Right now, we have a brilliant opportunity to realise how AI and autonomous systems can support us as humans in being the best of what it is to be human. By combining our agile human potential with the resources with AI, we can find better solutions for the more difficult problems faced by humanity. Yes, it’s going to take a paradigm shift in how we relate to leadership, power, influence, priorities and our favourite routines but, AI and autonomous systems are already beginning demonstrate their talents in crunching through the boring tasks in our lives. Of course, in the first instance, we need to decide which meta-decisions should always default to humans. I can feel a long debate coming along on this one. But AI can – and should – absolutely take ownership of those dull, dull, dull duties.


Imagine what is possible when AI is able to do the more mundane parts of our jobs for us. I would suggest that we’ll have even more work than ever. And this is where HR department can come into its own. As employees, we will need to be supported in an appropriately personal way, both by the HR teams and the AI systems. That means all levels of staff won’t miss out on vital experience – they’ll be getting better onboarding, learning opportunities and policy guidance from their personalised AI support. This will include a wealth of tools that will empower and enable them to bring more value, and more of what they need at a more convenient time.


Just as a side note, I don’t think the robots are here to take our jobs they are here to help us have more interesting jobs. Sometimes I wonder what could be possible if I had a virtual assistant like the wonderful J.A.R.V.I.S. who stars with Tony Stark in the MARVEL film, Ironman. J.A.R.V.I.S. is a “general AI” virtual assistant who can follow instructions, makes suggestions with a subtle level of acceptable humour and wit.  


There’s a very important word in HR – the word human. Most people choose HR as a career because they like connecting, supporting and developing people. With AI there will be more of that in the future – it’ll be comfy sofas and lots more face-to-face meetings. HR professionals will be able to spend more time meeting their colleagues, providing advice and support, adding value, being more people-focused and helping them develop their careers.  That is a better employee experience that can reflect very quickly into bottom line productivity.


In my opinion, there won’t be fewer human resources professionals in future. On the contrary, there will be two key areas: the AI analytics running the personalised employee experience and the HR teams developing talent as well as keeping an eye on the bot analytics to make sure it maintains agreed protocols.


Paradoxically, there are some situations where people are demonstrating a preference to talk to a robot/AI system over a human. Research into applications on whistleblowing, tribunal interviews and extreme trauma situations have been successful because the autonomous system is “listening” to the facts and not perceived to form bias judgements.


I’m particularly excited about the potential for automation in recruitment – I think as more data becomes available it’ll remove the huge biases that can we have in historical data from both candidates and employers during the process. The key is noticing identifying and incorporating the rich neuro-diversity of each individual. In terms of AI adoption in HR it is still fragmented. However, I tend to think about the exponential acceptance of the mobile phone as a tool in our lives. Its ability to create a very personal point of connect to a wealth of resources. Yes, there will be an unclear period of time as humans learn to adapt to AI and vice-versa, but once this has been ironed out and we’ve drawn the line between which decisions fall to humans and which to AI, it will be a much more positive experience. Then we can have a real partnership with our automatous colleagues.


Published in the People Management Magazine, July/August 2018