How AI in HR Can Help Combat the Great Resignation

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“AI will make traditional HR extinct.” But AI in HR won’t spell the end for human resources professionals; instead of making the HR leader obsolete, HR AI will free you from the burden of time-consuming and mundane administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on HR strategy. And it will separate you (and your organization) from the competition: while 81% of employees believe AI improves their work performance and 68% have called on their employers to incorporate additional AI technology, McKinsey & Company surveyed thousands of executives and found that only 8% of companies “engage in core practices that support widepress adoption.”

So why is AI in HR important, particularly now? How does artificial intelligence in human resources benefit the HR department, as well as workers and the organization? And how do human resources leaders ensure AI in HR and across departments is implemented, adopted and optimized most effectively?

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Why You Need AI in HR Now

You’ve probably heard of it. Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, termed it The Great Resignation. It began April 2021, when more people quit their job in a single month than ever before, and it refers to a mass exodus of workers from their places of employment. In May, Klotz warned of “pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year,” as well as pandemic-inspired epiphanies about remote work and work/life balance prompting additional workers to “turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind.” In the following months, the numbers of departing employees would accelerate, stemming from what Atlantic staff writer Derek Thompson called “a revolution in worker expectations.” 

Needless to say, many executives and HR leaders are concerned about an intensifying war for talent; innovative, industry-leading companies and organizations won’t engage in battle — they’ll listen to their workers and prospects, and adjust accordingly. After all, Forbes already told us: the “workers will win.”

Amid the global pandemic, HR leaders received a mandate: to circumvent The Great Resignation by retaining and attracting top talent. And while we’ve long known that people-first companies drive higher performance, now might be the best time to shift the paradigm and proverbially put yourself in their shoes. 

Think about it. It should come as no surprise that thinking like an employee helps HR leaders better serve (and retain!) their employees — and maybe workers aren’t “resigning in mass willy-nilly” from their jobs but actually “reassessing” their lives and simply “making new choices” (Into & Overit, Overit, November 2021). 

Perhaps the first step to winning the war on talent is to reimagine The Great Resignation as The Great Reassessment, a point of view proffered by Recode’s Kara Swisher and NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway in a recent episode of tech and business podcast Pivot. If employees are reassessing their lives and making new choices, HR leaders need to strive to understand their employees’ greatest fears and desires, and identify what is most influencing their career choices.

Your success could be your path to the C-suite, and the very survival of your organization. And as Sonia Mathai, chief human resources officer at AI platform Globality, explains, “We need new platforms and technologies to stay ahead — and artificial intelligence is at the forefront.” 

Indeed, when asked about the benefits of AI in the workplace

  • 61% of workers said it helped them improve their efficiency and productivity
  • 49% of workers said it improved decision making
  • 51% said it allowed them to achieve a better work/life balance

This is why AI is predicted to add $13-trillion to the global economy in less than a decade, and why Jeanne Meister, executive vice president at Executive Networks and founder of the Future Workplace Academy, says “the future of HR is both digital and human,” requiring “leaders and teams to develop a fluency in artificial intelligence while they re-imagine HR to be more personal, human and intuitive.”

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How AI in HR Benefits Human Resources Leaders, Employees, and Businesses

Until recently, HR technology was used primarily to improve efficiency and drive cost-savings; today, “AI is fueling HR’s transition from administrative to strategic to mission critical.”

Here’s how:

  • AI in recruitment
  • AI in human capital management (HCM)
  • AI in employee engagement
  • AI in employee benefits
  • AI in corporate training

Specifically, HR AI:

  1. Eliminates human bias in hiring practices and other HR decision making
  2. Delivers intelligent employee sentiment analysis to help prevent unwanted attrition
  3. Helps you measure the ROI on HR expenditures with detailed and comprehensive data
  4. Minimizes the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, freeing you up to focus on strategic initiatives
  5. Limits the burden on shared service centers and help desks by answering (and flagging) employee queries and performing certain HR transactions
  6. Facilitates adaptive learning, which improves corporate training efficiency, effectiveness and engagement by adapting to the learner

Of course, not every C-suite executive has embraced artificial intelligence, yet. So, as McKinsey & Company partners Tim Fountaine, Brian McCarthy and Tamim Saleh explain in Harvard Business Review, it’s critical to “scale up” the right way. After all, “Technology isn’t the biggest problem. Culture is.

