AI's potential for work and HR
AI is shaping the future of work and HR
AI will humanize work, not replace it
AI and wellbeing
01. AI is shaping the future of work and HR
Today, only 17% of organizations use AI-based solutions in their HR function. Yet AI has the potential to increase HR scalability, recognize patterns in people’s behavior and offer personalized support where and when needed.
Mark Goldin, Chief Technology Officer, Cornerstone
If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught employers, it’s that agility and adaptability are essential for dealing with disruption. For many organizations, that means leveraging AI to do everything from optimizing retail operations, to streamlining supply chains and creating faster, more personalized customer service. But there is one area in particular where organizations are less bullish: how to leverage AI in the workplace to transform their people’s experience, and drive success.
This doesn’t just mean using AI to automate mundane tasks that bog people down. It means using AI to help them be better at their jobs and grow in their careers. This, in turn, helps organizations uncover better insights about their business and their people, such as making helpful predictions to support productivity, restoring stability—especially in times like these—and creating long-term resiliency.
But today, only 17% of organizations use AI-based solutions in their HR function, and only another 30% plan to do so by 2022, according to the Gartner Artificial Intelligence Survey.
And yet, AI has the potential to increase HR scalability, recognize patterns in people’s behavior and offer personalized support where and when needed. For example, AI can surface prescriptive recommendations in areas like recruiting, learning and development, boosting engagement and retention and others.
But turning this AI potential into reality doesn’t come without its challenges, from ensuring ethical and unbiased use, to implementing practical, day-to-day applications.
“Use AI to make people better at their job”
Let us help you
Enter: the Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI. This center of Cornerstone brings together data scientists, machine learning engineers and other experts from across the company to innovate practical and ethical ways to apply AI technology to the workplace.
Through research and collaboration, the Lab aims to tackle the AI questions that organizations are concerned about, such as how to preserve the human elements of work while relying on automation, and how to operationalize sensitive people data—all while preserving ethics and eliminating bias.
Then, there is textual, unstructured data, which comes from resumes, job profiles, performance reviews and descriptions of training courses. Collectively, structured and unstructured data forms a large and varied gamut of HR data. It takes a rich collection of AI algorithms to feed off this data to generate valuable insights into the workplace. Furthermore, workplace data is some of the most sensitive data at any company. In addition to shielding it from external bad actors, organizations need to consider protecting it from exposure internally, too.
The human factor
When AI is implemented successfully, the possibilities to transform (read: personalize, humanize and improve) people’s experience at work become virtually limitless.
But there’s one important caveat: at the end of the day, the interpretation of data is human. AI can surface interesting things for observation, but it cannot replace people. It is a decision support system to bring efficiencies and optimizations for the HR team and employees.
Fundamentally, AI will continue to make potentially biased predictions if the data sets are inherently biased. Two important ways to address this are to ensure the AI team is diverse and conduct adverse impact studies.
HR data is uniquely diverse. HR data tends to fall into two, diverse categories. The first is structured data, which arises from quantifiable events like how often employees engage with their training curriculums, the data candidates submit during their hiring process, employee attrition data, and career path data as employees advance and grow within their organization.
As organizations increasingly implement AI across their businesses, they must keep this goal in mind: leverage AI to improve the experience for their people in real, practical ways. Moving forward, our Lab will continue to educate business and IT leaders—as well as employees —about the role AI can have in the workplace. We’ll explore how AI can restore workforce stability, how it can support diversity initiatives, ethical ways to apply AI, and more.
Cornerstone Innovation Lab
Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI is a new center of excellence within Cornerstone, bringing together data scientists, machine learning engineers and other experts to innovate practical and ethical ways to apply AI technology to the workplace. Through research and collaboration, the Lab aims to tackle AI questions that organizations are concerned about, such as how to preserve the human elements of work while relying on automation, and how to operationalize sensitive people data—all while preserving ethics and eliminating bias.
Check out the Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI
What is AI?
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.
Many companies today claim they have AI solutions, but in actuality, they are just business intelligence tools (a.k.a. big data). Their use case streamlines one specific operation using a finite data set.
To truly be AI, a solution must be applicable to a variety of flexible and changing situations, leverage data from across the organization and be able to provide predictive and intelligent decisions and recommendations. When this type of AI-driven insight is culled from a comprehensive window into the workplace, it transcends usefulness that traditionally derived analytics enables with business intelligence tools.
