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AI for HR tech

Back in my day … I was the artificial intelligence (AI) tool. Confused? Let me explain.

When I started my career in recruiting almost 20 years ago AI didn’t exist. In my first job out of college I worked as a recruiting support specialist at a healthcare IT company; I essentially did all the tasks that the latest recruiting AI can now do. It was a good job for a recent graduate with little experience and a desire to understand how people fuel a company. Let’s go back in time for a minute and look at what I did day after day.

After finding a potential candidate, a recruiter would hand me a physical folder with the  resume and list of interviewers. I coordinated interview availability for candidates and the interviewers via phone. I sent the candidate an employment application to complete in advance. I sent calendar invites to the interviewers that included the location, candidate resume and a list of behavioral interview questions to ask. Finally, the day before the interview, I sent a reminder email to all of the interviewers. These five steps seem simple but the process took up many hours of my day.

Occasionally, I would get to mix things up a bit. I’d help source some of the hard-to-fill positions out of a dinosaur of an applicant tracking system or hit a regional career fair with the campus recruiting team. Based on what the Lockton HR Technology practice saw at the HR Technology Conference this year, recruiting support specialists and the most manual tasks in recruiting could soon be extinct.

Allow me to introduce AI

So, what is artificial intelligence? The first thing to know is that AI is not real. That’s right. Human-level, “artificial general intelligence” does not exist. Yet. What does exist today is often referred to as narrow AI. This the AI that can beat the world champion in chess, can recommend your next movie on Netflix or alert you that your best performing engineer is at risk for leaving the organization.

Over the next several years, the chances that you are interacting with an intelligence-based software product will increase dramatically. For example, I just renewed my car tags without setting foot in the DMV – a universally detested experience. Instead, I interacted online with a DMV chatbot. The commercial for AI, starring the DMV chatbot that makes difficult and unpredictable experiences smooth, speedy, on-demand and consistent, practically writes itself.

While these are all very useful things for a computer system to provide, true conversational consciousness has not yet come to fruition.[1] The narrow AI that is designed for specific tasks is powering much of the technology and services we interact with today; there is little doubt that AI will continue to expand in HR technology uses.

The evolution of recruitment

The HR technology landscape is changing faster than ever, and the quickest area of change and innovation is happening in recruiting. The high volume and often repeatable tasks within  this function makes it ripe for “intelligent automation.”  Conservatively, at least 50 percent of the recruiting support specialist role above could now be handled by an AI-based “assistant” that will never get sick, ask for a raise or require insurance. AI-based chatbots, automated sourcing and pre-screening tools have burst on the scene and are expected to continue to evolve and expand.

When we look at the overall industry trends for the last three to five years, the promise of “big data” and “data analytics” was the future. That future is taking shape now. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends report, 71 percent of companies view people analytics as a high priority. According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions, 22 percent of organizations have adopted HR analytics. Putting data into use has cleared the way for artificial intelligence to take over the title as the sexiest new buzz word.

Making headlines

If it seems like the recruiting tools are getting all of the AI headlines, it’s because they are … for now. Investment money, innovation, poaching of data science experts and AI thought leaders from Google and Amazon belongs mostly to recruiting vendors. This is most likely for a combination of reasons. While none of these tools are simple, the low hanging fruit is in recruiting. It has the highest volume and the most common, repeatable tasks that need to be done across industry or vertical. In addition, the AI tools of today are task-specific tools that are well suited for sourcing, basic candidate screening and scheduling interviews. The tasks that a human capital management and benefits administration system is designed to handle typically have less overall volume and repetition.

Why AI for recruiting?

Recruiting is the location where the most mature AI tools exist. This is because it has the highest volume of routine work exists. This is key to the intelligent automation tools: repeatable, specific and narrow-use cases. In short, the parts of a job that can be automated usually are. There are other areas of HR that have some AI tools, but the vast majority are in recruiting. Essentially, any increase in hiring efficiency or recruiter productivity has the chance to significantly impact the bottom line by saving time, money, or both.

Some of the tools that currently in the market are designed to address the following:

  1. Automated, AI-based sourcing
  2. Chatbot “candidate care” and pre-screen functionality
  3. Interview scheduling

Whether you are a retail, manufacturing, healthcare or financial services company, you have to hire people. Continuously. The low unemployment rate is putting additional pressure on employers and forcing them to reexamine the way they recruit. This has created an opportunity for vendors to provide new tools and the incentive for recruiters to give those tools a try. We’ve seen this with the proliferation of leveraging text messaging in the recruiting process. HR departments are under pressure to “do more” with the same, or smaller, headcount and new tools are a potential path for recruiters to achieve this.

AI in HR tech: Part two

The use of AI in HR technology is not limited to recruiting. In part two of this blog we will dive into where the money is coming in to create HR technology automation, how  it can expand to human capital management and benefits administration and determining if AI is right for your company.

[1] Sumser, John; The Emergence of Intelligent Software: The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech