Human Resources

No time like the present: how AI is transforming HR today

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Welcome to our HR Modernization Playbook: Tomorrow’s people – Why HR matters more than ever in the age of artificial intelligence.

Digital transformation is happening faster than ever. The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will redefine jobs, enhance employee productivity and accelerate workforce development. In fact, skills and culture – not technology – are the biggest barriers to business growth in the AI era. This means CEOs are looking to their CHRO to lead culture change, manage talent and drive down costs. The time to act is now: the future is already here.

Chapter 2: No time like the present: how AI is transforming HR today

HR is not always the industry that springs to mind when we talk about technological innovation. But as we discovered in chapter 1, data and AI are already having a major impact in forward-thinking organisations whose leaders understand that talent is fundamental to their future success. Indeed, the CHRO role itself is changing beyond recognition.

Some are more prepared than others: 51% of CHROs say they need a better understanding of how emerging technology will enable their workforce. In this chapter I will explore some of the innovations that are already fundamentally transforming the way organisations are run and the experiences employees have.

CHROs must keep two things in mind when plotting their future priorities. Firstly, the wheels are already in motion: AI will eventually be woven into every aspect of the HR organisation. Secondly, as key digital skills become scarce, organisations have to become more talent-centric. There’s no doubt that HR departments are generating more data than ever before; the most successful will be those who can leverage vast quantities of data to introduce efficiencies and respond predictively, not reactively, to the need to attract, retain and engage people with the skills to drive the business into the future.

Smart CHROs see AI is a fundamental ally. That’s because it absorbs huge amounts of data at lightning speed then makes objective recommendations based on that data to supplement human instinct. From automating basic transactions  – which frees up HR teams to think strategically  – to AI-enabled apps that enhance employee performance, there’s very few aspects of the employee experience that won’t be touched by technological innovation.

IBM has embedded AI-enabled innovations into its own organisation, driving savings of around $300 million and is beginning to recommend them to clients. The following are just starting points.


AI reduces the burden of sifting through large volumes of applications and CVs – an activity which today absorbs so much of the Recruitment team’s time. AI can analyse the organisation’s employment history and external data sources to determine key attributes for success in a given role, then surface the most qualified candidates. One crucial benefit is that it can, allied with analytics capabilities, AI can identify and address unconscious bias across an organisation’s employment history related to gender, race, age, education and previous employment. It can even help to emulate past success by finding candidates with similar skills and characteristics to a star performer.


AI can also improve the recruitment process from the candidate’s perspective, helping job seekers find a role fit their unique skills, preferences, work and educational experience. Because it is able to make sense of unstructured data, it can surface recommendations that might never have occurred to the applicant in the past. It also allows the potential applicant to ask questions about the company’s strategy, culture (and even dress code) via conversation with a virtual assistant to find out if the organization is right for them.


Once an individual has joined an organisation, virtual assistants can take on basic onboarding tasks, answering simple questions that all new joiners ask about payroll, processes and office logistics.

Learning and development

AI can open up a radical, ongoing approach to learning and development, curating bite-sized pieces of content – such as articles, podcasts and videos – and suggest personal recommendations based on the employee’s role and interests.

Career progression

AI can work alongside employees to give advice and guidance on their options for progression. It serves as a virtual coach, inferring employee skills, interests and eminence and provides personalised advice to lay path for career opportunities. It can also ingest data about where similarly qualified people typically progress to – 20% of people like you went into this role – and recommends any training that might be required to get there.

Salary assessment

AI can provide objective facts and figures to inform salary decisions, drawing in elements such as when the employee last had a raise, what skills they have gained in the last year, what the market rate is for their role and how challenging it would be to recruit a replacement. This turns the end-of-year salary discussion into a dynamic conversation about skills and reinvention, not just about last year’s performance.

Driving productivity

AI can drive productivity by encouraging feedback. Colleagues can give instant feedback to each other following a meeting or the delivery of a project, which can subsequently inform their career progression. It can reduce the day-to-day administration that takes up so much of employees’ time, for example, powering apps that make it easy to capture and share expenses, or to quickly find colleagues with the required skills to help with a project within the organisation.

Innovations such as these ultimately make for more meaningful jobs, reducing the burden of basic transactions and fast-tracking the right talent to the right parts of the organisation.

The next chapter in this series will address some of the common myths and misconceptions we hear from business leaders around AI in HR, and should help you to build enthusiasm among board members.

Explore the next chapter in this series to find out the six things that you need to do to get the board on board with AI – or visit our website to find out more.

Senior Partner - IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM Services Europe

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