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How to Implement AI in HR at Your Organization

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is to view AI as a plug-and-play technology with immediate returns. Deciding to get a few projects up and running, they begin investing millions in data infrastructure, AI software tools, data expertise, and model development. Some of the pilots manage to eke out small gains in pockets of organizations. But then months or years pass without bringing the big wins executives expected. Firms struggle to move from the pilots to companywide programs—and from a focus on discrete business problems, such as improved customer segmentation, to big business challenges, like optimizing the entire customer journey. Leaders also often think too narrowly about AI requirements. While cutting-edge technology and talent are certainly needed, it’s equally important to align a company’s culture, structure, and ways of working to support broad AI adoption.

– Tim Fountaine, Brian McCarthy and Tamim Saleh, Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2019

According to McKinsey & Company, companies must make three fundamental shifts to support the evolutionary and holistic implementation of HR AI:

1. From siloed work to interdisciplinary collaboration

“AI has the biggest impact when it’s developed by cross-functional teams with a mix of skills and perspectives. Having business and operational people work side by side with analytics experts will ensure that initiatives address broad organizational priorities, not just isolated business issues. Diverse teams can also think through the operational changes new applications may require.”

2. From experienced-based, leader-driven decision making to data-driven decision making at the front line

“When AI is adopted broadly, employees up and down the hierarchy will augment their own judgment and intuition with algorithms’ recommendations to arrive at better answers than either humans or machines could reach on their own. But for this approach to work, people at all levels have to trust the algorithms’ suggestions and feel empowered to make decisions—and that means abandoning the traditional top-down approach. If employees have to consult a higher-up before taking action, that will inhibit the use of AI.”

3. From rigid and risk-averse to agile, experimental, and adaptable

“On the first iteration, AI applications rarely have all their desired functionality. A test-and-learn mentality will reframe mistakes as a source of discoveries, reducing the fear of failure. Getting early user feedback and incorporating it into the next version will allow firms to correct minor issues before they become costly problems. Development will speed up, enabling small AI teams to create minimum viable products in a matter of weeks rather than months.”

But this is easier said than done; HR leaders need to internally evangelize artificial intelligence, and ensure everyone in the organization is equipped to participate in and contribute to a smooth launch and iteration/optimization process.

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Setting Up for Success

Despite the statistics and empirical evidence, some employees still fear a robot takeover will make human workers obsolete. As a result, HR leaders “have to provide a vision that rallies everyone around a common goal. Workers must understand why AI is important to the business and how they’ll fit into a new, AI-oriented culture. In particular, they need reassurance that AI will enhance rather than diminish or even eliminate their roles.”

In addition, HR leaders need to work with managers to predict and prevent barriers to successful implementation. While “some obstacles, such as workers’ fear of becoming obsolete, are common across organizations,” “a company’s culture may also have distinctive characteristics that contribute to resistance.” The best way to address this is to attack it head on: 

  1. Review and derive insights from how the organization overcame barriers during past initiatives
  2. Strive to align your AI initiatives “with the very cultural values that seem like obstacles”
  3. Consider hiring an analytics translator, who can survey end users, study workflows and diagnose and fix problems; ensure AI applications address business needs; and bridge the gap between technical and business teams

Finally, HR leaders must coordinate with organizational leadership to ensure proper budgeting not only for the technology but for integration and adoption. In fact, McKinsey & Company found that 90% of companies that successfully scale their AI spend “more than half of their analytics budgets on activities that drove adoption, such as workflow redesign, communication, and training.”

Revolutionizing Your Organization with Artificial Intelligence: The MBL Difference

Looking for guidance on incorporating artificial intelligence in human resources and across your organization? Want to ensure full implementation and adoption? There’s no better solution than MBL. At MBL, we are a true partner. We think of our work as building relationships, not as a business transaction. It’s our mission to learn as much about your company and its needs as possible, so we can act as your guiding force. We will share our vast network of carriers, technology and wellness providers, and more, so you can keep your employees happy; attract, develop and retain top talent; and boost your bottom line.

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