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AI as a driver for better leadership and in-person engagement

Ria Davey, Global Head of HR and Talent for Engineering at Bloomberg LP

ChatGPT recently celebrated its first birthday as one of the most popular generative AI programmes, with an estimated 25 million users engaging with it every day, according to UBS research on Similarweb.

In a poll of more than 100 HR professionals conducted during my presentation on ‘AI and the future of work’ at Allen Associates HR Hub, 60% said they have used ChatGPT since its launch on November 30, 2022.

Although most businesses are still at the very early stages of trying to understand the potential impact of AI on our roles, jobs, and the wider business, it is clearly a divisive topic that is the subject of a great deal of debate.

On the one hand, we may feel excited about the pace of technological change and the extent to which AI will enhance both our work and personal lives. AI has already increased productivity in many sectors, driving efficiencies and positively impacting GDP, which is great news for employers and the HR community.

On the other hand, many people may feel worried about what this might mean for jobs and life as we know it, particularly when we try to envisage the future. Geoffery Hinton, who is widely regarded as the godfather of AI, publicly pronounced his concerns about the speed of AI development and the extent to which the technology was learning and adopting human characteristics.

Other high profile commentators have said the implications of AI should be treated as seriously as other global issues, such as climate change, and Elon Musk has compared the risks to that of a nuclear bomb!

Whether we’re excited or worried – or a bit of both –  AI is here, and it’s being adopted at pace. Our role, as HR and business leaders, is to work out how to adapt and make it work to our advantage.

What does this mean for HR and the world of work?

AI has been under development for many years, and many have compared it to the launch of the World Wide Web. Huge change was required, but the world adapted. Although the internet has brought significant risks and threats to individuals and businesses, most people agree that the positives far outweigh the negatives, and few can imagine a world without it.

We could look at AI-related advances through a similar lens. Our roles will undoubtedly change, but that doesn’t mean that we will all be out of work and unemployable. In fact, you could argue that AI will drive more in-person engagement, leading to enhanced leadership, strategic thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and empathy – to name a few.

This points to a fundamental shift in the nature of work, and the roles, skills, and capabilities that will be required in the future.

AI is fantastic at performing repetitive tasks, such as scanning huge volumes of material to identify patterns and trends. Many believe that AI will take on the most mundane and repetitive tasks within every department and workplace, freeing humans up to focus on more strategic, interesting, and fulfilling work. The burning question is what will happen to those people who are currently performing tasks for which AI is so well suited. What are the implications for education, skills, and training, and how do we go about building the workforce of the future?

These are big questions – and we’ve only just scratched the surface. HR professionals need to understand ChatGPT and other AI programmes. If you haven’t already tried them, do go and test using them. Get to know AI so that you can make more informed decisions about how much (or how little) you want to incorporate it within your role, the HR function, and the wider business – and what the implications of doing so might be.

This is a great opportunity for HR to lead the discussions on AI and contribute to the setting of objectives, a clear vision, and new strategies that position your organisation ahead of its competitors. Change management, training, skills development, coaching, leadership, internal communications, culture, and policies are just a few of the areas that will require HR’s full attention.

Recruitment is a great example of where AI and humans need to work together.

We are already seeing a sharp increase in the number of candidates using ChatGPT to write their job applications, making it more difficult for in-house recruiters to identify the most suitable candidates, and which leads, in many cases, to the ‘wrong’ candidates being shortlisted.

Ironically, the problem is often compounded by the AI software that is being brought in to help. This is because the AI is only as good as the people who create and train it, which means the potential for bias within the technology must be a cause for concern. The more AI is used to identify job applications that have been compiled using AI, the more room there is for discrimination within the system. That is not to say it shouldn’t be used. But, in order to mitigate the risks as much as possible, the onus is on us as HR professionals to ask the right questions of their suppliers about how their technologies are being developed.

I’ve been asked how we can trust the results generated by AI during the recruitment process and ensure that we don’t overlook genuine, high quality candidates. I don’t think you fully can. In fact, you could argue that humans have a greater role to play in the recruitment process than ever before, as it is only through in-person conversations and meetings that hiring managers can be confident of their choices.

This is where an experienced, ethical recruitment agency can really make a difference – by meeting, vetting, and shortlisting candidates on behalf of over-stretched HR teams and hiring managers, and bringing their knowledge and experience to bear on the selection process.

Clearly, AI will have a significant impact on the workforces and workplaces of the future, and this provides HR professionals with a fantastic opportunity to position themselves at the heart of the changes to come.

About the author: Ria Davey, Global Head of HR and Talent for Engineering at Bloomberg LP

Ria Davey leads a team of HR professionals who support the company's global software engineering functions. With over 20 years of strategic HR experience in multiple regions across the world, Ria is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD (FCIPD) and an active writer, podcaster and thought leader. Passionate about the future of work and how technology can help drive business through people, Ria researches and presents balanced ideas for HR professionals and business leaders.

A self-proclaimed ‘future of work geek’, Ria was a guest speaker at one of Allen Associates HR Hubs, a series of free webinars aimed at HR professionals, employers and people managers. Find out more and register to receive invitations and attend.

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