Is AI the latest secret to revolutionising HR, or should HR leaders prioritise getting more from their existing HR management system?
Since ChatGPT exploded onto the scene in November 2022, artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated headlines. Your inbox is probably full of newsletters and articles discussing ways to “transform” your ways of working and “revolutionise” your HR function.
But are we overestimating the suitability and reach of AI into HR? Will the latest AI models overhaul your HR software and radically change how you hire, engage, develop, manage, train, and retain your people?
We think not – and most teams will be better served by focusing on getting more from their existing tech. Let’s talk about that.
Does a future-ready HR management system need AI?
AI has been a topic of conversation for years but nothing at the scale of recent months since the launch of ChatGPT – and some of the hype is certainly deserved.
A conversational application built on the advanced AI model GPT-3, ChatGPT makes AI feel accessible and actionable in a whole new way. As performance consultant and author, Dr. Kumar Mehtar commented, right after ChatGPT was released: “The most powerful AI engine in the world is available at your fingertips. It can help you write articles, stories, create fresh content as often as you desire, create promotional materials, evaluate your software code, answer questions, create images and even do your kids’ homework. It allows you to explore and be curious. It is as transformative as Google or the iPhone and is just as easy to use.”
In the months since Mehtar’s comments, OpenAI – the parent company behind the development of the GPT AI systems – has released GPT-4. According to OpenAI, it’s their “most advanced system”, surpassing GPT-3 in a host of ways.
There’s little doubt this has exciting potential, as OpenAI and other organisations start to filter GPT-4 through their products.
In February 2023, for example, Microsoft unveiled a new AI-improved Bing running on GPT-4. Writesonic’s Chatsonic, powered by Google, is an AI-powered content creation tool harnessing GPT-4. OpenAI list a host of organisations building products using GPT-4, from Duolingo to Stripe to the government of Iceland.
There’s a sense now that we’re embarking on a phase of AI that’s more radical than developments we’ve seen before.
Just look at the recent open letter from Elon Musk and a group of AI experts and industry executives, calling for a pause on training new AI models and warning of “potentially catastrophic effects on society”.
For the authors of this letter, contemporary AI is reaching a watershed moment – and the thousand newsletters clogging your inbox probably concur.
As AI development kicks into sixth gear, HR might be one discipline of many that ultimately look extremely different. But are we getting ahead of ourselves?
Learn more: how will AI impact learning at work?
What does your HR look like today?
GPT-4 has only just been released (in March 2023), so it makes sense that we’re at the pinnacle of the hype curve.
Sure, there are conversations about where AI could take us. As Musk and his peers warn, the endgame here could be information channels flooded with propaganda and lies. It could be automating away every job. It could be eventually being outnumbered; outsmarted; obsolete; replaced. It could be losing control over civilisation.
Perhaps these outcomes are a real threat. But in truth, they feel a long way from day-to-day reality.
We talk to senior HR leaders in medium-large enterprises every day and many are still struggling to get the most from their current HR software – let alone preparing to radically disrupt their entire function with AI.
Of course you’re concerned about building a modern, future-ready HR function. How vendors are planning for the future is likely one of the first questions you ask providers. But that conversation isn’t necessarily about AI.
Many HR management system providers already offer cutting-edge functionality that’s practical and actionable right now, to improve how you hire, onboard, manage, pay, train, and engage employees.
AI is alluring because it promises an easier, faster, cheaper way of doing things. But easier, faster, cheaper processes are already available for HR. A modern HR management system already offers massive time and cost savings. The best HR teams are already empowered to add more value as strategic advisors.
Is your organisation taking full advantage of today’s HR technology? If not, perhaps that’s a good focus area, regardless of what AI might bring tomorrow
Are you taking full advantage of HR automation software already?
HR is awash with repetitive, rules-based tasks that are tedious, slow, and manual. For example, in 2020, researchers from Willis Towers Watson analysed 27 HR roles and found that 24 would be impacted by technology by 2025.
Standardising, digitising, and automating processes is much faster, more consistent, and results in fewer errors than handling them manually. Moreover, automation frees your team’s time to work on higher-value activities.
But many organisations aren’t harnessing this existing functionality fully – and certainly aren’t ready to leap into emerging technology like GPT-4.
A modern HR management system with robust automation features – such as Ciphr’s – can transform your people processes. Here’s what that might look like.
Recruitment has heaps of processes that can readily be automated. A modern HR management system can automatically:
- Book interviews
- Screen applications and CVs
- Scan job sites
- Optimise, post and distribute job adverts
- Send assessments
- Schedule interviews
- Communicate with candidates
- Notify colleagues
Recruitment automation software delivers a better, more consistent candidate experience, accelerates time-to-hire, improves your fill rate, and makes your recruitment team’s lives much easier.
How does your team stack up? It doesn’t take complex emergent AI capabilities to create a slick recruitment process.
A modern HR management system should automate all your manual pre-boarding and onboarding activities, like:
- Collecting references
- Sending contracts
- Running background checks
- Reminding managers about their new starters
- Arranging new computer equipment
- Setting up email accounts
- Adding new starters to the employee directory
- Confirming start date and bank details to the payroll team
- Sending welcome workflows and comms
- Scheduling first-day meetings
Digitising and automating onboarding means you can trust your new hires reliably have what they need for a great first day.
