Embracing AI in human resources: where do I start?

Whether you’re an HR professional in an SME or a global blue chip, it is likely that you’ll be hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the plethora of almost unbelievable claims regarding its capabilities for you and your business. The most prevalent use of AI in human resources is currently within the talent specialism, namely talent acquisition, whereby businesses are using aspects of AI to source, screen and select quality candidates. However, the opportunities presented through the use of AI can without a doubt spread much further than most organisations might first set out to explore.
Throughout my network, there are many HR professionals who have the opinion that AI is going to progressively formulate the foundations of how businesses manage their people, processes and strategy. Moreover, many professionals also admit that they have little knowledge about what other companies are doing or what they need to do to make sure they don’t get left behind.
At this point you may be enjoying your morning coffee thinking, “This sounds like me!”, and, if you haven’t already, you are probably about to ask yourself, “So where do I begin?”
Step one: assess and analyse
Before you spend hours trawling through Google searches for “new HR technology” or “HR systems”, and undoubtedly become tied up in countless conversations with miracle-working salesmen (who have no idea about you or your business!), make sure you start by carrying out a comprehensive review of what you already know. Challenge yourself to explore your business using the ‘who, what, why, when, and how approach.’ What technology do we already have? Where do we use it well? When has it hindered/helped us? Who actually uses/needs it? How can we use it better? And why do we need it? - From here you can begin to understand where your business could benefit from implementing aspects of AI. 
For many HR professionals, this self-analysis is relatively straightforward as there is likely no one who knows your business better than you do, however, what most people find challenging is assessing how they compare with the wider market and their competitors. Undoubtedly more questions need to be answered; “Are they really attracting and hiring better talent than us?”, “Is it costing them less to do it?” and “How does AI help give them the time to be more proactive than reactive?” 
Finding out the answers to these questions can be a little more time consuming and most certainly involves proactively building your external network; sign yourself up to specialist conferences/events, ask around at your regular networking meetings (such as CIPD), speak to third parties (consultancies) that will know your competitors, and be sure to keep an eye out for who is recruiting HR systems/technology specialists. It may also be worth recruiting a specialist of your own as a more efficient and cost-effective way to analyse these external elements.
Step two: consult
It is no coincidence organisations that embrace diversity and inclusivity are reflected in the market as the most innovative and successful. So why wouldn’t you want to engage your internal stakeholders when looking to revolutionise the technological infrastructure they use daily? Rather than just analysing your own observations, present your thoughts to the widest feasible pool of people across your business. Be prepared to take criticism but also be ready to receive a whole range of creative ideas. 
Fundamentally, if you are looking to explore how AI can improve your people processes, then at the heart of your plan must remain the end-users - your people! This will allow you to visualise a much clearer picture of what your overall objectives should include, and more importantly, you will gain the buy-in from your colleagues from the very beginning of what is likely to be a significant period of change for them and your business.
Step three: prioritise 
Now, armed with a diverse range of suggestions for what your business could be doing, your excitement may quickly fade when you enter into discussions with your CFO/FD.
Whether you are an SME or a global blue chip you will likely have similar objectives (albeit on different scales), but what will certainly differ will be your budget and time capabilities. At this juncture, you may wish to re-visit some of those notes from the PRINCE2 course that you attended way back when, or even re-consider employing a specialist, because successfully changing the scope of your technology infrastructure will require comprehensive project management from start to finish (and beyond in evaluation). Either way, it is essential to have absolute clarity of your needs, your constraints, and have specific milestones in place to ensure you are on track to achieving your overall objectives and when you expect to see a return on investment. 
AI will progressively evolve, so it is unrealistic to expect that you’ll receive an award for achieving total integration of AI across your HR function any time soon. However, if you maintain clarity and control over your most critical needs, and avoid losing sight of your overall objectives, you will almost certainly be adding value and moving your organisation forward.
Next steps
As you look to clamber your way into the jungle that is the AI market; sourcing vendors, product testing, implementations etc., you will unavoidably need to invest a significant amount of time and effort to achieve your objective. Although, following the above steps will ensure that the outcome is purposeful, effective and most relevant to your employees and business. Implementing the wrong solutions too quickly will inevitably put you and your business in a position similar to someone buying an iPhone 6s when the latest version, iPhone 8, has just been released with all the enhanced capabilities they actually need!
Finally, whilst the developments in AI will continue and it will undoubtedly become an essential platform for the HR profession moving forward, I believe that we are a long way from it eliminating the ‘human’ in human resources. 
As a market leader in Human Resources recruitment, we work in partnership with many SME and blue chip organisations who are embarking on the AI journey. If you would like any further information or to discuss how we can help with your HR recruitment, get in touch with David Garstang, Managing Consultant at Michael Page Human Resources.
David Garstang
T: +44 1932 264076