Canadian academic predicts ‘more intense integration’ of AI in HR systems for 2024

Says tech can help with monitoring, boosting employee engagement

Canadian academic predicts ‘more intense integration’ of AI in HR systems for 2024

“HR people — even though many of them have years of experience — they need to probably update their knowledge regarding what is HR analytics [and] how to benefit from using big data and understanding big data and artificial intelligence.”

So say Qian Zhang, assistant professor at the Telfer School of Management, at the University of Ottawa, in talking to Canadian HR Reporter about the important topics that HR professionals should keep on their radar with the new year.

Increased focus on AI from HR

A big part of keeping up to date involves education, she says, as HR professionals would do well to find out more about the emerging technologies that will, more and more, become an important feature in many HR departments.

“My prediction is that there will be more intense integration of artificial intelligence in the current use of HR systems that organizations are using.”

It is the implementation of AI that will have the biggest effect on day-to-day operations, and its use will spur even further innovation, according to Zhang.

“There will be more stakeholders engaging in the process of inputting more data to the data system, and then artificial intelligence will help with producing more data-driven or AI-driven HR solutions to the organization. So in that case, the organization will be enhancing their operation’s efficiency; they’ll reduce their costs, labour costs in particular; they’ll make more accurate HR- or personnel-related decisions.”

There is a great “interest or willingness to adopt or implement the AI-driven HR solutions or tools,” says Zhang, pointing to research she has undertaken with Ottawa-based organizations and Toronto-based technology startups.

However, there are red flags in the emerging technology solutions, she says.

“It’s surprising for some of the technology startups, even though they are developing AI HR solutions, they barely have HR people involved in the development process of their products. That could be a problem because if they don’t have the knowledge about the basic rationales that we have from an HR perspective, the products they develop could have some problems.”

Using AI for employee engagement

One of the ways this new technology is being deployed by HR departments is in identifying potential issues with employee engagement, and this will only ramp up in the coming year.

“For example, the system can show that one of the more talented employees or star employees in the organization, their involvement or engagement with communication is significantly decreasing in recent periods of time [and] the system will show some red flags and then give signals to the direct manager or even the top management team to indicate that they observed this significant decrease of communication frequency,” says Zhang.

In addition to pointing out the problem, the tech also can offer a solution to the organization.

“For example, try to have a direct manager talk or communicate more with this particular employee to understand what are their needs because the system may predict there might be increased interest in leaving the organization for other opportunities because of the decreased communication that occurred,” she says.

Potential risks to generative AI

But HR departments should be wary of implementing a full-scale decision-making process with AI, says Zhang.

“Scholars are encouraging organizations to input more human factors into those data-driven decisions especially the personnel-related decisions.”

Zhang says her research is also focusing on bringing a human face to the solution.

“That’s my prediction is that we will include more human factors. These are HR decisions that will bring back the ethical perspective and also justice to our employees’ perceptions regarding the decisions that organizations are making, and that will enhance their commitment to the organization, and that will improve their willingness to continue working for this particular organization,” she says.

If the organization relies too much on these decisions, it could backfire, she says.

“Those factors could influence individuals’ decision as to whether or not they wanted to stay and work in the organization.”

Post-pandemic hiring outlook remains in a holding pattern, according to a recent survey.

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