army is currently using AI to predict when combat vehicles need repair. For the first implementation, a few dozen armored infantry transports have sensors inside of the vehicles’ engines. These sensors record temperature and RPM and transmits it to software. Then machine learning crunches the data and looks for patterns that match engine failures in similar vehicles. 

Another application of AI is in the area of responding to customer service. Think about the questions we ask when we are buying an item online. Answering customer questions using AI is about to explode, as reported by a Forrester survey, which projects 85 percent of customer interactions online will be with chatbots in five years’ time.  These chatbots are becoming conversational assistants and getting smarter all the time. It's only a matter of time before they are being used to not only improve customer experience but also the employee experience.

But before we become enamored with technology for technology’s sake, we must identify some key business problems that can be solved using AI in the workplace.

Two HR problems where using AI can improve the candidate and employee experience are:

1. Sourcing Hard To Find Talent 
Business Problem: Streamlining the sourcing of engineering talent and improving candidate engagement 

At Flexport (a supply chain management company), recruiting business partner Ashley Kareken sought to improve the response time and visibility of recruiting engineering talent. These roles are difficult to fill with a high level of competition among tech giants for similar roles. 

The current method was labor intensive, manual, and did not provide visibility into candidate engagement. The goal was to find a more reliable direct line of communications with prospective candidates that could also aggregate candidate profiles from multiple data sources like GitHub and Dribble, as well as other social media channels. Kareken shares, “Using an AI sourcing tool enables our recruiting team to target candidates more likely to move,” as well as suggest the best time of day to communicate with candidates, resulting in email open rates averaging more than 70 percent and response rates averaging more than 50 percent. 

2. Onboarding New Hires 
Business Problem: Improving the experience and effectiveness of new hire on- boarding

At rLoop (an engineering organization on the blockchain delivering on the future of transportation), Brent  Lessard, Project Manager Canada, sought to improve the new hire onboarding process for team members distributed across multiple locations, time zones, and often working remotely.

rLoop started using AI for new hire onboarding by collecting data on the type of frequently asked questions of new hires. Lessard explains, “When new members come on board, they ask a range of similar questions such as: what projects does rLoop have underway, how do they get started using company online expense reporting, and what are the company holidays for the current year? Many of the answers to these questions are repetitive, and therefore ideally suited to be handled using AI and improving the new hire onboarding process while also disseminating the company culture and values.”

Flexport and rLoop, are in different industries but each uncovered how AI and machine learning could improve the recruiting and onboarding experience by asking some basic questions such as: 

  • Where are our pain points in recruiting? What processes are we using to source hard to find talent? How can we improve response times and candidate engagement? 
  • What are the frequently asked questions new hires have for us? How are they currently being answered? What data do we have on the questions and answers? 
  • How can AI augment our key HR roles so they deliver greater value to the organization? 

If we want our careers in HR to be relevant, I believe we must understand the power of AI and machine learning to change, transform, and enhance the employee experience.  As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee say in their Harvard Business Review article, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.”

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, rLoop, Hilton, Intel, and others who are using AI and realizing business benefits across the organization.