Dean Sadler: AI is set to become a redefining force in HR

With all the discussion about which jobs robots will steal, we can be forgiven for overlooking the fact that these very same technologies play a vital role in finding, securing and retaining talent.

We are living in a digital era of continuous change, compounded by the widening skills gap among the workforce. HR is dealing with a diamond in the rough situation in finding the right applicants for a job. Conversations that I’ve had with HR managers who don’t have an applicant tracking software (ATS) tell me that a substantial amount of their day is spent sifting through piles of CVs.

For this reason, securing the perfect candidate is harder than ever. Implementing AI can help companies attract the best applicants, and at a step that keeps up with the feverish pace of modern business.

AI can transform recruitment

Advances in AI have helped streamline recruitment processes. Traditionally, HR managers spend the bulk of their time sifting through cover letters and CVs in order to shortlist potential applicants to interview. And finally securing the perfect candidate – digitally astute as well as presentable, punctual and flexible is akin to finding the Golden Ticket for today’s employers. Now assessing thousands of candidates in minutes is made possible through AI, meaning HR managers can now concentrate on other matters, such as employee learning and development and interviewing prospective staff. 

AI benefits HR in a variety of ways. Thanks to its natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, it has the power to leverage big data and track and analyse a dizzying amount of information. This could be used for decoding video interviews to weigh up cognitive aptitude, assessing everything from innate empathy and politeness to attention to detail and cultural fit. Beyond screening, the production of AI generated joining letters, and pay slips might be on the anvil too.

Raising the profile of HRs within organisations with AI

However, there is one substantial problem: Technology is moving so fast, making it challenging for HR people to keep up. This can harm their ability to make a case to get more budget for AI and automation doesn’t come naturally. The time has come for a new paradigm shift: to equip HR with new skills so their voice is heard by the board.

HR departments generally accrue lots of data but don’t do much with it. I’ve heard it argued that they don’t need to improve data literacy, as long as they have people around them that can. But I think it’s all about the department they want to create. If they want to own analytics, they need to take control of it and upskill themselves appropriately.

I’d say that HR professionals who don’t keep pace with change may damage the business by not attracting and holding on to the right staff.  Embracing AI is now a vital component to any successful business model and, in HR, it can bring fast results.

Getting human-machine collaboration right is the winning ticket

Whether it’s using the proficiencies of machine-learning to attract talent or using data analytics to roll out valuable workplace initiatives, AI unshackles HR professionals from repetitious low value tasks. This allows them to concentrate on more productive and strategic work that involves more interpersonal skills and truly contributes to the business.

The combination of soft skills, such as facilitating conflict management, fostering diversity and inclusion, building and sustaining positive workplace relationships along with powerful analytical and predictive technology of AI, is a ticket to HR success.

Despite this, only 17 per cent of those surveyed in Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2018 report said they felt comfortable managing a team where people, robots and AI work together.

This draws attention to the opportunity that HR has in helping businesses embrace the future world of work. A strong understanding of AI among HR professionals will make sure the technology plays out successfully.

Along with other department heads, HR’s business model needs to focus on the integration of people and AI, so staff are best served and organisations stay ahead of the curve.

During this time of upheaval, I’m excited to see how AI will impacts HR. Future success means action today.





After travelling the globe and working as a bus driver, Dean started a PhD in computing before joining a startup called Plusnet. He wrote the billing and CRM platform, became CIO and helped grow the business from a handful of employees to over 700, through IPO then exiting via a sale to BT. Pondering life after Plusnet, Dean was looking for a real world problem which could be addressed by artificial intelligence and hit on the recruitment industry as being ripe for disruption. And so TribePad was born, where he is CEO.