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Can AI Really Replace the “Human” Aspect of Human Resources?

A ChapmanCG HR Network Poll Commentary

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is cited as the “fourth industrial revolution” and has witnessed unprecedented growth in recent years, revolutionizing numerous industries and transforming how we live and work. However, with advancements in machine learning and automation, concerns about the potential displacement of human employees have emerged. 

Of course, AI is already used in HR within many organizations – managing processes including employee records management, payroll, recruitment, onboarding and performance management. Numerous organizations, including Google, PayPal, Unilever and Oracle, currently use AI-based hiring platforms such as InstaHyre and HireVue. Amazon has gained notoriety for automating their HR processes more than most – using algorithms to track the performance of their delivery drivers.

What Are People Worried About?

With almost uncanny accuracy, back in 1993, Vernor Vinge wrote about the rapid advancement of technology and AI, stating, “We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on earth.” There are genuine concerns from key figures involved in AI about potential risks (including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak), and the creator of ChatGPT has also called for AI regulation due to his fears around threats posed to humanity if AI goes unchecked. Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “Godfather of AI”, recently resigned from his position at Google, citing concerns about the technology’s impact on the job market

Is There a Reason to be Optimistic?

A study by Goldman Sachs predicted 300 million jobs could be eradicated due to AI – however, the good news is it may also lead to job creation and a productivity boom. Philip Torr, Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, is optimistic that humans can coexist productively alongside AI, suggesting that “industrial revolutions in the past have typically led to more employment, not less” and that “we’ll see the types of jobs changing, but that’s just a natural progression.” PwC’s Scott Likens also sees the potential: “With the right set of skills, individuals are often able to progress alongside these (technology) advancements”.

To understand how our community feels about AI, we conducted a short survey, and the results convey some interesting insights into apprehensions about AI’s potential to replace jobs. It seems there is a broad range of thinking between “the machines will rise” and optimism that AI is like other industrial automation evolutions and will only enhance our way of life…and everything in between. 

I’m Genuinely Concerned AI Could Take My Job

Our poll wasn’t restricted solely to HR professionals; however, of those in HR who responded “genuinely concerned” about AI taking over their jobs in the future, those in talent acquisition and HR operations seemed most worried. Outside of HR, we saw people in content creation and software engineering expressing their apprehension about how AI will impact their roles moving forward. However, only 8% of our poll were apprehensive about being replaced by AI in the future.

AI Could Replace Part of My Job

An overwhelming 72% of respondents indicated that they believe AI could replace some aspects of their jobs, but not all. This response reflects a more nuanced understanding of AI’s potential in HR. For example, many HR professionals recognize that AI can (and is already able to) automate routine administrative tasks, such as payroll, recruitment (for example, utilisation of applicant tracking systems), and benefits administration. By doing so, AI frees HR to focus on more strategic and value-added initiatives, such as talent development, employee engagement, and organizational culture.

I Am Irreplaceable

A considerable number of our poll participants (17%) believe that their jobs are irreplaceable by AI. This sentiment is perhaps grounded in the belief that certain roles require uniquely human qualities, such as creativity, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking. HR professionals in this group believe that their expertise in fostering employee well-being, managing complex workplace dynamics, and making critical people-related decisions will remain in demand. Here we see where AI’s impact may be limited to specific areas and will only partially replace the value humans bring to these roles.

How Do We Balance AI and Human Skills in HR?

“This isn’t the first time we have encountered industry disruptions – from automation and manufacturing to e-commerce and retail – we have found ways to adapt.” While some HR professionals express concerns about AI’s potential impact on their jobs, the majority recognize the potential for AI to enhance their work. The convergence of AI and HR presents an opportunity for HR professionals to leverage technology to manage vast amounts of data, improve decision-making, and improve employee experiences. By embracing AI as a supportive tool, HR professionals can focus on higher-level strategic initiatives, such as leadership development, change management, and fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. This suggests speeding up workflows with AI collaboration may allow more time for the human aspect of HR. 

A Final Note About Confidentiality

If you are considering using open-source technology like ChatGPT to make your work life easier, there’s an important point to remember. The keyword in open-source is “open”, and anything you put into these platforms becomes public. So, it’s crucial to be mindful and avoid entering confidential information that you don’t want to share with the world!

Do you agree with our findings? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.


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