It also means nobody falls through the cracks – however busy your team and the hiring manager. Plus there’s a major compliance implication because you know the right background and right to work checks have been carried out.
If your onboarding process doesn’t make comprehensive use of automation, that’s an easy and immediate improvement area.
Training and learning
Building a great learning function makes sense, both for your organisation and your people. Better learning upskills your workforce, overcoming skills shortages and reducing pressure on recruitment.
At the same time, better learning is an important part of the employee experience – contributing to higher engagement and, ultimately, greater talent retention.
Many HR systems today either include or integrate with learning management functionality, to automate administrative tasks such as:
- Enrolling employees
- Building employee learning groups
- Curating learning content
- Delivering customised learning journeys
- Notifying and reminding employees to complete activities
- Tracking learning uptake and subsequent performance
Again, as the AI conversation continues to evolve it’s worth recognising that many high-functioning HR teams are already building effortless, consistent processes with technology that’s already available.
Performance management is a major lever for every organisation’s success, galvanising progress towards organisational goals, course-correcting faster, and improving employee engagement and retention.
But it’s often an area where organisations could improve. Performance management processes are often inconsistent, and manager competence and confidence can vary wildly – leading to poor performance review conversations that aren’t valuable for anyone.
Automation can help enormously, but are you taking full advantage? The right HR management system should empower you to:
- Remind managers to prepare for appraisals
- Send pulse surveys and compile results
- Escalate grievances to HR
- Collate and send performance documentation
- Track employee performance against agreed metrics
- Send progress reports upwards
- Connect to learning management software to serve training needs
- Report on performance, identifying discrepancies and trends
- Auto-populate talent pools with top performing employees for promotion
Pay and rewards
Pay and rewards management is an open goal for automation, because it typically involves vast amounts of manual data entry and repetitive tasks.
A good HR management system can make these essential-but-arduous processes easy. Here are some of the crucial pay and rewards tasks you needn’t be handling manually:
- Creating payroll reports, and transmitting them from HR to payroll software
- Calculating tax, overtime, holiday pay, and so on
- Processing salary payments
- Benefits administration
- Expense management
- Managing paid leave
- Approving and aggregating timesheets
- Maintaining and updating records
- Notifying employees and sending payslips
For many teams, manual administrative tasks such as managing absences, approving holiday and updating employee details are a thing of the past.
Modern HR software empowers employee and manager self-service, with automatic workflows making collaboration easier. The right tech already plays a crucial role in creating an engaging and frictionless digital employee experience.
And talking of future-ready capabilities that have nothing to do with AI, many good HR systems today also offer mobile access – so employees can handle tasks anytime and anywhere.
There’s been a big movement towards these sorts of mobile-friendly, cloud-based tools since 2020 to help organisations navigate remote and hybrid work. If you haven’t revisited your HR management system in the last couple of years, it’s probably worth asking whether your current setup has evolved with you.
Beyond automation: future-ready HR analytics
Any conversation about evolving HR technology has to discuss analytics. AI is certainly likely to play an increasing role here in the future, because artificial intelligence lends itself particularly well to analysing large datasets.
But sophisticated analytics, modelling, and forecasting is already possible with the HR management systems that are on the market today – and many teams aren’t using the full range of functionality on offer.
For example, it’s perfectly possible – with the right HR management system – to:
- Build smart organisational charts
- Analyse and report on any HR data in seconds
- Create a single source of truth across your organisation
- Identify trends and patterns at team or organisation level
- Improve planning and modelling
If your team isn’t taking advantage of your existing HR software’s analytics capabilities, the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to transform your HR team.
Three predictions: where could AI add value within HR?
We don’t want to imply that AI isn’t an exciting area of development. Leaving the bigger end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it debate to one side; we do think elements of AI could work well within HR over the coming years.
Here are three thought starters.
- Consumer-grade AI interfaces?
Think Alexa for the office, allowing employees, managers, and HR to request information, submit and process claims, and handle other repetitive tasks through conversational voice recognition.
- Intelligent employee engagement chatbots?
Imagine a chatbot that could provide 24/7 support, analyse employee sentiment and behaviour, flag warning signs for negative outcomes like attrition, suggest resources or activities, and escalate issues seamlessly.
- Accessible predictive analytics?
One of the biggest use cases for AI within HR is likely to be predictive analytics, allowing you to predict future trends (such as attrition, absences, and skills shortages) based on current data and patterns.
These capabilities are already starting to emerge but are typically prohibitively expensive and complex for all but the largest, most data-sophisticated enterprises. As this starts to change and organisations’ data maturity grows, predictive analytics could become a mainstay for smaller teams.
Focus on the foreground, not just the horizon
Since ChatGPT burst noisily into the public consciousness, the AI conversation has certainly picked up pace. And, no doubt, AI will bring changes to how we live, work, and play.
But there’s something to be said for caution, too. Not only because, as Musk and his peers warn, there are real concerns about governance, safety, democracy, transparency, loyalty, and fairness, to ensure we “enjoy a long AI summer, not rush unprepared into a fall.”
AI might be the next exciting big thing but the truth is, many HR teams have lower-hanging fruit within reach already. Can you truly say your HR function is the best it can be, with the technology already at your fingertips?
As the tech innovation cycle accelerates, this strong foundation is critical. Or else organisations risk buffeting from big idea to big idea without purpose or ROI.