October 25, 2023

HR vs AI: Which is right for your organisation

AI is starting to carry out many HR tasks traditionally performed by humans – and it’s likely to add many more to the list over the next few years. 

We explore whether your organisation should take the ‘human’ out of human resources and opt for AI instead.

How can you use AI in Human Resources?

There are many obvious areas where AI can make a real difference to human resources – and, in many cases, already is. This is especially true of those parts of the HR process that require continual repetitive tasks and processes.

For instance, Clara offers to be a virtual assistant, handling all your scheduling. Applications like Jemini promise to take care of payroll processing. Even accounting software such as Xero uses AI to time track, roster and interpret Awards and Agreements, making sure employees receive their entitlements and employers meet all their obligations. 

In these functions, AI can help take the pain out of work, recognising patterns and performing functions that automate what are generally mundane tasks. In turn, this frees HR professionals to focus on more strategic, human-centric aspects of their roles.

But there are some not-so-obvious ways AI could potentially begin to help in the human resources space, too.

  • Talent acquisition: AI could potentially help in candidate sourcing and screening. But it doesn’t necessarily have to start and end there. With good training and data, it could potentially also match the right talent to the right job based on various factors, including skills, personality, and organisational fit. In doing so, it could speed up the recruitment process and also create better matches between candidates and job roles.
  • Learning and development. For the moment, Workday uses AI to help employers understand the skills they have right now in their organisation and what they’ll need for the future. But platforms like this are likely to become much smarter – continually intervening to assess employees’ skill levels and helping them acquire new ones so that they match organisational objectives. 
  • Employee engagement: Every employee has their own goals, aspirations and motivations. AI could have a role in tying these together with the broader organisational goals so that everybody wins.
  • Diversity and inclusion. AI could help detect and reduce bias in recruiting, promoting and remunerating employees – analysing patterns that develop over time. It could also analyse communication and collaboration patterns to identify any inclusivity issues.
  • Workforce planning. AI could help forecast demand for particular skills, analyse where there are gaps and optimise the way human resources are allocated so that the right people are on the right projects based on their skills and preferences and the organisation’s needs. 

So, do we need humans in HR at all?

With AI now capable – or likely to soon be capable – of so much, it’s tempting to ask whether we need humans in human resources anymore at all. But, for the moment, here are a few areas where I think people can still outperform the robots.

  • The human touch. A lot of HR still involves interpersonal relationships – whether this is conflict resolution, employee counselling or simply the ability to empathise. While AI may be able to use advanced logic, it has no emotional intelligence. That means it’s not really capable of these nuanced interactions.  
  • Complex decision-making. While AI is great at automating step-by-step tasks, it won’t always make the best judgements in areas that involve a mix of emotions and problem-solving, such as layoffs and promotions or addressing grievances.
  • Ethical considerations. There are still some concerns about privacy and data, and it’s important to still have humans in the loop to address these issues. There’s also the chance that AI can introduce biases of its own.
  • Organisational culture. Numbers and data are all well and good, but I still believe nothing determines a company’s success or failure more than its culture. A human resource team that’s actually human has a crucial role to play in building and maintaining a positive organisational culture. 
  • Continuous improvement. Unlike AI, humans can provide qualitative feedback and insights based on their experiences – invaluable for continuous improvement in HR processes and procedures.   


Humans v AI: not an all-or-nothing choice

While the discussion around AI in HR often falls into a binary narrative, it’s not necessarily an ‘either/or’ choice. Instead, it’s more likely that the future of HR for most organisations involves a mixture of humans and machines. 

AI is likely to be used to handle data-driven and repetitive tasks, freeing humans up to focus on the more strategic, interpersonal and complex side of HR. Rather than substituting humans altogether, it can provide valuable and often hidden insights that allow a human resources professional to interpret them in light of the organisation’s broader goals and ambitions. It can also handle most of the run-of-the-mill and low-level inquiries that take up a large part of many HR professional’s days.   

As the role of AI changes, so will the role of HR. Those organisations that carefully assess and invest in AI to complement human-based services are the ones most likely to succeed. 


Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how AI can complement and support your HR function, get in touch

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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