The future is AI, but is it bright?

In the last six months or so, the world seems obsessed with artificial intelligence – using it to write code, academic essays, or just ‘fill in’ extra details on classic paintings. OpenAI’s ChatGPT opened the floodgates and now everyone is speculating about how AI can change their work/lives. HR is no exception. For a few signposts towards possible AI-driven future HR, read on.

Briefly, what is ChatGPT?

Launched in late November 2022, within a week ChatGPT had more than one million signed up users. A few weeks later, that number had passed 100 million.

ChatGPT is a conversational deep learning model that uses natural language processing to interpret human language prompts and reply in kind. In simple, lay terms this means it’s a predictive text generator (a bit like your mobile or messaging app but much, much more sophisticated). Responses are human-like, often convincing, and – usually – accurate. AI is already in use in many automated HR processes (e.g. parsing and replying to job applications) but ChatGPT’s flexibility is set to expand AI applications in the workplace.

AI in HR

The big benefit of AI in HR is its capacity to sort through large quantities of data, cutting down on what would be a huge amount of work for a human. It’s already used in many recruitment programs to save time, sifting through resumes and job applications, identifying a list of the best potential candidates for a vacancy. But how else might ChatGPT (and similar options) come into play?

  • Recruitment – Part of attracting the right candidates is writing accurate and attractive job requirements. Generative AI like ChatGPT can identify and write skills-based job descriptions (which still need to be checked by a human, of course, but it can handle the ‘grunt work’).
  • Succession planning and career development – Currently, we still have a heavy emphasis on qualifications when it comes to job criteria and suitability. AI can look past that and focus on necessary skills and knowledge, potentially generating skills-focused career paths potentially open to anyone.
  • Onboarding – ChatGPT-like AI can be used as a portal to organisational knowledge. For new hires, this puts all the facts at their fingertips. Whatever question they have about their new role/employer/workplace, rapid answers get them up to speed more quickly.
  • Engagement – Instead of a once-a-year staff survey, AI can assess and analyse all kinds of employee feedback (inc. chat logs, performance reviews, etc.) and identify key trends and issues. Based on a much broader data set, such insights should be more accurate.
  • HR advice & guidance – What’s the policy on X? How many people skilled at Y do we have? Where can I gain experience/skills in Z? These and similar queries can be answered by an AI chatbot trained on your organisation’s business requirements. Imagine, each employee having access to their own assistant (think Siri or Alexa for the workplace).

Sounds too good to be true?

Well, fair enough, it’s still early days and there are limitations. To stick with ChatGPT as an example, there are reasons for maintaining human input and control in the above scenarios.

  • Fact-checking required – Because ChatGPT works by predicting the next most probable word/phrase/piece of information, it is not always accurate. Shortly after ChatGPT’s launch, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted this warning: “ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness. It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. It’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”
  • Not always up to date – At launch, ChatGPT had been trained on a data set that only goes up to 2021. Yes, potentially every time it’s used, it’s getting more training, it’s learning more, but events, trends and information from the last couple of years may not be incorporated when generating answers.
  • Ethical considerations – At this stage, ChatGPT is not robust or reliable enough to replace human decision-making (and, arguably, won’t be for some time). What’s more, there are data privacy and security considerations in how questions/prompts to ChatGPT are phrased, and used.

The current best-case scenario is that AI in the workplace can create time savings for HR practitioners, and provide faster responses to HR’s ‘customers’. However, the pundits are extremely optimistic about the future and the transformative business and employment possibilities of AI. Which leads to a final issue: any transformative technology doesn’t just save you a little time; it changes the job, the process, the workflow… If HR is to truly embrace AI, it cannot be just an extra tool ‘bolted on’ to how we work now. It will change how we work. That’s the real science fiction scenario, and despite ChatGPT’s enthusiastic reception, it’s a ‘what if?’ that we have yet to answer.


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Categories: HR

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