HR Pros Do Have Opinions on How Artificial Intelligence Could Impact HR Jobs and Careers
Research suggests that HR offices have traditionally lagged other functional areas in the adoption of new technology. However, the current talent shortage and the competitive value of big data are driving the adoption and use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools in many HR processes.
Listening to HR voices
Last year, I completed a qualitative research project which sought to hear the voices of HR practitioners on the uses of AI technology in the hiring process. The study was designed to hear HR voices and understand the attitudes and perspectives of HR participants towards the adoption and use of AI in HR this way. HR executives, HR recruiters, and HR information systems analysts from global organizations headquartered in the Northeastern region of the United States, were the practitioners interviewed.
Organizational change impacts jobs and careers
It is not a new concept that workers who are experiencing any kind of organizational change would evaluate how that change would or could impact them in personal ways. As a precursor to any type of organizational transformation, researchers have suggested that those employees who are experiencing the change make sense of what they hear, see and experience (Armenakis et al. (2007). Additionally, research related specifically to technology changes, suggests that “the adoption of technology changes by individuals is largely based on their perceptions of how the technology will impact their jobs” (Schraeder et al., 2006, p. 85). Having worked on the forward edge of technology transformations in both corporate travel management and college career center operations, I noted that some employees thrived with technology adoption, others managed to cope and some employees did neither. Many colleagues chose a variety of ways to move away from what they considered intrusion by technologists into their occupation. I actually know people who actually chose retirement rather than learn new ways. For this study, therefore, I sought to understand how the HR practitioners interviewed would interpret what they were seeing, hearing and experiencing and how they would perceive changes relating to their own jobs and careers.
It was clear from the study that the participating HR practitioners have very personal views on how adoption of this new technology for knowledge work automation could potentially impact their roles and HR careers. The sentiments and observations of the HR practitioners varied and some of those findings are identified here. Some HR practitioners expressed that:
1. Current HR jobs would not change because their companies were slow adopters anyway.
2. HR job duties could be tweaked or modified.
3. HR offices could start adding new technology roles like Data Scientists.
4. Recruiters would not be replaced by machines.
5. Potentially, there may be need for less recruiters due to increased efficiencies.
6. Recruiters who do not adopt AI could become obsolete.
7. If HR service jobs are broken down into its component parts, AI could handle the decision making, while the other parts of the job could be more easily done by workers with a lower skill level than recruiters, either in the U.S. or overseas.
8. HR knowledge-work jobs, like recruiting, are not like manufacturing jobs that could be easily replaced.
9. HR employees would remain necessary because of the personal relationships between applicant and employees needed during the recruiting process.
10. HR employees will be needed to help design, audit and monitor new AI systems.
11. Certain administrative tasks could be performed by AI assistants such as Alexa.
12. AI will eliminate jobs.
Not surprisingly, there was something for everyone in the responses. As HR practitioners, we can agree, disagree or take comfort and solace wherever we want in those responses.
Potential for further research
Although there was certainly a lot of variety to chew on in terms of personal perspectives of HR practitioners, the responses highlighted the need for further research to look deeper and answer more questions. For example, could there be any correlation between one’s HR role and one’s perspective of the potential impact of AI on one’s job? How strong might that correlation, if it exists, be? Also, what new avenues in HR could open up for career opportunities due to the impact of AI technology? How are HR departments looking within their own offices for signs of positive or negative adoption patterns and what could be done about any emerging patterns? What strategies could be employed to address perspectives. Everyone who has maneuvered through organizational changes knows well that it is often the human factors that impact successful changes, but they can sometimes be the ones overlooked in the change.
Acknowledging the impact on HR jobs and careers
The important finding to me, was that collectively, HR practitioners do have a voice on how AI could be impactful on HR jobs and careers. After all, others are speaking to this potential impact, even if not speaking specifically for HR leaders. When speaking specifically about AI technologies, Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2017) say that, “over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t” (p. 13).
As technologies continue to usher in the automation of knowledge work, as HR practitioners, we will need both academic and professional development training to design and support the evolving automated workplaces of the future where human and artificial intelligence work side by side. We, as HR practitioners must play a lead role here. We must acknowledge the potential for impact on HR jobs and careers; at least among ourselves, before others do. If we don’t, we could miss opportunities to retool to meet the needs not just for our personal HR jobs and careers, but for our organizations.
Armenakis, A. A., Bernerth, J. B., Pitts, J. P., & Walker, H. J. (2007, December). Organizational change recipients’ belief scale: Development of an assessment instrument. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43(4), 481-505. doi:10.1177/0021886307303654
Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2017, July). The business of artificial intelligence: What it can and cannot do for your organization. Harvard Business Review, 1-13. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/cover-story/2017/07/the-business-of-artificial-intelligence
Schraeder, M., Swamidass, P. M., & Morrison, R. (2016, March). Employee involvement, attitudes and reactions to technology changes. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 12(3), 85-100. doi:10.1177/107179190601200306