What will be the future impact of AI technology on the workplace?

By Robert Half on 23 September 2019

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology promises to revolutionise the workplace, thanks to its potential to slash overhead costs and enhance productivity – the latter by up to 40% by 2035, according to research by Accenture.

One area where AI is already making some big waves is in the HR department. From screening candidates more accurately, to helping employees strengthen their skills, AI is carving out a vital role in how employees are hired and managed.

But with AI software advancing every year, there’s still plenty of speculation around how, exactly, it will change the workplace. Will Hong Kong see a robot revolution that replaces most workers with smart machines? Or will it be the dawn of a new relationship between people and technology, where AI takes over mundane tasks, freeing people to focus on more creative work?

The second scenario is much likelier, according to McKinsey. Their 2017 study concluded that roughly half the tasks that workers currently do can be automated with the help of AI – but only 5 percent of jobs can be fully automated. It means that the way Hong Kong employees work will shift over time as AI technology matures and takes over pieces of what they do, requiring people to adapt and change accordingly.

Here’s a look at how AI technology is already impacting how candidates are hired, managed and retained – and what a future partnership between people and AI might look like.

Finding talent

The first area where AI technology will make its mark is the recruitment process.

Finding the right talent for the workplace can be very time-consuming for both hiring managers and candidates, and AI technology can help speed up the hiring process through synthesizing and narrowing the time it takes to hire.

"At Robert Half, we understand the need and added value to invest in the development of technology that does not only help speed up the recruitment process, such as resume screening, but also contributes to finding better suited candidates for the role at hand," says Adam Johnston, Managing Director for Robert Half Hong Kong. "Our intelligent matching algorithms are based on nearly 70 years of placement experience and constantly improved through machine learning."

Incorporating AI into recruitment practices will enhance the ability to search for potential candidates at a rapid rate, thereby allowing recruitment companies to deliver a selection of suitable candidates faster to employers who are looking to hire for their workplace.

Screening and interviews

HR departments often receive hundreds of applications for a single position. The time it often takes to screen and cull a potential list to interview can be significantly consuming.

In this area, AI technology will make the task of screening potential candidates less burdensome by automatically selecting the most suitable candidates through machine learning, using techniques that go well beyond simple keyword matching, and address candidate queries in real-time.

Put simply, manual processes such as screening resumes or responding to common candidate questions via Chatbots will be handled in the future by AI to a large extent, so hiring experts have more time to invest in providing the necessary human aspect linked to recruitment, including assessing a candidate’s professionalism, attitude and corporate culture fit.

Employee development and retention

The value of a well-trained workforce was highlighted in an IBM study, which discovered a 16% increase in customer satisfaction and 10% greater productivity among companies that use learning technology.

In the next few years, Hong Kong can expect to see AI technology pushing this further. For example, an adaptive learning program could modify training courses, on the fly, to suit different learning styles. It could also analyse which modules have the highest and lowers levels of engagement, and test different variations. Critically, AI could help a company measure its return on investment from training, based on outcomes such as productivity, profitability and turnover.

AI is already being used to help people work smarter and become more engaged in their jobs. U.S. company Humanyze has developed ‘smart’ badges that use sensors, AI software, and data analytics to track employees’ interactions in the office. The technology has proven useful in helping companies better understand the relationship between team-building and productivity – in one case, discovering that close-knit sales teams perform better than teams split across different locations.

Last but not least, AI can play a useful role in reducing employee attrition. In 2016, IBM’s Watson AI platform showed it could analyse a collection of data points about a company’s past and current employees, and generate a score for each based on how likely they are to quit their job. Predictive models such as these could soon become critical in alleviating the turnover headaches that many organisations face.

The future of AI technology

AI is here to stay, and no company, big or small, can afford to ignore the extraordinary benefits it will deliver when it comes to finding and recruiting talent over the next several years.

However, while AI technology and automated processes are a powerful tool to find and identify potential candidates with particular skills, it does not cover the entire hiring process. There are many steps in the staffing process where the human element is still required. Assessing a candidate’s attitude in the interview process and corporate culture fit, negotiating remuneration, and persuading candidates to accept a job offer above other alternatives are all examples where human interaction and judgement are crucial, and where AI technology has yet to crack the surface.

"There is just no substitute for real-world interaction and human judgements when it comes to finding and securing the right talent," says Johnston. "Recruitment will always have a personal aspect linked to it which is what AI cannot replace, just complement."

For the future, companies would be wise to stay on top of the impact of AI technology on the workplace, or seek professional hiring expertise to ensure they do not miss out in a competitive recruitment market.

More From the Blog...

How to say no to your boss

While your boss is not always right, it's not easy for some to express this out of fear of repercussion. Knowing how to say no to your boss though,...

Read More