HR Tech

How HR Is Putting Artificial Intelligence to Work

December 6, 2023
January 3, 2024
Lisa Van de Ven
Lattice Team

If you haven’t heard about artificial intelligence (AI) by now, chances are you’ve spent the last year living under a rock.

Organizations everywhere are embracing the efficiencies generative AI offers and the power it has to change the way people work. 

And, as the voice of employees, human resources is a big part of the AI conversation. HR departments can help shape the way AI is used, but they’re more than just gatekeepers. HR can also benefit from what AI offers — putting it to work to add efficiencies to their own jobs and to do more with less. 

In our 2024 State of People Strategy Report, we asked 1,052 HR leaders from around the world their thoughts on AI. Will it replace jobs or enhance them? And do HR professionals see ways to benefit from it too?

Let’s take a look at our findings, and explore where AI technology is impacting HR already, the challenges it brings, and the role HR can play in ensuring AI is being used to its full potential.

Will AI replace jobs?

We found that AI isn’t a cause for concern about job security among HR departments. Almost three-quarters (72%) of HR professionals don’t think AI will impact headcount in most departments, and 65% aren’t worried about their own job safety either. In fact, HR headcounts and budgets look to be modestly increasing or staying flat — potentially contributing to HR’s confidence.

‍Two bar charts show 86% of HR teams have a headcount that’s staying the same or increasing, and 79% of HR teams said their budgets are staying the same or increasing.
Despite increased pressures, most HR teams are stabilizing in terms of headcount and budget — a good sign for business growth in 2024. 

It can continue to stay that way too, said Gianna Driver, chief human resources officer at Exabeam. HR departments just need to learn to work with AI instead of against it.

“We can either join the AI movement and learn how to leverage it as a force multiplier in our work, or become outdated and perhaps eventually replaced by AI,” she said. “Personally, I choose the former — and encourage other HR managers to take proactive steps to do the same. AI enables us to do our jobs better. So let AI do what the technology can do, and focus on being human and bringing empathy and other human-centric skills to HR.” 

And while people teams aren’t traditionally the most cutting-edge when it comes to tech implementation in the office, our survey results show that’s not the case when it comes to AI. Most HR professionals believe they have a lot to gain from this increasingly popular technology and see ways to put it to work for them. 

Where HR Is Making AI Work for Them

Our survey results show that HR teams aren’t just accepting AI — they’re embracing it en masse.

Bar chart showing the breakdown of HR teams that are implementing AI, exploring AI, informally discussing AI, or not even considering AI.
Most HR teams across the globe are ready to get their feet wet in the AI wave.

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents have already started discussing and looking for ways to use it. HR professionals in Europe are even more likely than their counterparts in the US to be formally evaluating ways to use AI. And 15% of all respondents are even further ahead, having already implemented AI solutions.

‍Table showing the differences in AI adoption in the US (73%), UK (83%), France (83%), and Germany (91%).
HR teams in Germany are leading the way for the use of AI in the workplace.

“It's evident HR leaders view AI as a tool rather than a threat. Instead of job replacement, HR might see AI as a means of automating repetitive tasks, thus allowing HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives,” said Donald Knight, CPO of Greenhouse.

So what are some of the use cases HR is exploring? These are a few of the areas where HR professionals are starting to see the value AI systems can bring to the table.

‍ Bar chart showing the top fourteen areas in which HR professionals believe AI has the most potential to help HR.
HR leaders believe AI has the most potential to support tasks related to writing and communication, recruitment, generating workplace policies, and analyzing data.

1. Recruiting and Hiring

Sixteen percent of survey respondents saw the potential for AI-driven efficiencies during the recruitment process. Others saw it as a way of empowering talent acquisition, by assisting with screening resumes and sourcing potential candidates (7%) and writing effective job descriptions (9%). 

By empowering recruitment and talent management, AI can help hiring managers find new employees faster, while also reducing the cost per hire. But proper use of AI in recruiting requires a balance between AI tools and human recruiters. For example, AI can be useful in mitigating the bias that a human hiring team can unconsciously bring to the process. AI tools can more objectively evaluate resumes without a human’s preconceived notions around race, gender, or age. 

But there is also a risk that AI can amplify biases that already exist, such as unconscious biases included in its code — making it necessary for all information generated by AI tools to be reviewed and evaluated by humans in accordance with their company’s corporate governance and ethical responsibility.

2. Employee Onboarding and Training

Once candidates become employees, AI can also help HR teams onboard and train those new hires, better preparing them for the job ahead. Survey respondents see AI’s potential in enabling learning and development (9%); answering frequently asked questions (7%); and managing compensation, payroll, and benefits (5%) — all useful during the onboarding process.

