Emerging technologies are ushering in a new era of possibility and responsibility for one of the most people-centered corners of industry. Far from marginalizing the human role in HR, the rise of advanced analytics in the field of talent management increases both the need and the opportunity for humans to shape tomorrow’s workplace.
Data science techniques in HR can drive business value through increased efficiency and more productive, engaged, and equitable teams. Nearly one in four organizations has incorporated automation or AI tools into HR processes. In addition, high performing companies are twice as likely as low-performing companies to use specialized people analytics tools and software.
Adopting AI-driven HR tools can increase operational efficiencies and support organizational priorities. These technologies help companies improve their talent acquisition strategies, enhance employee experience, and increase retention rates, leading to more engaged workforces and, ultimately, more satisfied customers. A common thread that runs through all of these vital areas is diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace. This is a particularly crucial consideration given that the business value of DEIB is well-established, and 76 percent of employees say that a diverse workplace is important to them.
Data science technologies can be instrumental in promoting these ideals and supporting the work of HR departments through each step of the HR process. From generating guides for procedures and policies to tracking DEIB metrics throughout the sourcing and employment journey, advanced analytics can boost the efforts of the people behind the people across all phases of their work.
Anticipating talent needs is a mounting challenge in a climate of technological evolution and rapidly shifting business winds. AI-driven tools can help HR professionals plan staffing requirements based on trends and demographic data and produce insights into skills gaps on various teams. In fact, 52 percent of organizations surveyed by Gartner stated that they were exploring the use of AI in workforce planning.
In the same study, 36 percent of HR leaders reported that their organizations’ strategies for sourcing talent are insufficient, despite the fact that 46 percent of these respondents considered recruitment to be a top priority. Tools powered by advanced technologies can support more targeted processes for identifying desired candidate qualities and attracting applicants who possess them. Technologies such as generative AI can support HR managers by creating profiles of ideal employees, matching candidate qualities to qualities of successful employees, predicting performance, creating accurate and appealing job postings, and generating insights into obstacles to diversity in the talent acquisition process. They can also automate early interactions with potential candidates via chatbots for preliminary engagement and screening.
Once a candidate applies for a position, AI-driven tools can even help reduce bias in the screening and interview processes. As a result of such capabilities, 63 percent of talent acquisition specialists report that AI has had a positive impact on how their organizations handle recruitment.
Having crossed the hiring hurdle, HR professionals must tend to the arduous—but critical—work of onboarding. Employees’ onboarding experiences are influential in forming their impression of their new professional home and, if unsatisfactory, can lead to premature departures. However, a mere 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their organizations do a great job of onboarding. This is an area in which AI-powered automation can make a significant impact by handling the distribution and processing of the necessary paperwork, addressing basic inquiries, and even developing customized onboarding materials based on individual employees’ interests and goals.
Engagement, recognition, potential for growth, and equitable access to opportunities are among the pillars that form a positive employee experience. Employee experience is a top priority for 47 percent of HR leaders, but 85 percent of employees feel that their companies aren’t doing enough to support their workforce and need to listen more to employee needs. AI-enabled tools can help HR professionals monitor the pulse of the workforce more closely through personalized check-ins, employee surveys using sentiment analysis to assess trends in workplace satisfaction, and automation of routine tasks that hinder employees from pursuing more intellectually stimulating work. These technologies can also offer insights into barriers to inclusion and belonging by tracking patterns of engagement and mobility by demographics.
Employee Opportunity and Development
Equitable opportunities for professional advancement are also integral to good employee experience. However, 44 percent of HR leaders do not believe their companies provide their employees with compelling career paths. Generative AI offers possibilities for organizations to identify individual employees’ strengths, affinities, and challenges using data culled from their work. These insights can guide HR managers in delivering support as needed and can inform customized career roadmaps and personalized learning and development opportunities. In addition, organizations can increase the sense of belonging by incorporating technologies that aid employees with communicating in dialects less familiar to them. AI-driven tools can also help organizations analyze data to gain insights into barriers related to pay equity and diversity in leadership positions and to power talent markets that encourage internal networking and mobility.
The promise of advanced analytics to positively transform HR comes with considerable challenges. In addition to issues surrounding the ownership of employee data, organizations adopting people analytics must be mindful of the potential risks associated with models trained on workforce data, which can perpetuate–or even amplify–historical biases and eliminate candidates from consideration based on flawed metrics.
A flurry of recent activity across agencies has focused on addressing these concerns. The Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a joint statement last year to acknowledge the potential of AI-driven hiring practices to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additional forms of possible discrimination related to the use of AI in recruitment are also under scrutiny.
As noted in the joint statement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Federal Trade Commission:
Although many of these tools offer the promise of advancement, their use also has the potential to perpetuate unlawful bias, automate unlawful discrimination, and produce other harmful outcomes.
New York City’s legislation regulating the use of AI in recruitment will be enforced beginning on July 15. In addition, the White House released a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights last year and has announced plans to investigate the impact of worker tracking tools.
As organizations incorporate these technologies into HR functions, they should take certain precautions to safeguard against some of the risks associated with data-driven analytics in the workplace. These precautions may include:
Best practices for the responsible use of data-driven technologies empower HR professionals to embrace these tools confidently and successfully. This is where the human element of HR shines. With the skills to use advanced analytics effectively while monitoring performance for unintended impact, companies can supercharge their workforce strategies and elevate the work of the people who make organizations flourish.
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