One fear about AI in the workplace is that it will eliminate many white-collar jobs, but those concerns might be overblown. For now, HR managers view AI-based systems as add-on tools that augment work — and a plus for employees.
For example, Help at Home in Chicago, which has 50,000 caregivers for the elderly and disabled, installed a conversational AI system earlier this year to help with recruitment. The system performs an initial screening of candidates by gathering qualifications, scheduling an interview and sending automated reminders through a text-based system.
Before using Paradox Inc.’s chatbot system, a recruiter should log into the applicant tracking system, call candidates and set up interviews, said Sarah Anderson, senior vice president of caregiver recruitment.
Anderson said AI in the workplace handles the tedious administrative work of HR. “It will really free up time for person-to-person engagement,” she said in an interview at the recently concluded Gartner ReimagineHR conference in Orlando, Florida. It also speeds up the time it takes to fill jobs, she added.
AI provides an opportunity to “make work better,” allowing employees “to focus their time on more meaningful, strategic work,” Gartner analyst Christopher Long said in a conference interview.
He argued that HR needs to recast the discussion of how AI will affect jobs by moving away from “human versus AI” towards collaborative intelligence.
Young workers most affected
But there are still concerns about the future effects of AI on workplace jobs, with some researchers seeing it as having as much influence on the economy as the steam engine, electricity and computers. Young workers might be the most worried.
In a survey, Gartner found that Gen Z — people born after 1997 — are the most worried about losing jobs to automation, with nearly a third citing it as a concern. Millennials came second at 24%.
One attendee, Robert Davis, a human resources consultant who works for the federal government and attended Long’s presentation, said young workers “see the power of AI and the lethargy of some of our legacy systems.” . They know there will be a better way of doing things, he said, “so existing jobs may not be theirs.”
Joseph MazzoDirector of HR Information Systems, EisnerAmper Group
The impact of AI is something that HR teams adopting the technology might have to discuss with employees.
“AI isn’t the Terminator — it’s not going to take over the world,” said Joseph Mazzo, director of HR information systems at EisnerAmper Group, an accounting and professional services firm.
The AI is “there to make their job easier,” Mazzo said in an interview. “He’s there to help make their day-to-day activities smoother.”
But when deploying AI, Mazzo, who also spoke at the conference about the importance of change management, recommended telling employees exactly how the technology will affect them. This could include using feedback surveys and focus groups to find out where employees are concerned about AI tools and what areas should be addressed.
Still, AI “isn’t going to kick you out of your job,” Mazzo said. “It’s just going to make it easier” and allow you to “focus on the things you love.”
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He worked for more than two decades as a corporate IT journalist.