Collaboration machine and human - AI in HR department.

Artificial intelligence is one of the most popular slogans used in the context of human development and the main area in which companies seek a competitive advantage. 


According to an Accenture study, AI can increase both employee productivity and business efficiency by approximately 40%. The expectations associated with this technology can be compared with the invention of electricity and its impact on the technological progress and civilization of the world, this is evidenced by the forecasts for the future level of global GDP, which will increase by USD 15.7 trillion by 2030 thanks to the AI. However, despite its relatively early stage of development, Artificial Intelligence has already been announced as a technology that will change the way in which not only businesses but also all people will function.

The role of AI in our lives.

The most popular example of Artificial Intelligence application is IBM Watson, which helps in cancer research and patient care.When it comes to research on diagnosed cancer, Watson accelerates DNA analysis in cancer patients to increase the effectiveness of treatment. Sectors such as finance and banking, government and public services can also benefit from a range of opportunities, such as predictive analysis of potential crime scenes to help the Manchester police prevent crime.

While Artificial Intelligence inspires optimism of managers and owners of companies driven by revenue growth and process optimization, at the same time reducing operating costs, among employees performing routine activities that do not require too high qualifications and showing appropriate competences necessary to perform the task, there are concerns about the future of their employment. According to the AI expert, investor and popular opinion maker Kai Fu Lee, 40% of jobs can be replaced by "intelligent" machines.  

You can learn more about the role of AI in today's world by watching Kai Fu Lee's speech on TED.

There is no lack of examples from recent years confirming that machines can successfully replace human in many areas.This could be Amazon, whose warehouses are located around the world and already have over 100,000 robots working. The next vacancies or job places being in the queue to replace by machines are: drivers, journalists, office workers performing routine tasks such as transferring invoice data to computer systems, telemarketers, whether people working on production lines. Food suppliers who have previously ridden bicycles may also cooperate with autonomous vehicles in the near future. I purposely used the word 'cooperate' here, because in not every situation the machines will be able to perform their task just like a human being. In order for us to fully understand the possibilities and limitations of the AI, we need to explain what AI is and what it is not.

What is AI?

We must keep in mind that this technology is generally interpreted very incorrectly, because we should not call (at least for the time being) an intelligent algorithm, which can perform the tasks entrusted to it in a shorter time than a human being has no idea why the result of his work is the same and not different. The most common form of Artificial Intelligence is Machine Learning, the essence of which is based on the ability of a machine to develop certain useful skills while eliminating the need for the machine to understand all the nuances associated with its task. In other words: Machine Learning is a collection of techniques through which machines find patterns that are given meaning and essence by man, not by themselves. A machine armed in this type of knowledge may in the future predict the appearance of such a scheme on the basis of the analysis of collected data. More generally, the 'essence' of Artificial Intelligence is a mixture of irreplaceable mathematics with statistics used on high-performance computers and tools for processing gathered huge datasets.  

The use of algorithms allows to predict the future behavior of consumers, prediction of failures in vehicles and production lines, elimination of attempts of fraud and scams in the financial sector, or help owners of mobile applications to improve the level of experience accompanying users during their use.
 

You will learn more about the new dimension of real-life user experiences in this article.

 

What threats does Artificial Intelligence pose to the economy and society?

Although most promotional campaigns of Silicon Valley startups, marketing agencies and government institutions are dominated by the message of advantages, breakthroughs and undeniable role of AI in the world, the other side of the coin, i.e. the risks associated with the development of this technology, is very often skipped.

 

Lost of job positions

The main subject of much controversy is, of course, the automation of jobs and the replacement of man by machines, but can we fully speak in this context of depriving people of their jobs?  In many cases, it is certain, such as working on a production line or performing various duties resulting from work in a warehouse.

The counter-argument is the position promoting not depriving people of jobs, but influencing movement in the structure of the labour market, i.e. changing the professions performed so far into occupations of the future.  

The question that comes to mind immediately is: will older people be able to retrain relatively quickly and adapt to today's labour market requirements, characterised by a demand for engineers, data scientist’s and highly qualified managers/experts? In this case, many employers are calming by communicating that the innovations will take place in planned and distant stages, thus giving employees the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming changes.

Mass control

Many fears among experts are due to the fact that artificial intelligence can be used for mass surveillance. The country where these concerns have been confirmed is China.

