HR for 2024 and Beyond

As we look ahead to the holiday season and the start of a new year, we often reflect on the goals we’ve accomplished and the challenges– and changes– awaiting us in the future. It’s a season for assessing our progress and evaluating the updates that must be made in our personal and professional lives. And in a world where AI is revolutionizing almost every industry, change feels more relevant than ever– especially for HR professionals.

Contemplating the integration of AI and recruitment may fill many people with anxiety, but what does the future of recruitment really look like? How can the savvy HR professional adapt and thrive?

The integration of HR and AI is not new.

If you’re a fan of the popular workplace sitcom Superstore, you might be familiar with an episode in which the employees of a big-box store are distressed by the sudden arrival of a robot assistant. Because the robot can easily and automatically scan items, ring up customers’ purchases, and assess the quantity of items in stock, the employees worriedly assume that the robot will soon be taking over their jobs.

Given the increasing popularity of AI, it’s no surprise that many HR professionals are battling similar fears. But Jennifer Shappley, VP of Talent at LinkedIn, observes that “the recruiting industry has always been a fairly early adopter of using different AI tools, whether that be through chatbots or other ways to help improve the candidate experience and the overall efficiency of the recruiting process.

In fact, we have only to look back through the history of HR to see that the field of human resources has a long-standing reputation for being quick to implement new strategies and technology, especially when these advancements can streamline essential HR functions such as talent acquisition, retention, payroll, and compliance.

Viewed through this lens, Brett Baumoel– VP of Global Talent for Microsoft– asserts that the rise of AI does not threaten to replace HR professionals or challenge what they bring to the table. In fact, Baumoel argues that “recruitment leaders now have the opportunity to actually change the seats at the table. You’re going to truly change the table itself.” So, let’s take a look at how recruitment professionals can remain relevant as they implement AI in their daily practices.

The personal touch is still important

Let’s be honest– some aspects of HR are just boring! The more personal elements of HR can be meaningful and fulfilling; for example, it’s easy to find satisfaction in the act of matching the right candidate with the right job and supporting them throughout their journey with your company. But very rarely does anybody find meaning in the repetitive box-checking that characterizes HR tasks such as payroll, compliance, and policy development. And that’s exactly where AI can shine. Jennifer Shappley contends that– rather than replacing the smart, empathetic human beings who propel the future of HR– AI will be most prominent (and most helpful) when we use it to automate the boring aspects of HR.

So, as an HR professional, this is the time to ask yourself: what could you accomplish if your repetitive daily tasks were automated? What would you achieve if you could concentrate on meaningful connections instead of checking boxes?

Returning to a more social role can feel daunting if you’ve lived through the cycle of change that has seen HR fluctuate from a people-centric strategic function to administrative drudgery. But work futurist Terri Horton believes that this challenge is the perfect opportunity to revamp your role as an HR professional, become fluent in AI, and leverage tools that will empower you to lead talent efforts through the next decade.

So, while AI holds the potential to streamline many aspects of the recruitment process, you won’t have to worry about robots negating the value of the outbound recruiter or the empathetic HR professional. Why? Because automating repetitive tasks may be a handy time saver, no candidate prefers interacting with a robot through the outbound recruiting process– or any other element of HR that hinges on meaningful human connection.

Just think about all the hoops we jump through to get past customer service chatbots and speak to a real person! HR strategist Glen Cathey concurs that, with AI on the rise, the human element of HR is more relevant than ever. In a blog post that examines the positive and negative impacts of merging AI and recruitment, Cathey writes, “I think there’s a different perception of having completely robotic outreach rather than a human being reaching out to you, showing genuine interest, and listening to you.”

Human connection will propel the future of HR

Now more than ever, candidates are assessing prospective roles through the lens of personal and professional compatibility. Your future employees want to know how they will fit with your company culture and whether their values align with those of your organization. Likewise, as an HR professional, you want to know whether a candidate will be a good fit for your team. You want to learn more about their attitude, their work ethic, and how their personality will mesh with others on your team.

AI may be great for streamlining algorithms and data analysis, but it’s no substitute for an empathetic and intuitive recruitment specialist. This is especially true when you’re connecting with candidates who aren’t looking for a new position. In fact, they may even be happily employed by your competition. A chatbot can’t spot top talent and convince them to work for you instead. But, as Cathey observes, “a skilled recruiter can convert the conversation from ‘Why are you reaching out to me? I’m not looking’ to ‘Actually, I’d like to be considered for that job.’”

Hiring Solutions Group founder Michael Schlager concurs, asserting that “While AI may be beneficial for streamlining some low-level functions of HR (such as filling out forms or automating payroll), it’s vital to give customers and candidates the choice of connecting with a real human being in the Human Resources department.”

Schlager sees human connection as being the heart and soul of recruitment and thus, an essential element that AI can never automate or replace. Drawing on his own 25 years of experience in HR, Schlager observes that automating the recruitment process or scaling back on elements of human connection can alienate the top talent recruiters are working hard to attract.

That’s why it’s crucial to strike an intuitive balance between automation and human interaction in recruitment. No candidate likes feeling that their application has been forgotten or that they have been lost in the system, but that’s exactly what could happen when there’s a glitch between an AI-driven recruitment system and the humans on the other end.

Key takeaways

When the field of HR and the recruitment process are constantly evolving, it can be difficult to find your footing or feel confident about the future. But as we reflect on our accomplishments in 2023 and look ahead to the New Year’s Resolutions of the future, it can be helpful to contemplate our role in the evolving integration of HR and AI.

What could we do with the time that’s freed up by automating repetitive tasks? What skills can we strengthen or redevelop? How can we move forward and make meaningful connections with our current and prospective team members?

If you’re an HR professional who’s ready to turn these questions into practical goals in the new
year, let’s have a conversation.

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