Article (March-2018)


Forcing us to be really human!

Prasad Kurian

Designation : -   Talent & OD Leader

Organization : -  Bengaluru


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What is the relevance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the domain of Talent Management? Is it just a fancier term for the application of technology to automate some aspects of talent management or does it hold a fundamentally different promise? To explore these questions systematically, let's begin by defining the terms 'talent management' and 'artificial intelligence' for the purpose of our discussion.
Talent Management is about mapping the talent implications of the business strategy & business plan in the short term and in the long termand taking the optimum combination of actions like talent acquisition, talent development, performance enablement, talent movements and talent engagement & retention to ensure that the right talent is available to execute the business strategy & plan.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is essentially about carrying out, without human intervention, certain tasks that currently require human intelligence. Hence, a straight forward automation of a mechanical process would not qualify as application of artificial intelligence. The true measure of artificial intelligence is the ability to learn and adapt.
AI can add value across the talent life cycle. The nature of the value addition depends on the degree of 'intelligence' in the artificial intelligence (AI) applied and the extent of application of AI.
Let's start with recruitment. AI can help in scanning for candidates, shortlisting and providing suggestions for interviewing based on the comparison of the candidate profile and the job requirements. AI based chat bots can interact with the candidates to provide clarifications and also feedback once a decision is taken. Hence, AI can be useful in Increasing speed and quality of recruitment and also in enhancing the experience of the candidate and the hiring manager. AI can also reduce the hidden biases involved in recruitment. AI takes away a lot of time consuming mundane work from talent partners and business managers so that they can focus on those aspects that really need human intervention like building relationship with candidates, doing a high quality interviews based on the inferences provided by artificial intelligence and employer branding.
When it comes to capability and career development, AI can provide recommendations on the learning activities that an employee should take up and also on the possible next roles that the employee could work towards based on the analysis of the information regarding the individual (performance records, skill profiles, assessment & feedback reports, career interests etc.), jobs (job descriptions, career frameworks, talent policies etc.) and the evolving organization and industry scenario.
One of the key applications of AI is in natural language processing. This can be of immense use in analysing and forming inferences based on the qualitative comments given by the employees in engagement surveys which is currently a very time consuming activity for Talent Management professionals. Also artificial intelligence can be used to predict the likely employee responses in various scenarios (e.g. talent movements, promotions, salary hikes, incentives etc.) and also the risk of them leaving the organization. These can lead to proactive and more impactful talent actions.

AI can design customized onboarding procedures for various positions and AI based Chat bots can help in terms of onboarding, providing clarifications to employees on HR policies and in helping the employees to evaluate the implications of the various options available to them as per the company policies. This frees the time of talent partners to do more value added work like defining and delivering a differentiated Employee Value Proposition. Similarly, AI put together the available data on the employee from various sources (like performance scorecards, feedback reports, employee comments etc.) corresponding to the current performance period so that the managers can get a draft of the appraisal report that can serve as an input to the appraisal discussions and also serve time in terms of writing appraisals (as the managers can modify these instead of creating them from scratch) so that managers can focus on the truly human task of high quality ongoing and appraisal discussions with the employee to enable higher performance.
The organizations these days have a lot of business and employee related data in its information systems. However, it is practically impossible for managers to make sense complete sense of this data. AI solves this problem by doing multi - dimensional analysis of these data, identifying emerging patterns and actionable inferences that can form the basis for the truly human activity of making a judgment. If we bring in more different types of data and also higher processing capabilities, more and more precise inferences can be made. But this has to be done with a great degree of care as it can also lead to concerns regarding violating the privacy of the employees.
As the field of artificial intelligence evolves there would be higher capabilities for the algorithms to learn by studying the outcomes. For example, by studying the performance records and career progression of the selected employees, the algorithms used in the recruitment and selection process can improve themselves. Learning is the true measure of intelligence and it is this ability for the algorithms to modify themselves is what gives them the right to be called truly intelligent.
So what does all these mean? Many of us in the talent management domain find that we spend a lot of our time in tasks that are essential but that don't really engage our true human potential. AI can take over these tasks. Thus, AI can force humans out of activities that doesn't really need the uniquely human capabilities of creating a philosophy and strategy, creativity, making a judgment based on insufficient information and building deep human connect with other individuals through caring and empathy. Hence, AI would force talent partners to be truly human and if we don't develop and apply our truly human capabilities, we can become irrelevant!