6 Ways to Put AI to Work for Human Resources

Putting AI to Work for HRLast year at the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas, we were introduced to Ultimate Software’s new Xander technology, an AI tool designed to improve employee engagement and performance management. We also saw a number of impressive startups using data analytics and other technology to streamline HR, especially in recruiting. And the pace of new technology development has only accelerated over the past year. 

AI can save time, streamline processes, improve employee engagement and free HR practitioners to focus on strategic needs and employee relationships. But what, specifically, can today’s AI tools do for your HR department?  

First let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind:

Will AI Replace HR? 

The short answer is no, it won’t. John West of RPO firm Hire Velocity addressed this question at the HRO Today Forum earlier this year, specifically in the context of recruiting. He concluded that while new technologies have exciting potential for the recruiting space (and also for HR in general), technology can’t replicate the human ability to design strategy and make subjective interpretations.

If that’s the case, then what exactly is AI’s role? Is it just task automation (resume sorting, data analytics), or are there bigger opportunities on the horizon?

What Can AI Do Now?

AI is still in its early stages, but there are already plenty of HR applications on the market, many of them applying machine learning and big data analysis to the recruiting function:

  • Candidate sourcing – AI algorithms can match candidates to companies based on their credentials, work experience and skills. Many job boards use keyword matching to recommend candidates for relevant openings, which is a great way to improve the quality of candidates at the top of the recruitment funnel.

  • Screening and Scheduling – Once a candidate has submitted an application, AI technology can screen resumes and make recommendations based on which ones most closely match the position requirements. It can also schedule interviews and handle other repetitive tasks so HR staff can focus on building relationships with candidates and managing the interview process.

  • Improve decision-making quality – Increased efficiency on the front end of the recruiting process allows more time for high-value interactions later on. When hiring managers can focus their attention on interviewing a short list of top candidates with a minimum of legwork required to source and screen, they can make more thoughtful, strategic hiring decisions.

But recruiting isn’t the only place we’re seeing AI advances in HR. Natural language processing and deep data analysis have also enabled new strides in performance management and engagement. Machine learning technology "learns" from employee feedback and provides more accurate analysis over time.  Here are some of the ways you can benefit:

  • HR Chatbots – Answering employee questions about benefits, leave policies, social policies and other issues can eat up hours each week, but chatbots (like this one from Kronos Workforce Dimensions) help HR manage that load. Today’s chatbots can carry on conversations in real time, handling routine inquiries about standard policies and procedures. Interestingly, two-thirds of HR leaders believe employees are comfortable interacting with chatbots for these types of routine questions, and only 12% say employees can quickly find this information in other ways.

  • Employee feedback analysis– Do you know what your employees are really thinking? Can you read between the lines of their written feedback to identify a flight risk or disengaged employee? Ultimate Software’s Xander can, and it does so by using natural language processing and sentiment analysis. Xander looks at the words and phrases employees use in the feedback to identify emotional states such as frustration, worry or boredom. Managers can use that information to connect with employees and address their underlying concerns in more meaningful ways.

  • Retention Support– Data from employee exit surveys, performance reviews and other employee feedback helps your company understand the thought processes of employees – why they leave, why they stay, and whether they are engaged. Predictive analytics software can aggregate that data and pinpoint specific factors that contribute to retention. AI programs can also monitor those retention drivers and make recommendations for improving engagement based on feedback trends.

What Does the Future Hold for AI in HR?

 There’s a lot that AI can do right now for HR, but there are also some horizons yet to be explored. For example, the hope is that one day AI will eliminate bias from the candidate selection and hiring process, but we haven’t perfected the technology to that point yet. Still, new AI developments emerge every day, and it’s only a matter of time until we see breakthrough technologies like:


  • Advanced automation– As machine learning makes data analysis more accurate over time, we will be able to automate many of our communications, recruitment strategies and candidate screenings. The goal is that AI will support HR in these areas without sacrificing the essential human touch.

  • Blockchain– Blockchain holds enormous potential for protecting privacy, enhancing security and increasing employee control over sensitive information. You can read more about those possibilities in our post on Blockchain and strategic HR management.

  • Personalized job search– Technologies like Alexa can already anticipate our shopping and search preferences and it’s only a matter of time before we can extend those capabilities to the job search. Imagine the possibilities for recruiting if candidates could find jobs in a specific area, ask for recommendations based on Glassdoor ratings and personal job history and even submit a resume – all via voice user interfaces.

It’s an exciting time to be in HR. AI has the potential to change our industry, transforming both our internal and external HR processes with data analysis and machine learning. AI isn’t going to replace people in the HR process, but it will give us the knowledge and support we need to create better candidate and employee experiences. To reap the greatest benefit, keep your eye on the evolving tech landscape and implement the most effective tools to help you serve your teams.


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