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AI in the HR Department: Positive or Negative?

A hot topic in talent management is AI and machine learning. The global HR technology market is predicted to grow from $24.04 billion in 2021 to $35.68 billion in 2028, and companies are prioritizing investments in AI to optimize business processes and reduce costs. But are workers generally comfortable with technology assisting in HR tasks, and do the benefits outweigh any perceived risks?

AI: a more efficient recruitment process

When it came to AI in the recruitment process, respondents in the Fifth Edition of the Beamery Talent Index survey were positive about the potential efficiency gains.

  • 38% said it can make the overall recruitment process much quicker.
  • 35% said it helps companies to identify suitable candidates more efficiently, and
  • 34% said it reduces the strain on the team or staff member responsible for recruitment.

At Beamery, we know businesses have seen efficiencies in their recruitment thanks to AI, whether that is providing candidate recommendations for open roles, removing manual processes in recruitment marketing campaigns, or showing employees a potential career path.

Putting HR teams out of work?

Our respondents were most concerned about the flipside of efficiency gains: redundancies. The highest proportion of respondents (40%) said that the downside to the use of AI in recruitment was that it can put human staff members out of work.

Around a third (31%) noted that it can take time for the recruitment team/staff member to get used to how the AI operates, and 31% said it can create more work in the recruitment department because staff are having to check that the AI is working properly.

Of course, AI technology at its best will work with humans rather than replacing them or making their roles harder. Learning and development is crucial for HR teams embracing new technologies, alongside cultural shifts. AI is most effective with human-in-the-loop guidance – where the human, not the AI, makes the final decision. The AI offers speed and efficiency, but does not replace humans.

A fairer working environment

Two thirds (66%) of respondents in the Talent Index survey mentioned at least one way AI could be used to make the workplace fairer:

  • 30% said it removes human unconscious bias
  • 25% said it is more efficient at identifying individuals for promotion
  • 29% said it can help more efficiently define progression goals

But 17% of people said they couldn’t see how it made the workplace fairer – and that it was a threat to career progression or staff wellbeing.

Ethical and explainable AI

51% of our respondents thought all AI algorithms were adhering to ethical standards, either some or all of the time. 25% said either rarely or not at all, while 24% were unsure.

But there were concerns about how bias can creep into algorithms: 38% said AI can unintentionally discriminate against certain candidates. Only 18% said it “helps companies achieve DE&I goals.”

The challenge for TA teams who are using AI is to ensure that there is no subconscious bias programmed into the systems they use. They need to avoid opaque AI, and be able to ‘explain’ any recommendations made. Applied correctly, AI can help businesses increase representation: it can recommend candidates based on skills rather than demographic information.

Sentiment across locations and industries

Respondents in the USA, where legislation is coming to New York in January 2023 around ethical AI in HR, seemed overall the least concerned with “negatives” when it came to AI in the recruitment process – they were the least likely to mention any downsides.

Meanwhile, people in the UK were the most likely to believe that AI was a threat to career progression and staff wellbeing – 20% mentioned this from this market, versus 15% from the USA and 16% from Australia.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the IT sector appeared largely positive towards AI in the recruitment process, more so than any other sector.

AI: What talent teams must consider

There is potentially a warning here for HR departments and businesses: you need to be transparent with your AI, demonstrating to candidates and employees how the technology behind your selection processes is fair, compliant and ethical.

  • Do you have a single source of truth when it comes to your talent data?
  • Can you rely on data accuracy and completeness?
  • Is it explainable? Can you understand the recommendations offered with AI tools?
  • Are your tools audited to ensure there is no accidental bias?

Read the full Talent Index Fifth Edition report here.