02. AI will humanise work, not replace it
Today we are inundated with articles, interviews and tweets about AI from people who aren’t aware of the technological reality. They simply shamelessly tap into an imaginary world of competition and submission in order to generate more and more emotion and clicks.
As an AI expert, I wish to shed some light on what is involved in the development of these new tools, which may turn out to be more human than one might think. Because the reality is: what we call artificial intelligence is just a succession of specialised tools, each one dedicated to the optimisation of a single repetitive task. A classic example is medical imaging, where an algorithm will analyse hundreds of images for a specific cancer in order to propose a diagnosis to the doctor. AI is nothing more than what we decide to make it.
“A nurse will be able to spend more time with her patients”
Relieve employees of daunting tasks
Above all, AI makes it possible to automate often repetitive, sometimes thankless, actions that were previously carried out by employees. We must put an end to the preconceived idea that we would put the majority of human activity in a company into the hands of machines.
AI must be approached as a technological opportunity that frees up employees’ time and helps them to make decisions. Employees will therefore be able to concentrate on other, more ‘human’ tasks, where they will have more added value.
On the one hand, they will be able to focus on their creativity, innovation and analysis; on the other hand, they will be able to devote themselves to human relationships and communication, whether internal or external. For example, a nurse will be able to spend more time with her patients. In this way, AI gives back meaning to work, an essential demand from younger generations.
But let’s not be naïve
Opaque in its operation, AI is a tool that requires interaction in certain aspects similar to that between humans. The solutions known to the general public are still far off from maturity. Indeed, the main goal of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon is to keep users captive by not providing them with steering tools or justification.
However, it is necessary to ensure that humans and AI understand each other on both the questions and the answers. Collaboration with humans is a crucial issue for enterprise solutions, the progress of which will positively affect the reality of work. Let’s not be naïve, job losses caused by AI will occur. But the reality will be far from the predictions of some thinktanks or theorists announcing the elimination of 30% to 90% of current jobs. Humans are far from having lost their place in business. With the development of AI solutions at work, employees will turn to more rewarding activities and goals for more fulfilling careers.
03. AI and wellbeing
If it was up to the workforce robots are here to stay, and not just to improve work processes or create new products, but also to contribute to mental health. Globally, 62% of the workforce would rather speak to a robot than their manager about mental health issues, shows the second volume of the AI@Work Study by Oracle (Mental Health at Work Requires Attention, Nuance, and Swift Action). In this study, more than 12,000 people across 11 countries were surveyed on how the pandemic affects their mental wellbeing. Particularly, C-level executives (73%) and HR leaders (69%) are positive about the possible use of AI. This might not be surprising when you consider that 80% of the executives and 77% of the HR leaders say that AI has already helped them with mental health issues in the past. However, these results might also indicate that those in executive positions may be more likely to feel that disclosing mental health issues are a form of weakness and therefore detrimental to their leadership. Companies should respond to this by normalizing asking for help across all levels, the authors of the report emphasize.
“Many have experienced the benefits of AI in dealing with mental health issues before”
More stress due to the pandemic
The need for help has grown during the Covid-19 pandemic. While employees at every level of the organizational structure have suffered from mental problems, executives have struggled the most to adapt to remote work: over half of the C-level executives and HR leaders say that they are dealing with ongoing mental health issues in the workplace.
Part of the explanation might be that leading dispersed teams, especially teams that are not used to working remotely requires a different skill set than in-person leadership. Furthermore, executives have had a more difficult time wrangling the technology required to work successful at home compared to employees. These factors might have contributed to more feelings of stress and anxiety.
Younger generations: more open to AI
When it comes to the workers, younger generations suffer the most from mental stress: 89% of Gen Z (born in or around 1995) report that the pandemic is negatively affecting their mental health. In contrast, ‘only’ 62% of the Baby Boomers say the same. Both Gen Z and Millennials (born in or around 1980) are most open to mental health support from AI compared to older generations: 84% and 77% respectively say that they prefer talking to a robot over their managers about stress and anxiety at work. This might not be so surprising, since many of the younger employees grew up with current technologies. Almost all of them (90%) experienced help from AI with mental health issues in the past, while just over half (52%) of the Baby Boomers can say the same.