Embracing AI, yet keeping HR human – key takeaways from the LinkedIn Talent Connect Summit 2023

Hundreds of delegates gathered last week at the Javits Centre in New York. People Management highlights the themes people professionals must not miss

Credit: We Are/Getty Images; LinkedIn

Because artificial intelligence is a hot topic right now, especially among employees who are concerned that it will replace them, numerous talks addressed the ramifications of automation and generative AI, and how it has the ability to develop our professions. Meanwhile, ex-New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern reminded the audience during the first day’s keynote of the importance of “humanity” in leadership, noting that “merely being human is more than enough for a leader”.  

Here are some key takeaways from the two days:

1. New technologies are constantly reshaping the world of work 

Credit: LinkedIn – Tony Chung

Following Ardern’s address, Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn, reminded the 1,500 HR leaders and professionals from 50 countries who had gathered for its 12th annual conference that she led with “empathy, more resilience and more thoughtfulness”.

He added: “In that respect, she embodies so much of the change that we are seeing play out in the world right now, especially in the world of work. 

“And if you spent any time with generations younger than mine, you know that Jacinda represents the process that Gen Z in particular just finds obvious; for their ideas, like equity or empathy, they’re not groundbreaking – they’re given.”

Roslansky said new technologies were constantly reshaping the new world of work, and not for the first time. He said AI was “fundamentally going to alter both how we build careers [and] how we build companies”. 

On AI and skills, he emphasised the positives, saying: “We’re in the early days of the world of work that will lead to more fulfilling roles, greater equity and massive career growth.”

Roslansky said one exciting possibility of AI was its ability to take on some workers' day-to-day tasks, which can free extra time for more people-centric aspects of their jobs.

According to LinkedIn data, job postings mentioning AI or generative AI have more than doubled globally in the last two years and applications for these roles have grown 17 per cent faster than those that do not mention AI or generative AI.

2. HR has a responsibility to ensure humans are still seen 

Teuila Hanson, chief people officer at LinkedIn, led a session on being change ready, telling delegates it was a personal thing to tell someone that their job might change because of automation. She said: “It's really important that as talent leaders you're leading these changes from a place of ensuring that they are people centred” and focus on the human experience.

Hanson said her mother began her career as a bank teller and worked her way up to leadership in the 1980s. She said she often talked at the dinner table about an automated teller machine (ATM) and how the teller was "concerned" that they would lose their jobs and the bank would close. "My mum had this really strong conviction as she talked to the tellers for them not to worry,” said Hanson. 

“She believed that there will always be a place for tellers at a bank," she continued, adding: "As a leader, she spent a lot of time speaking to tellers and making sure they understood that they were being heard."

When her mother died, Hanson took her death certificate to a teller, not to an ATM. “Walking into the ATM to scan her death certificate would have felt awful, so it was important for us that we were seen as humans at that very moment,” she explained.

“We have an opportunity in our roles to ensure that as humans we are seen and humans with whom we work are also seen."

3. Embrace artificial intelligence

Donna Morris, executive vice president and chief people officer at Walmart, said it was an "exciting" time for the profession and organisations to grow alongside AI. She urged businesses to embrace AI and its potential to transform teams for the better. 

In her session on how game-changing technology may be used to hire and develop talent more efficiently, effectively and ethically, she said that the next "juncture" in technology could enable HR to finally deliver "self service”. 

She said technology "absolutely" has potential, but our "humanity and our people shine through". 

4. How workforces can adopt AI 

With artificial intelligence affecting everything, including learning and career routes, a session discussed how the workforce can embrace AI and numerous technologies. The host of the event invited the speakers to share one takeaway for L&D and talent professionals so that they can keep a step ahead of the changing landscape.

Terri Horton, founder of FuturePath, suggested various courses on generative AI and other topics, as well as being very creative in your approach to learning about generative AI. She said people could go online and create five or six touch points for insights into it and how it is transforming the work that you do. 

Chris Louie, head of future of work and talent strategy at Thomson Reuters, advised being a "user" for yourself, your team and your L&D staff. He said that, as a user, you are "motivated" and that experimenting with it is one of the finest approaches, which he employed for his team.

Credit: LinkedIn – Tony Chung