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3 Critical Roles the HR Department Plays in AI Adoption

Our house needed some special repairs. My spouse and I had never hired a specialist for this type of work before. Instead of trying to figure out where to start, we used an AI tool that instantly gave us the steps and tips we needed and even helped us prepare a quote-obtaining template! For work, I have been using and implementing an AI-powered tool in our business that helps improve our writing. We also used an AI-powered tool for our clients' engagement surveys. Again, AI tools have benefits in everyday life and work.


Artificial Intelligence is changing every industry and unlocking many possibilities. According to Accenture, three-quarters of organizations now prioritize AI over all other digital investments (1). This shift could inspire excitement and confidence in HR professionals. However, are you ready to use AI to improve your HR programs and practices?


A survey (2) among 600 HR managers and directors in the UK showed that 40% of these organizations need at least three years to prepare for AI. Only 15% said they would be fully prepared within a year, despite many reporting that they know the importance of AI in their workplace. There could be many reasons why adopting advanced technologies is difficult, such as budget, resources, leadership and culture, state of the business and business priorities. Common concerns shared by HR leaders in the same survey (2) are a lack of human interaction and becoming over-dependent on technology, technical issues, security, privacy, and ethical considerations.


In my opinion, AI and other advanced technologies reduce the need for superior technology skills, but they amplify the need for interpersonal skills and emotional connection among employees. This underscores the crucial role of the HR department in guiding the organization through any AI-driven change, ensuring that the right people and skills are in place to leverage new technologies effectively.


The HR department can play three critical roles in technology transformation:


1. Re-designing Jobs and Re-training the Workforce

As AI eliminates many repetitive and low-value tasks, HR can take this opportunity to reorganize jobs to better align with the business's goals and make them more engaging for employees.


The typical steps for reconfiguring a job include:

  1. Breaking down existing job roles into major tasks, identifying repetitive and low-value duties suitable for AI automation.

  2. Analyzing the remaining tasks based on the organization's priorities and objectives to understand the missing skills in the workforce and the additional skills required. The below table shows an example of a Learning & Development (L&D) Specialist role.

  3. Design the remaining tasks to create new, engaging positions leveraging human intelligence.

  4. As the above example (in the right column) shows, the reimagined L&D position now focuses on more strategic-level tasks and emphasizes collaboration and stakeholder engagement skills. Businesses need to invest in training, upskilling or reskilling programs, mentorship and coaching opportunities, and hiring individuals with the necessary skills. The key is actively involving employees in the process and gathering feedback to enhance training programs.

Examples of AI-suitable tasks

Examples of people-suitable tasks

  • Distribute training needs assessment

  • Collect and analyze the assessment results

  • Create a training schedule

  • Prepare certain aspects of training materials and access

  • Gather attendees' feedback and evaluate training effectiveness

  • Track and maintain records

  • Etc.

  • Define the short to long-term training strategy, focus areas and execution plans

  • Cultivate relationships across the organization to understand the needs of each business area and develop the learning architecture for the enterprise

  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams to define success metrics and report on the results and the overall impact

  • Create career path models to identify areas of opportunity

  • Etc.

2. Influencing Change

HR can be the influencer to foster a culture of continuous learning where employees are encouraged to develop new skills throughout their careers. This means helping employees understand how their roles might change and supporting them as they move into new positions or explore different career paths within the company. I also see that HR will player a bigger role in employee career change counselling/guiding.



Coworkers discussing AI impact
Coworkers discussing AI impact

3. Focus on the Employee Experience

McKinsey surveyed workers in Canada, the US, and the UK and found some surprising things about AI talent in companies (3). They discovered that there are more people who can work with AI than most leaders think. This group is growing fast, and it's not just tech people like data scientists or software developers. It includes all sorts of employees! Interestingly, these workers say they need more "soft skills" like communication and problem-solving to do their jobs well, not just tech skills. Furthermore, the survey shows that compensation isn't the main reason people want to work with AI. The well-known attraction and retention factors such as the work environment, culture, supervisor, and meaningful work are still more important.


The introduction of AI can cause anxiety among employees, particularly regarding their job security and potential changes. To address these concerns, HR can involve employees in technology integration. Engaging with employees at all levels to assess what tools the employees may need and get their input on how AI could improve their work processes and experience. This helps employees understand that AI is a tool to enhance their jobs, not a replacement for their jobs.



According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 (4), 6 out of 10 workers will require retraining before 2027. This means that those of us working in HR have limited time to prepare ourselves and our workforce for advanced technology adoption. HR will play a crucial role in predicting future skill requirements, redesigning jobs, and guiding employees through any AI-driven changes. It is essential to build and maintain employee trust, starting with clear communication and ensuring that ethical and privacy guidelines are up to date.



Reference:

  1. Accenture. (2023, February 22). Among C-suite leaders, AI is top digital priority in the path to operational resilience, finds Accenture study [Press release]. Retrieved May 2, 2024 from https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/2023/among-c-suite-leaders-ai-is-top-digital-priority-in-the-path-to-operational-resilience-finds-accenture-study

  2. Webber, A. (2021, September 2). Two in five HR leaders need three years to prepare for AI. Retrieved Apr. 30, 2024, from  https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/hr-prepare-for-ai-yoho-survey/ 

  3. Smet, A., Durth, S., Hancock B. Mugayar-Baldocchi M., Reich A. (March 18, 2024). The human side of generative AI: Creating a path to productivity. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved May 5, 2024, from https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-human-side-of-generative-ai-creating-a-path-to-productivity?stcr=8D2D032EFBCD4095A2CC9938AA5F74C7&cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=0d61253acf6a49a4a3a5209307de6771&hctky=15236999&hdpid=f9454504-f3ae-43ba-903f-218d1338e2f6 

  4. World Economic Forum. (2023). The future of jobs report 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://www.weforum.org/publications/the-future-of-jobs-report-2023/ 



 

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