AI & Employee Engagement

Artificial Intelligence (AI). From 1927’s The Metropolis, through Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, past The Terminator and right on into our lives, AI is here and its staying. Its applications are wide and varied and in business, where data is king, it maybe the best thing since sliced bread, but what are its uses in HR?

Employee Engagement has preoccupied business leaders thoughts since at least the 1990’s, but aren’t all employees different, with different perceptions and drivers? Well, yes, obviously, so blanket programs will always leave gaps. What about changing moods or feelings? People change, even if minutely, with every contact they have, so how much accurate data can be gleaned from a yearly survey? What happens if the day after the annual survey the employee falls out with their line manager over Brexit or Donald Trump or Football? Do you carry on with the misconception that the employee is engaged and happy for the rest of the year?

Some say AI and Machine Learning (ML) is the panacea. We are already in a world of chat bots for HR Service Desks and video interviewing to increase the efficiency in recruitment. What if we could recognize and weed out unconscious biases in hiring and promoting? That’s got to be good for business, right? Using analytics to personalize learning hopefully will mean employees grow and progress faster. Another good thing.

What about implanting GPS chips to measure time and attendance? How about facial recognition to scan employee’s emotions while walking around the office? A bit too “Big Brother”? Or how about Email Sentiment Analysis  to calculate employee emotional attachment by scanning the words and phrases they use in their emails? A bit too intrusive? Will it understand my emoji’s and memes?

What if the data quality isn’t the best or has biases riddled throughout it? Will the results still be useful? What about negative outcomes, like historic data saying there should be a gender pay gap, because the data shows that when there was a gender pay gap in the past, the company performed better?

Let’s embrace this exciting new world, but let’s be mindful that any new technology brings with it unseen benefits and costs. What are your experiences in using AI and ML in HR and where do you see the future going with this technology?