AI could improve HR efficiency by 30 per cent, report reveals – but some employees shun it for fear of being labelled ‘lazy’

Experts say implementing new technologies throughout the people profession could produce significant improvements, but progress may be hampered by workers’ reluctance to use it

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A “balanced human and AI strategy” could improve HR productivity by up to 30 per cent, a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) claims.

However, another piece of research found progress is being delayed by workplace anxieties, with 26 per cent of workers worried they will be viewed as “lazy” by colleagues for using AI, and 20 per cent feeling like a “fraud” for using the technology.

The BCG report, How Generative AI Will Transform HR, noted that AI will be a “vital resource to upskill team members and unlock value as the function expands its influence across the organisation”.

It found that AI could conduct content creation up to three times faster than traditional methods and can automate 50 per cent of tasks in onboarding processes.

Specifically, HR could utilise AI to develop talent assessments based on employee data, develop career pathways, talent sourcing, learning and development and other strategic programmes by providing personalised content and creating a “skills-based talent ecosystem” that is linked to the company’s wider workforce strategy.

The report said automating such processes would allow HR professionals to “reinvest” their time in “higher value” activities in leading business transformation and developing personal development programmes to work alongside AI upskilling.

But, rather than replacing HR, AI could become a “copilot” to the profession, it said, and must be “responsibly” implemented through collaboration between HR, legal and business leaders to address and eliminate any bias.

“Humans remain critical to these advances. GenAI will be able to identify insights and summarise data, but HR will need to ensure humans make business decisions that are sound, just and well documented,” the report said. “AI has the potential to further reduce the bias that exists in today’s processes – when done well.”

The second report, by The Work Innovation Lab at Asana, found that just over a third (36 per cent) of employees in the US and the UK use AI at work at least once a week, with more than half of firms (55 per cent) using AI for goal setting, while 61 per cent said they were confident AI would help their companies reach their objectives more effectively than traditional methods.

However, the research – which analysed more than 4,500 workers in the US and UK –  flagged up people’s fears of being judged or judging themselves for using the technology. Saket Srivastava, chief information officer at Asana, said: “There are clear obstacles to AI adoption, with some employees harbouring concerns about how their AI use could be perceived by peers and managers. Employees can’t navigate this AI shift alone.”

Employers needed to develop training programmes to tackle negative perceptions and to help achieve the full potential of such technologies as “we move into a new phase of AI’s role in our workplaces”, he added. 

“Workers need clear guidelines to understand AI's role in their functions, along with tailored training and accessible technologies to fully harness AI's capabilities. Organisations that get this right will leverage AI in a way that unlocks new levels of human ingenuity.” 

David Collings, chair of sustainable business at the Trinity Business School, agreed that anxieties towards AI highlighted an educational challenge and that a lack of knowledge about the opportunities of AI was holding back its implementation. “I think the reality for most people is that their knowledge of AI is pretty basic and as such they are very sceptical about its benefits,” Collings said. “People don't really know how best to use it and what the benefits and limitations are.

“To me that is the biggest challenge. So there is an educational piece to this. Organisations need to educate their employees across the board around the opportunities and challenges of AI.”

HR, however, can be hesitant in introducing new tech – an attitude that needs changing, he said: “I do think HR leaders often like to see a use case based on the application of new technologies in other organisations before jumping in themselves. I often feel that HR teams are reluctant to be first movers in these situations.”

Firms can look to introduce AI in “low-risk contexts” where the “cost of failure” is lessened, to build confidence throughout the workforce, Collings added.