In many Chinese municipalities, the use of face recognition technology combined with AI algorithms is used by the government to combat crime.


The New York Times report shows that China currently has around 200 million cameras deployed to monitor the daily lives of its citizens. It’s also the only country in the world to have introduced a 'social credit system', tracking citizens' activities in order to rank them according to results that can determine whether they can have access to any type of service, from airplane flights to online dating services.

Threat to security and peace in the world

Frank van Harmelen, a well-known researcher and developer of Artificial Intelligence at Vrije University in Amsterdam, avoids using the word "terrible" to describe the AI, but claims that modern weapons based on this technology should cause fear among people.

“The only area where I genuinely think the word ‘scary’ applies is autonomous weapon systems... systems that may or may not look like a robot,”

“Any computer system, AI or not, that automatically decides on matters of life and death — for example, by launching a missile — is a really scary idea.”- said Harmelen.

The American think-tank focused around the area of defence and security Rand Corporation warned in its study that the use of AI in military operations could cause nuclear war by 2040.

This very courageous forecast is based mainly on the assessment of the chances of a misjudgement of the situation by a military system based on Artificial Intelligence algorithms, which in consequence may result in radical and potentially tragic decisions being taken.

A known incident confirming these concerns is the 1983 event. Former Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov noticed that Russian computers had issued a wrong message in connection with the launch of nuclear missiles by US forces. Imagine what the consequences could have been if a military officer had not reacted.

“Artificial” doctors

Mentioned at the beginning of this article IBM Watson manytimes showed his abilities by early detection of symptoms of rare types of cancer. Also, medical practitioners have no doubt about the role of Machine Learning technology in improving the quality of medical services and speeding up patient recovery by reducing the time spent on long-term treatments.

Many scientists fear that societies in many countries around the world will create too high expectations of AI, on the assumption that it may be the kind of universal intelligence that a true human being possesses, used to solve intricate and complex tasks.

“All the successful AI applications to date are incredibly successful, but in a very narrow range of application” - said Bundy from the University of Edinburgh.

Report from the publication dedicated to the health  - Stat, quoted IBM's internal documents showing that Watson's supercomputer made many "dangerous and inappropriate" recommendations for cancer treatment. According to this article, the software has been trained to deal only with a limited number of cases and hypothetical scenarios, not with current patient data.

Success stories of AI implementations in the HR department

We probably won't find a more "human" department in any company than HR. Constant meetings, conversations, mutual exchange of observations, creation of a strategy for building and developing an organisational culture and its subsequent implementation in everyday life are just some of the activities performed on a daily basis by the persons responsible for human resources management in organizations. Can AI therefore find places or areas for itself that have been previously performed by HR staff?  To answer briefly: yes. However, these are not all tasks, but those that are characterized by routine and repetitiveness.

The main area in which AI turns out to be a significant improvement is the recruitment process of new employees consisting of many stages arranged in the right order.

Here are some examples of AI applications in the form of bots or other types of solutions, not necessarily replacing humans, but cooperating with them so that at the same time they can focus on more complex and demanding use of acquired skills.

Virtual assistants - they use AI to help in recruitment.This is a newly emerging category of HR technology that aims to eliminate or reduce time-consuming activities such as CV selection, acquisition and selection of candidate profiles and other monotonous tasks. Software based on the use of collected data and predictive analysis helps to preselect the CVs received. Its main advantage is time optimization and reduction of the number of candidates with inadequate qualifications admitted to subsequent stages of recruitment, who would normally pass the preliminary assessment. 

Automation of the process of implementation of new employees - IBM tries to create a system that will answer the most urgent or significant questions of a new employee at the very beginning of their work so that they can be answered in a flash. The AI can provide suggestions for training or give the names, places and contact details of people to be contacted on the first day of work. The same employee can also be informed by the AI engine that the new employment website contains all the necessary information to quickly and easily integrate into the company's structures.

Intelligent People Analysis – Over the years, companies collect data about their customers to better assess their preferences and anticipate future behavior. However, HR departments are still under-utilizing this type of data.

“Determining what data to track, analyze, manage and protect will enable AI to play a larger role within HR. In the never-ending war for talent, companies will look to find innovative ways to attract top talent. Technologies that enhance the candidate experience and meet the candidate’s digital expectations will help distinguish companies from one another" - said Kate Guarino, Chief Operating Officer of HR at Pegasystems.

