Embracing AI: A New Era in Human Resources
Reflecting on Aristotle’s insistence on empirical evidence as a counterpoint to Plato’s trust in intuition brings an interesting parallel to light – the shift that the Human Resources (HR) industry is experiencing today. For years, we’ve heavily relied on intuition in HR, mirroring Plato’s approach, to understand and lead people. However, with the amount of data available today the inherent limitations of intuition are becoming more pronounced. It’s here that the emergence of robust AI technologies, particularly large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI‘s GPT-4, Meta‘s LLaMA, and Google‘s PaLM2 herald a significant transformation. As such technologies continue to advance and proliferate, we stand on the brink of a fundamental reshaping of the HR industry, where empirical tools don’t replace but augment our intuition. Imagine what eliminating human bias in hiring and career advancement would mean for the world, for employee engagement and productivity, and for global living standards. Let’s embrace this shift, and journey together to explore its potential to transform HR practices.
Human Versus AI in HR
AI isn’t just an abstract concept; it is an increasingly ubiquitous presence. We’re only a few months into the adoption of LLMs at work, and already AI is revolutionizing traditional business practices. Within the realm of HR, especially hiring and career pathing, AI’s role is not just transformative—it’s potentially groundbreaking. It represents a shift from the traditional, intuition-based approach to a dynamic, data-driven one that embraces the modern digital era.
Historically, career guidance was largely a matter of human judgment. Line-managers and HR professionals would evaluate individuals through interviews, resumes, and occasionally, psychological tests. This approach, while valuable, had clear limitations. Even the most experienced professionals can process only a finite amount of information, and judgments can be affected by unconscious biases, casting a shadow on the impartiality of our advice.
These constraints underscore the need for a new approach—one that parallels Aristotle’s advocacy for empirical evidence. As we move forward, it’s worth contemplating how AI can help us overcome these challenges and augment our ability to guide careers more effectively.
Especially relevant for larger organizations, AI algorithms can scrutinize various aspects of an employee’s profile, such as training, career decisions, performance in different roles, peer reviews, and demonstrated leadership abilities, across hundreds of thousands of employees. AI can use this data to build career recommendations, such as which employees are likely to succeed in certain roles, who might be at risk of leaving the organization, or what training programs are most effective.
However, echoing Aristotle’s call for balancing the empirical approach with human experience, as we implement AI we also have to keep in mind its potential risks and challenges. A recent study by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission serves as an important reference point. The report cautions about potential shortcomings of software algorithms and AI in employment decisions, such as data quality, model transparency and human oversight, but also underscores that when responsibly implemented, AI can help mitigate unconscious human bias, fostering a more equitable workplace.
The essence is in ‘responsible implementation’. AI, like any tool, reflects the values and biases of its design and the training data. Trained on biased processes, it will produce biased outcomes. If we disregard privacy issues, we risk eroding employees’ trust, and humans are going to be better at interpreting the results in the context of the organization’s unique culture, goals, and challenges.
But if we thoughtfully design and utilize AI, adhering to ethical norms, data transparency and privacy guidelines, and including human oversight, AI can significantly improve on human judgment and bring about a step-change improvement in fairness, guiding hiring decisions, career paths, training programs, or other interventions that are most likely to be beneficial for each employee.
Shaping the Future: Next Steps in AI for HR
Integrating AI into hiring, performance management and L&D processes isn’t about discarding our intuition or personal touch. Instead, it’s about augmenting our human abilities and acknowledging the limitations of human judgment. It’s about utilizing every available tool to create a fairer and more equitable workplace.
This philosophical shift from intuition to empiricism in HR doesn’t diminish the value of intuition. Instead, it highlights the need for a balanced approach—a virtue long championed by thinkers like Aristotle. As the HR professional evolves, so too must our approach to hiring, training and development. It’s time to embrace a future where AI and humans collaborate, guiding careers with greater fairness and efficiency.
Let’s recognize that empirical data and intuitive understanding are complementary, not oppositional. Let’s harness AI to enhance our HR practices, making them more equitable, objective, and effective. We’re not just entering a new era of AI in HR—we’re actively shaping it, with fairness as our foundational guiding principle.