Many people view the incorporation of AI at work with anxiety, if not outright fear. A primary concern, exacerbated by a plethora of ”robots will eat my job” stories, is that AI will end careers by automating much, if not all, of what we do for a living.
When in reality, I would argue, AI will offload repetitive, rote tasks, freeing up time for teams to concentrate on the sorts of tasks that require uniquely human intelligence.
And today’s workforce is ready for it: According to a study we conducted with Future Workplace, 93% of employees are ready to embrace AI at work. However, HR seems to be lagging, with only 6% of HR professionals deploying AI technologies.
I recently sat down with Dan Schawbel, bestselling author and expert on the future of work, to further explore this topic and examine the interplay of human and artificial intelligence at work and in HR. Here’s what we discussed:
Automating Tasks, but Demanding New Skills
The clear benefit of AI at work is automating tasks that we don’t want to do, creating more opportunities to invest in valuable, high impact work.
Schawbel stresses that the importance of people skills in this new era cannot be underestimated, calling a need to focus on skills like interpersonal communication and the ever-important ability to “read the room.” LinkedIn’s 2019 Talent Trends survey found that an eye-popping 91% of respondents listed soft skills as “very important” to the future of recruiting and 92% said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills that can be learned in school, like technology expertise or coding.
Complicating matters even further, soft skills are getting harder to find, perhaps due in part to the fact that gadget-obsessed Gen-Zers—while known for their tech proficiency—are not necessarily great interpersonal communicators.
As HR influencer Josh Bersin notes: “In today's world of software engineering and ever-more technology, it's soft skills that employers want.”
Bridging Technology and Human Interaction
While AI can boost productivity, we need to tread carefully around unintended consequences. Take a look at social media and mobile for example, both were designed to bring people together but resulted in information overload and tech addiction.
Think about it—How many people today deal with friends and family primarily by text instead of sitting down at a meal to talk? Or use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to socialize instead of getting together in real life?
The main thing, according to Schawbel, is that technologies like AI should be used as a bridge, not a barrier, to human interaction.
In the workplace, for example, a digital assistant can automate meeting planning by checking schedules, booking rooms, reserving equipment and eliminating a seemingly endless round-robin of invites and emails. In this case, an AI-fueled digital assistant actually makes face-to-face meetings easier and enhances human interaction at work.
The next step, of course, is ensuring that attendees put down their devices and actually interact with each other instead of their screens.
For more advice on how to find the right balance between technology usage and building human relationships, check out Schawbel’s latest book Back to Human.
Recruiters Already Reaping the Benefits
Contrary to popular belief, I believe using technology can actually create better human relationships, especially at work. The benefits of AI in recruiting, for example, are enormous, real and are happening now.
Instead of recruiters churning through hundreds—or thousands—of resumes, AI-fueled tools can crunch through the bios of current employees who are star performers to identify common traits that make them successful and then look for similar traits in incoming resumes.
But bringing it back to our balance of tech and human interaction, it’s important for the recruiter and hiring manager to actually talk to the top candidates that AI identifies. Consumer products giant Unilever found success in using AI to screen candidates for entry-level jobs and then refer top candidates to a human interview.
AI can also be used to identify at-risk employees on the verge of job hopping or even existing high performers who show strengths in certain areas and could fill a new opening better than any outsider could.
Calling HR to Close the Gap
Not only is AI primed and ready to make a splash in the workplace, but the workforce is eagerly awaiting. The opportunity now lies with HR to learn, understand and implement AI.
For those who think they may be ready, Schawbel and I both advise starting small. Take a look at some of the available AI recruiting tools to test out how they might benefit your business. From there, if you find success, you can move on further to things like integrating chatbots for onboarding or even using AI and machine learning for the personalization of learning. The opportunities are endless, so jump in!