Artificial intelligence certainly seems to have become the topic of choice for 2023. As with any new technology we’re definitely seeing the excited early adopters at one end of the spectrum and the
doom-sayers at the other end. We wanted to find out about the current sentiment of HR practitioners towards the use of AI in HR processes.
Our quick survey “AI in HR – Threat or Opportunity?” was open from 1-12 September 2023 and received just over 100 responses from HRNZ members and other HR professionals.
What did the survey tell us?
We started by asking about the current use of artificial intelligence in employment processes. Only 27% of our respondents indicated that AI is currently used in their HR processes.
In terms of where AI is used, the most prevalent areas were in CV screening, learning and development and HR analytics – these all scored a 30% positive response in the survey. However respondents also indicated the use of AI in candidate sourcing, DE&I, HR Help Desk, On-boarding and workforce planning.
AI is also being used to draft job advertisements, review HR policies and develop other HR material. Respondents indicated that AI was most useful as a starting point for these tasks.
The benefits of AI appear to be largely productivity related with respondents indicating that improved efficiency and streamlined administrative procedures were the key impacts. Interestingly 40% of respondents didn’t feel AI had any significant impact on their processes.
Privacy and data security concerns were identified as a big challenge for the introduction of AI into HR by over 40% or our respondents. However the biggest concern as identified by 56% of respondents was a perceived lack of human interaction in employment processes. In a similar vein, 26% of respondents felt that AI was negatively impacting the employee/candidate experience.
From a practical perspective 25% of respondents indicated that a key challenge is integrating AI into their existing systems.
We asked our respondents how confident they were about the accuracy and fairness of AI driven employment processes. Whilst 40% of our respondents were neutral about this, over 30% were
either not very or not at all confident about accuracy and fairness.
Overall it seems that the uptake of AI in HR is happening but that there are some headwinds to increased adoption. Quite apart from technology integration issues, it seems that there are segments of the HR community that are either not seeing the benefits or are not entirely confident about the integrity of the technology.
Hear from an AI Expert
We decided to seek some expert views about our survey results and spoke with Olivia Dyet to obtain her thoughts. Olivia is the founder and director of Empathix and a leading thinker in the use of AI in
“What interested you most about these survey results?”
“There are lots, but the most interesting aspect of these survey results for me, is the division in perceptions surrounding AI's role in HR processes. On one side, there's an acknowledgment of AI's potential to enhance productivity, particularly in CV screening, learning and development, and HR analytics. On the other, there's concern regarding privacy, data security, and a perceived lack of human interaction in employment processes. This not only highlights the cautious approach towards AI adoption in general as an industry, as seen in the 27% adoption rate, but also highlights the absolute importance of integrating AI in a manner that augments the human-centric nature of HR and does not replace it.”
“Apart from the employment processes identified in our survey, how else have you seen AI being adopted by HR professionals in New Zealand?”
“There is a lot of interest in AI. Broadly, I would say that people are cautious but that there is an acknowledgment that AI is actually not new. AI has been a core part of the products that we have been using for many years. What is new is the ability to access a very powerful large language models easily (OpenAI, Bard), and use it on a much larger and broader scale. What i’ve seen is that HR professionals are wanting to learn about and use AI in a way that supports people, HR people are very innovative however, they will not use AI at the cost of people - which is in my view the right thing to do. I think what the survey results show are correct, people are willing to use AI, but not at the cost of people, privacy or ethics so these three areas are absolutely crucial.”
“We get the sense from our survey results that HR professionals in general are taking a bit of a “wait and see” approach with AI – is that what you’re seeing?”
“In terms of proactive adoption, I’d agree that HR professionals are taking a wait and see approach but the reality is that AI is already being used in their organisations. If not from a product level, definitely from an employee perspective, meaning even if the organisation hasn’t broadly adopted AI use, it is likely that your team already has. I don’t think it is wise to use the wait and see approach, I think the best thing to do is learn about it and actively build strategies to explore its use. Businesses do absolutely need to be careful though, they want assurance that they are using products that are ethical in the people space and that’s hard to ensure in-house when it's not your core business. So, we will begin to see more products that can be integrated within workplaces that take care of privacy, security and a people centred which will give more confidence in what AI can do.”
“What advice would you give to an HR professional wanting to learn about the world of AI and the opportunities that it presents?”
“That’s a great question - I started the World’s first Podcast AI for HR and Business Leaders for this reason. It’s called the AI Wave and you can download episodes on apple or spotify now. I wanted to support moving away from the common narrative that often portrays it as an intimidating, inaccessible, and unknown entity. The goal is to bridge the gap between the technical world of AI and everyday understanding, making the conversation around AI being more inclusive and less daunting for everyone."
“Finally, what do you say – artificial intelligence, opportunity or threat?”
“Both if not used correctly. It’s a hugely powerful leap in technology and I don’t think the way that we interact with technological solutions will be the same ever again. People were skeptical when Computers were released in market, now look at us. I think humans have the opportunity to use it wisely as an opportunity, if we choose to use it to empower people.”