TL;DR

Why: AI gives employers even more superpowers

I Saw the Future of HR and It Doesn’t Look Good for Employees and Job-Seekers

Did I also mention that the future is now?

TechHR 2019 AI Future is now
Published:   |   Updated:   |   Posted in ,

These days, when you talk about tech, artificial intelligence (AI) will invariably dominate the conversation. It’s no exception at People Matters TechHR 2019.

AI further tips the imbalanced power scales in the employer’s favour. It empowers any management to make more astute retention and hiring decisions, short of giving them X-ray vision.

AI reigns supreme

Indeed, the exhibition floor was populated by HR brands big and small dabbling with AI and defining it by their own terms. The impressive gathering of cutting-edge HR solutions shared the common aim of boosting productivity, with many promising personalisation and insights capabilities powered by AI.

These are just some of the innovations present at the conference that help employees to be more competitive, efficient and have positive work experience. With happy and productive employees, the management has one less asset to worry about.

Koach.ai makes one-to-one coaching available to every employee in the company. It allows them to learn at their own pace and chart their own path to success with personalised help.

Botbot.ai (see the naming trend yet?) enables employees to get answers without bugging the HR department over mundane questions like “what’s my vacation days balance?” or “which day is my salary going to be credited?”

Workulture wants to help companies create a positive work culture (hence the name) through digital engagements. The management can hold discussions, conduct surveys, recognise employees or simply make an announcement through the platform.

Workulture homepage
AI-assisted HR solutions help to create a more positive and productive work environment.

These are just some of the innovations present at the conference that help employees to be more competitive, efficient and have positive work experience. With happy and productive employees, the management has one less asset to worry about. All looks rosy for both groups of stakeholders in a company, no?

Not quite.

Competition among employees to heat up

AI further tips the imbalanced power scales in the employer’s favour. It empowers any management to make more astute retention and hiring decisions, short of giving them X-ray vision.

Behind Crux’s rather dated and unpolished interface design is a feature-packed HR analytics platform. Besides providing an overview of the performance of critical resources, including individuals and budget, there are powerful modelling tools that help managers make better (or more profitable) management decisions. In short, AI makes it easy to weed out poor-performing employees.

Scoring and sorting candidates faster

But in the job market, competition begins even before one sets foot in the company. Going forward, AI promises to raise the barrier of entry further.

… employers may become fixated on scores that they neglect the qualitative aspects of a candidate.

Screening prospective employees with a questionnaire even before meeting them is nothing new, but companies like Pulsifi have an AI-powered platform that speeds up the screening process, scoring candidates against industry benchmarks for what the system considers are desirable for the employer.

While such powerful technology does a great job at sorting candidates and shortening the hiring process significantly (especially for companies handling thousands of applicants), employers may become fixated on scores that they neglect the qualitative aspects of a candidate. They may also miss out on conversations with passionate individuals who may be unpolished gems.

But with AI systems as gatekeepers, candidates who are often reduced to a score can only hope that who they are is what the company is looking for.

However, employers aren’t at the losing end. Candidates used to have alternative channels to leave an impression. But with AI systems as gatekeepers, candidates who are often reduced to a score can only hope that who they are is what the company is looking for. For candidates, there is no other way but to be exceptional. And what “exceptional” means for each company is anyone’s guess.

Premature judgement to get even more premature

Even more ominous is how some of these platforms are enabling employers to pull publicly available data from all corners of the internet and their partners to put together a profile of the candidate. Sure, it sounds excellent for employers– with a robust background check in place, they can have a piece of mind knowing that who they employed is not a fraud.

But it’s one thing to verify if a candidate is lying and another to conclude a candidate’s suitability based on some ugly past or opinion posted years ago on social media.

When I asked a RISQ Group representative if such an advanced background check is working against the Yellow Ribbon movement, he responded that they only provide the service and it’s up to the client if they want to use it.

risq group homepage
Background checking services help employers filter undesirable candidates, but may deprive some of a second chance.

RISQ Group is every employer’s dream come true and some candidate’s nightmare. Its platform aims to minimise people risk by verifying data provided by the applicant and revealing their history, such as criminal, financial and reputational records. The service scours the internet for social media activities and has partnerships with government agencies around the world to check for criminal records.

It’s quite unsettling to know that such a service may perpetuate some organisation’s belief that people who have made a mistake is unlikely to be reformed.

When I asked a RISQ Group representative if such an advanced background check is working against the Yellow Ribbon movement, he responded that they only provide the service and it’s up to the client if they want to use it.

AI still needs the human touch

And that is exactly where we are with AI: the technology is great, but it all depends on how we intend to use it. There are little guidelines, let alone legislation, around it. As with everything at its infancy, there’s still much discussion to be had on how we can use AI ethically, including in the HR context.

Until then, we can only look to the creators of these technologies to guide their clients. Meanwhile, with the even greater power handed to employers, job-seekers need to be careful about their public image and have to find other means to stand out from the crowd.

Featured image from TechHR.


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