Exclusion of bias - In a survey conducted by the Human Resources Professional Association, researchers found that even if employers try to be objective, they can subconsciously positively assess the candidates who are most similar to them, or lean towards what they call "unconscious bias". Another type of bias is linguistic bias. It was discovered by a special psychological tool called the Association Test (IAT), which shows that human subconscious associating words affects bias. "This type of bias is reflected in job descriptions and CVs. Now, thanks to SI, algorithms can be designed to help employers identify and remove these biased patterns in the language they use in order to improve communication in terms of employment and the admission of different candidates". - have noticed the scientists of HRPA.

Man as a key link in HR processes

Authors: Artur Dzięgielewski & Karolina Kilar

As it was written earlier, the progressing digitalization is also affecting the HR area in organizations on an increasing scale. However, is the department responsible for employees and their well-being, basing its work primarily on relations and communication with other people, be fully automated? Definitely not, this is illustrated by the following descriptions of areas in which role of a human being is crucial.

 

„Interpersonal communication”

We communicate all the time in a variety of ways, and thanks to the development of technology, communication takes on new meaning and adopts newer forms and channels, such as video chat or Messenger, more and more often also used in HR. However, the most natural for people is interpersonal communication, which fulfils many functions in our private and professional life, and which the machine is unable to render in a form like a human being. Thanks to interpersonal communication, we transmit and receive information, express emotions and feelings, and consequently, we satisfy our needs, such as, for example, a sense of belonging or security. What's more, we know that interpersonal communication is not only verbal communication but also elements of non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, facial expressions or gestures, which, as it turns out, are of paramount importance in broadcasting. Interpersonal communication is a tool for building and shaping our relationships with others, which allows us to influence their quality and intensity. Interpersonal relationships are important to us, not only because they are an inseparable aspect of our everyday functioning. We can say that they are determinants of our quality of life, and thus the sense of mental well-being. The above perfectly shows that the private and professional life of a human being is largely influenced by positive relationships with another human being. While the machine can be helpful in making contact, for example in the recruitment process, answering questions of candidates on a chat, the interview with selected candidates for employment should be carried out by a human being. Only the second person is able to assess, even if the candidate is suitable for a given team, or his values ​​are in harmony with the values ​​of the organization that turns emotions during the recruitment meeting. Thus, we have proof, that in the HR department, next to artificial intelligence, a human is also necessary.

„Does a psychologist fly with us?”

A psychologist providing psychological services on the company's premises is quite a new practice in organizations. The role of a psychologist in the workplace does not only support in the field of management and organizational practices but also help addressed to employees, especially in difficult situations. Everyone employed regardless of the level of the organization has the opportunity to undergo psychological consultations, regardless of the topic of the conversation. This means that you can report to a psychologist with any problem that is subjectively assessed as significant. Of course, it does not always have to be unpleasant welding, but also all kinds of ideas, initiatives and insights about the employee or organization itself. By using psychological consultations in the workplace, you can take up any topic not only related to work, but also to your personal life. Adequacy to the problem is given to support, which most often takes the form of counselling, but sometimes also crisis intervention. Counselling is a form of help addressed to healthy people, experiencing life problems, adaptation difficulties, or development crises. Everyone can experience problems that can strain its resources. Thus, sometimes immediate help is enough, and sometimes it is necessary to consult with another specialist, for example, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Because private and professional life permeates each other, it often happens that personal situations affect our comfort and work efficiency, and vice versa. This is both positive and negative. Individual psychological consultations in the workplace are, therefore, a valid solution, however, having the right to exist only with the participation of a human psychologist. 

 

Observation of business - what is the purpose and what are the results?

In the context of support for the entire organization, the HR department employee may conduct business observation primarily in terms of employees' well-being, general phenomena occurring in the team and managerial skills. He then draws attention to such factors as stress, cognitive overload, relations between employees, cooperation, communication and information flow, and leadership competencies. The purpose of this observation is to identify factors that are negatively and positively affecting both the employee and the entire organization. Adequate action is taken in accordance with the conclusions, for example, training in time management or individual training of soft skills, eg assertiveness training. Cooperating with business, an HR department employee is supportive and all actions taken by him are aimed at the well-being of the employee and the organization. It is therefore important to recognize the negative elements of work and to limit their operation and to identify those constructive identified as potential and resources, and then to strengthen them. In this sphere, human will also be irreplaceable.