By automatically serving up business policies, benefits information, and training suggestions, AI can ensure new employees are enabled to succeed in the job they’ve been hired for. It could personalize their job training workflow by helping to identify skills gaps, customize the path to learning with unique suggestions based on current skills and goals, and provide chatbots or virtual assistants that answer ongoing questions and concerns. 

3. Productivity and Employee Engagement

It’s clear that the HR leaders we surveyed this year see AI as a means of boosting employee performance. HR leaders also see AI’s potential in automating many of the time-consuming and repetitive HR functions that are part of their day-to-day roles, including crafting writing and communications (19%), putting together policies and guidelines (11%), and completing other general administrative tasks (7%).

Through the automation of those more mundane tasks, AI can empower human resources to focus on strategic work instead. And since that’s the work that’s often more interesting and less repetitive, this can affect the HR professional experience — helping foster engagement as well.

What’s more, those same benefits can be enjoyed throughout the organization — meaning that when used properly, AI can be a way to help boost productivity and employee engagement company-wide. This, in turn, can benefit the entire employee lifecycle, boosting job satisfaction and retention.

4. Performance Management

HR teams have started to see the potential AI can offer within their performance management programs as well. Only 6% of respondents named performance management and employee feedback as one of the areas with the most potential for AI-powered assistance, with another 8% saying it could help them create a more data-driven HR strategy.

AI’s potential to analyze performance data quickly means it can be used to give team members suggestions and real-time feedback and empower career development by offering next-step growth goals. With the right human oversight in place, AI also has the potential to create employee development plans, identify biases that could be influencing performance reviews, and empower HR decision-making by analyzing what’s impacting or detracting from employee performance so people teams can build policies accordingly.

Understanding the Challenges of AI

Before HR teams start implementing AI anywhere, though, they should understand the challenges that can come with it. Thankfully, the HR professionals we surveyed this year weren’t blind to the potential downsides, including the following: 

Teams can be too quick to adopt AI.

With generative AI solutions growing in popularity so quickly, adoption has been rapid across organizations. And half of the HR professionals we surveyed saw this as a concern, with 48% either agreeing or strongly agreeing that a lack of understanding of the technology or rapid spread of AI may lead to misuse by employees.

In fact, data leaks, human error, and “AI hallucinations” — that is, incorrect or nonsensical information misrepresented as fact — are realities many organizations have already dealt with. To avoid the pitfalls, employees need to take time to understand the limitations of AI, and companies need to consider their own boundaries and best practices on this new technology before rolling it out. 

It can amplify the biases that already exist.

When used without guardrails, AI can deepen biases that already exist within your organization. That’s because AI learns from historical data sets, meaning that if you’ve made unconscious choices in the past — for instance, around race, gender, or age during the hiring process — it can pick up on those and apply the same search criteria to new candidates.

Take Amazon as an example. In the 2010s, the business designed an AI recruiting engine meant to vet talent for open roles — including those on its software development team and in other technical positions. The algorithm was trained on resumes submitted to Amazon over a 10-year period, but there was a problem. Since the tech roles had traditionally been dominated by men, the AI model learned to discriminate against women. 

After discovering the bias, Amazon edited the programs to resolve the issue but eventually dropped the project. Today, as AI matures and knowledge around it grows, teams can apply human oversight to mitigate these types of problems.

Achieving AI’s Full Potential

Our survey results show that HR isn’t afraid of AI — nor are they afraid for their job security in the face of its adoption. With that in mind, it seems teams are ready to go all-in on the possibilities this evolving technology offers. But what does that look like, especially with the challenges that still exist? 

Here are a few ways HR can help their teams — and organizations as a whole — get the most out of everything AI has to offer:

  • Governance: To ensure AI is being used responsibly and securely, organizations need policies on how their employees should and should not use it. And for many companies, HR will play a crucial role in building those guidelines, helping to guide teams as they employ AI going forward. 
  • Hiring: Even with those policies in place, human oversight will be critical to ensure AI is being used responsibly and according to company guidelines — and that organizations are getting the most out of this new technology. That may mean hiring AI experts to support its adoption throughout your business.
  • Re-skilling: While most of the HR teams we surveyed don’t see AI as a job replacer, that doesn’t mean it won’t change the nature of some jobs. And as AI and employees work together, there could be re-skilling or additional training necessary to ensure businesses are getting the most out of their AI investments. HR can play a critical role in bringing in the programs that facilitate that.

With the right measures in place, HR can help bolster AI’s full potential within their team and business. And in realizing that potential, they can start to see some of the benefits AI promises — an increase in productivity, improved engagement, and a clearer line to employee growth — which all have the capability to change the workplace for the better and strengthen the future of HR itself.

To explore more of the insights from Lattice’s 2024 State of People Strategy Report, read the full report today.