HR and AI: Friends or Foes?

Darren Baldwin, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is practice leader of VonLehman’s Human Capital Consulting.

Somewhere between “time-saving chatbots” and “doom of humanity” lies a plethora of descriptive pontifications regarding the effect of artificial intelligence on the workplace. How do some of Cincinnati’s top human resources leaders view the changing face of HR as companies increasingly choose computer algorithms over people for everything from answering basic questions to acquiring and developing talent?  Is AI a job destroyer or an accommodating assistant necessary for success?

Although AI might eventually eliminate jobs as we know them today in customer service, financial services and transportation, jobs requiring creative thinking will remain, says Karen Crone, chief human resources officer for Paycor.

“This region has always had an abundance of creative creatives,” Crone says. “We are seeing it in the renaissance Millennials have brought to Cincinnati in the way of restaurants and micro-breweries, for example. Legal professions, human services, social work, nursing – people helping people, people connecting with the community – these are the jobs that will continue to grow regardless of artificial intelligence. Yes, AI will put stress on some of the jobs that have been mainstays in our city. But creatives are flourishing, and that is unique to our city.”

Artificial intelligence will affect HR in terms of how businesses select people and identify and develop talent, Crone adds, but there will always be a need for that one-to-one connection.

“That’s very difficult to automate. The feelings, the emotions, the issues brought into the workplace because of a new marriage or a sick child guarantees there will always be a high need for human interaction that helps people connect.”

The question local companies need to ask is, “How do we upskill our people?” says Alan Gasvoda, vice president of talent and organizational development for Lithko Contracting. “How do we, as a city, apply AI to create opportunities for people to upskill themselves at tech schools, colleges, or even high schools?”

HR leaders need to consider how they can use AI to redistribute the work for the talent they already have, he adds. “It’s a true training and development challenge as we prepare our people to run with the shift in the workplace.”

Steve Browne, executive director of human resources at LaRosa’s, Inc., says artificial intelligence allows all companies to be global, no matter their size, and that’s a good thing.

“A company may not actually be global, but knowledge is. I don’t have to go to India to find out about best practices that work in India. Thanks to artificial intelligence, I have easy access knowledge I otherwise would not have.”

Browne’s foremost concern is that the workplace, as a whole, needs to catch up with AI.

“We need to be current. If we’re not current, why not? What I hear from a lot of HR departments is, ‘My company won’t allow this, my company won’t allow that.’ Those are dangerous words in our field.”