Development of soft skills

The HR department is also involved in supporting the development of competencies and skills of employees as the key potential of the company. The organization develops because of the development of its own human capital, which employees pay more and more attention. Development as one of the key needs of the employee is supported in the company, by the activity of HR employees. How does it happen? These activities mainly take the form of group training and workshops as well as individual soft skills training. This means that each employee can go for self-management training over time and independently attend, for example, individual training in developing emotional intelligence. Shaping and strengthening the strengths and resources of individuals and teams is not only an additional element of human resource management but even an essential element of it. In today's reality, it is not enough to be an outstanding specialist in your field, but you also need to skillfully communicate in a team or to adapt quickly and efficiently to changing environmental conditions. The aspect of soft competences becomes as important as hard competencies, and both areas complement each other. Training in soft competences is best carried out by a person.

Why is it important to study the reasons for leaving work, that is the role of HR in exit interviews?

An employee's leaving an organization may be caused by many factors. Sometimes these are decisions that are unrelated to the organization, such as a move or a change in professional orientation, and sometimes factors related to current work are a key decision-making element. Regardless of the reason for the employee leaving the company, the exit interview is important. The purpose of such a conversation is to obtain information about the reason for the termination of cooperation, which is extremely important to the employer in the situation of resignation from the employee. Thanks to such a conversation, the company may obtain valuable information on the basis of which it can identify, for example, weaknesses of the organization's functioning and take corrective actions accordingly. And because relationships are an important aspect of organizational culture, they are as important in this situation as at the recruitment stage and during the employment period. Conscious organizations ensure the relationship with the employee also at the stage of termination of cooperation. In some cases, the circumstances in which an employee leaves are not favourable to the relationship, an interview conducted by an HR employee or a psychologist can be a mitigating factor, fulfilling the function of a buffer for the present situation. This is even more important if the reason for the employee's departure is, for example, his dissatisfaction with the management aspects. This is often associated with negative emotions, and often with a sense of harm that is not always justified. A sincere, constructive conversation on this subject can, therefore, bring benefits to both the employee and the employer. Exit interview is one of the positive practices that should be used in every organization only with human participation.

Employee feedback

Employee feedback is extremely important in employee-supervisor relations. Already at the stage of recruitment interviews, candidates mention that one of the essential elements of the work environment is good cooperation based on partnership with the supervisor who regularly informs about the progress in learning, tasks and projects. Employee feedback has a significant impact on employee development, but also on its commitment, positive energy and the desire for long-term cooperation. In addition, the feedback given by the manager has a significant impact on building his authority in the team. Therefore, it is impossible for the machine to replace the manager with feedback and thereby build authority among employees for him.

The above information proves that artificial intelligence can be helpful in the HR area, but it does not replace a person where we talk about relationships, emotions, feelings. The human will always play the dominant role here. The machine can only be a supporting or facilitating tool.

So should we be afraid of Artificial Intelligence?

As we can see, AI permeates many areas of our everyday life as well as areas of business activity of companies, which until now were mainly based on man-made work. The dynamics of development accompanying Artificial Intelligence forces us, above all, to change the mental perception of the role of this technology in our lives. Despite the fact that at first glance many activities, positions and processes become fully automated or even eliminated due to Machine Learning, we have to notice that many processes take on a completely new form, such as the above-described recruitment process. Wherever machines occupy people's places, new areas open up requiring even greater involvement of human capital, which is based on empathy, understanding, creativity and ingenuity in the face of challenges and completely new situations, for which the algorithm has not been prepared.  

Is there, then, a possible "collision-free" cooperation of a human being with an algorithm? In my opinion, this is perfectly possible, but in order to achieve this kind of compromise, it is necessary to prepare employees to change not only their current position but also, and above all, the way in which they performed their duties. Artificial Intelligence will certainly shake many sectors of the economy and the consequences will have to be endured for a long time in cooperation between government administrations and business.  


I am curious to know what you think about the pace and strength of AI's impact on both the industry in which your company operates and the mental attitude of your organization's members in the face of changes in the labour market. Share your opinion in a comment or write to me on szymon@wrocode.com.

 

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