Across the globe and in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping traditional human resource (HR) practices.

The elephant in the room is asking, what is AI? To put it simply, AI involves the use of digital technology to create systems capable of autonomously performing tasks traditionally thought to require human intelligence, according to the Office for AI, 2019.

This transformative technology holds the potential to enhance HR practices, driving decisions towards greater productivity and efficiency.

In fact, according to Oracle’s Workplace Global report, a significant portion of employees already engage with some form of AI in their daily work routines. However, they may not even realise that they are applying the AI.

However, the question remains: Is HR ready for AI? Survey data from in 2019 indicates a resounding affirmation, with 79 percent of respondents acknowledging the significance of chatbots as a pivotal interface for real-time staff support.

Understanding the scope of HR entails recognising its multifaceted responsibilities, including recruitment, onboarding, training and development, performance management, workforce planning, employee records management, and compensation and benefits.

As noted by Ramakrishna Gummudu, the primary aim of HR is to maximise the value of employees as essential assets driving organisational competitiveness and productivity.

Organisations today, more than ever before, need to embrace AI if they want to sustain a competitive edge in the market. The integration of AI into HR processes marks a significant paradigm shift. AI systems possess the capability to analyse vast volumes of data, make predictions, and empower HR teams to make more informed, data-driven decisions, thereby enhancing overall efficiency and effectiveness.

A report by LinkedIn highlights a surge in demand for AI within the job market, particularly accentuated during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic was a wake-up call for organisations in Kenya and the rest of the world to realise how much they could achieve with AI.

Remote and hybrid work processes were then adapted. It was and still is imperative for managers to grasp both the capabilities and limitations of AI to effectively leverage its potential.

Today, AI’s application in HR spans various domains, contributing to the optimisation of HR functions:

Recruitment and selection: AI algorithms sift through large applicant pools, identifying the best-fit candidates by assessing individual abilities and experiences against job requirements. The human resource management information system can generate reports on the gender of employees.

This is key to ensuring gender balance, the two-third rule in Kenya, regional balance, and the tracking of five percent of persons with disabilities as stipulated in the law. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots streamline communication, answering frequently asked questions and even scheduling interviews.

AI can analyse resumes and applications at scale, not only identifying suitable candidates but also flagging potential biases in the hiring process. By leveraging AI in recruitment, HR departments can enhance diversity and inclusion efforts while streamlining the selection process.

Onboarding: Chatbots play a pivotal role in disseminating information during the onboarding process, ensuring the timely completion of required training modules. AI further personalises the onboarding experience, automating the distribution of essential documents and reducing time and cost expenditures.

Beyond basic administrative tasks, AI-driven onboarding platforms can provide personalised learning paths for new hires based on their role, experience levels, and learning preferences. By tailoring the onboarding experience to individual needs, organisations can accelerate time-to-productivity and improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Performance management: AI algorithms analyse employee performance data, identifying areas for improvement and facilitating the development of personalised improvement plans. This data-driven approach minimises errors and enhances the accuracy of performance evaluations. Employees can be fairly judged on how they have performed without bias.

The AI can track and analyse a wide range of performance metrics, from sales targets to customer satisfaction scores, providing managers with insights into employee performance. By leveraging AI-powered performance management tools, HR departments can facilitate ongoing feedback and coaching, driving continuous improvement and staff development.

Training and development: AI-powered tools track employees’ learning experiences, identifying skill gaps and designing tailored training opportunities. This facilitates continuous skill development, benefiting both employees and employers alike.

AI personalises learning content based on individual learning styles, preferences, and performance data. By delivering targeted training interventions, organisations can maximise the impact of their learning and development programmes, driving employee engagement and performance.

Payroll processes: AI automates payroll calculations, minimising errors and saving time. These AI tools ensure compliance with legal requirements, such as tax calculations and overtime regulations, mitigating potential risks. The AI can help with statutory deductions, including the National Health Insurance Fund, the National Social Security Fund, and pay-as-you-earn. By leveraging AI in payroll processing, organisations can improve accuracy, reduce costs, and enhance compliance with regulatory requirements.

AI represents a transformative force in HR, revolutionising traditional practices and driving efficiency and effectiveness. However, managers need to remain vigilant about AI’s limitations and ensure its ethical and appropriate usage. By embracing AI responsibly, organisations can cultivate a productive and engaging work environment that ultimately benefits employees and the organisation.

Dr Kamaara is HR Consultant and Lecturer at JKUAT.

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