HR leaders call for AI skills training as majority say they are already using the technology

Study says people professionals should lead the rollout of artificial intelligence, but coaching is needed to guard against bias

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The majority of HR leaders are already using AI, but it will only be ethical and effective if businesses build their employees’ key skills, new exclusive research reveals.

The study of 301 HR leaders, exclusively shared with People Management and undertaken by Employment Hero in May 2023, found that 85 per cent were already using AI in their day-to-day tasks, with more than half (55 per cent) expecting to use it more as time goes on.

The data revealed that HR leaders felt recruitment tasks (36 per cent of HR practitioners reported this), employee self-service (30 per cent) and learning and development (26 per cent) would be most impacted by AI.

In addition, two thirds (64 per cent) of research respondents believed that AI would help save time and make their job easier.

However, HR leaders were also worried about the impact of AI: four in 10 (42 per cent) respondents reported fears that their job would be at risk because of AI, with half (52 per cent) worried about the ethical use of AI at work.

With these worries in mind, the respondents felt that growing their analytical skills (36 per cent thought this), as well as soft skills (31 per cent), and developing their ethics and responsible use of AI (26 per cent) would be most important for the HR function when managing the rollout of this technology.

Needing to understand the privacy impact, how AI changes data security and cybersecurity (25 per cent), and getting deep expertise in employee experience, HR and payroll (25 per cent) also scored highly.

For Cindy Raz, chief people officer at Navex, to ensure that AI is rolled out effectively the function would “need to strike a balance between using AI and preserving the human element”.

She said: “HR should create a work environment that embraces both, otherwise creativity, empathy and critical thinking will be lost.

“There must also be the ethical use of AI in the workplace, which prioritises transparency, fairness and bias-free decision making.”

To achieve this, Raz explained that HR needed to collaborate with legal and compliance teams to create frameworks that mitigate the risk of discrimination and start practising using AI tools in self-paced development courses to better implement AI.

Duncan Casemore, chief technology officer at Applaud, added that those that did invest in learning how best to use AI would be able to access its benefits, such as saving time and showcasing to the business that it is critical to its success. “HR showing they have a depth of understanding when it comes to AI, and can pinpoint ways they can use it to save time and accelerate their business, will be incredibly important for shaping HR leaders’ future roles within the business,” he added.

Elsewhere, Clare Walsh, director of education at the Institute of Analytics, said the best way that HR could learn how to use AI tools, ensuring best practice and ethical rollout, was to remember that all the “HR skills the function already uses to make decisions are not going anywhere” and that all employment law still applies to this new technology. She said: “HR has got to think of itself as the function that leads communication between the business and whoever is generating AI data.

“HR has got to lead here and drive cultural change and be involved in where automation is going to be, not just leaving it to engineers. But first it has to understand how the algorithms work, what the risks are and where you should be using it.”