Employers need HR to map future talent needs as AI accelerates workplace change, research finds

Experts say people professionals are already embracing new technologies to future-proof organisations

Credit: Kobus Louw, JDawnInk/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

Business leaders are relying on HR and recruitment teams to help organisations ready their workforces for the future, according to new research, as the onset of artificial intelligence (AI) accelerates the rate of change.

LinkedIn’s latest Global Talent Trends report – which surveyed nearly 30,000 workers across the globe, including 1,319 HR professionals – found that nine in 10 people professionals felt their role had become more strategic over the past year as they looked to navigate the future of work.

When it comes to adopting AI in the workplace, 61 per cent of HR respondents said they were rolling out AI training to support employees and another 61 per cent were already using the technology today to support their day-to-day tasks. 

LinkedIn’s analysis of job descriptions for all paid roles across the world in the two years to July 2023 showed that job posts mentioning AI or generative AI have more than doubled (2.2x) globally during this time, and applications for such roles have grown 17 per cent faster compared to those that do not mention AI or generative AI.

Olivier Sabella, vice president of EMEA and LATAM at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, said: “With so much change under way, now is the time for business leaders to assess the skills their organisations need now and in the years ahead so they can set their teams up for success.

“HR professionals will be at the heart of ensuring businesses have the talent and skills they need to thrive. And AI will be a critical tool for them too, helping them to focus on the important ‘human’ aspect of their role, such as connecting and building relationships with candidates and fostering a strong company culture.” 

AI's already established role

Kirk Chang, professor and director of the Centre for Innovation, Management and Enterprise at the University of East London, said there was already strong evidence of AI’s adoption in the workplace and in the field of people management, through such aspects as “performance tracking, holistic-process personnel management, development of automatable jobs, employee retention and attrition, employee emotion management, employee rights and ethics management and burnout prevention”. 

“In a nutshell, AI has earned its reputation in the field of people management,” he told People Management.

“AI has great potential to enrich the work environment, facilitating employee inclusiveness and engagement. Nonetheless, there are still issues and concerns about AI’s applicability and its implications on people management,” he warned, pointing to ‘default bias’, level of AI reliance, disproportionate job replacement and unequal access to AI tools as some examples.

Áine Fanning, managing director of Talent Evolution Group, said it is yet to be seen whether such AI tools as ChatGPT will live up to the promise of automating tasks that we once thought were exclusive to humans. But if it does, the impact on the world of HR and recruitment will be “huge”, she added.

“ChatGPT touches anything that involves language: CVs, cover letters, emails – perhaps even scripts for telephone and in-person interviews. But the big question is competence. Can ChatGPT truly match human efforts and can it do it safely and in an unbiased way? For now, at least, the answer appears to be ‘no’,” Fanning said.

LinkedIn’s report follows research from two Oxford University AI and automation experts who have seemingly U-turned on their prediction from 10 years ago that AI would wipe out half of all jobs.

The researchers have now suggested that the upper limits of popular AI technology’s abilities have been almost reached and, as such, they are not likely to displace jobs in a widespread manner. AI will instead likely impact wage differentials, productivity and strike action, they believe. 

Working alongside AI

For Chang, HR teams, senior leaders, managers and employees all have roles in using AI to create healthy and inclusive workplaces. At board level, senior leaders “must respect the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in their AI-driven management, as a healthy workforce is the foundation for the business success”, he explained. 

“For the managerial level, managers and team leaders should be fully trained so they know how to design and implement the AI-empowered policies, in which communication and support to the affected workforce must be arranged in advance.”

Similarly, Fanning said “a little human help goes a long way”. 

“A human editing ChatGPT’s output could produce a better result than either one acting alone. As the technology improves, it’s even possible that the human element could fade away entirely. For us, the role of ChatGPT starts and ends with automation. At no point should outputs from ChatGPT be instrumental in making decisions,” she stressed. 

Chang also recommended “clear guidelines regarding content ownership and credit attribution”, but, “ultimately, when the employees, managers and company [leaders] team up and strive to make their workplace more inclusive, everyone wins”, he suggested.

Explore the CIPD's resources on the use and impact of AI technology in the workplace here