Dr. Ernest Wayde: Artificial Intelligence for HR
Technology. AI. Data.
The field of HR is exquisitely different than it was 22+ years ago when I began my career. At that time, most processes were still manual. People printed job applications and mailed or faxed them in. There wasn’t an easy way to collect people metrics because robust information systems didn’t exist. If data was collected at all, it was also manual. I’m pretty sure that we were still using carbon copy forms in some cases.
Fast forward to now, the business expects HR professionals to report on people metrics and provide insights that will help leaders make better decisions. Almost always the business wants to cut HR overhead – do more with less – while becoming a stronger strategic partner. This usually includes finding ways to make our function more efficient, automated, and data-driven.
Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI). Any time there is conversation around how HR can become better informed, more efficient, and help support higher engagement (and lower turnover), my ears perk up. If we want to be seen as the critical strategic partner to business leaders, we need to embrace AI – not just to be data-savvy, but also to identify innovative applications to improve the employee (and candidate) experience.
Ernest Wayde, Ph.D., M.I.S. shares more about his session, Artificial Intelligence for HR:
Q1) You have an interesting background! Tell us more about your training and education, and how that led you to the work you do today.
I am a life-long learner and have always enjoyed learning different things and integrating them together. In college, I double majored in psychology and computer science which, in my view, was a perfect foundation for my early interest in Artificial Intelligence. My first career was in the Information Technology field where I worked my way from programming to business systems analysis and project management. This experience taught me a lot about data and business technologies. It also gave me some insights into the interaction between people and technology in the workplace. I was fortunate enough to attend graduate school at the University of Alabama where I completed doctorate programs in both clinical psychology and cognitive psychology. Conducting human subjects research taught me a lot about how to glean information from data and about the importance of ethics and security when working with human-related data. My clinical work was an amazing experience that allowed me to work with and help people with a wide spectrum of behaviors and mental health.
I was privileged to work with Veterans and staff in the Department of Veterans affairs (VA). I worked as a clinical psychologist and then transitioned to organizational work after completing a fellowship in Organization Development (OD). During this time, I helped develop executive leaders and teams, and provided change management consultation. I also completed a master's degree at Wright State University in Information Systems (MIS). I got a chance to use my MIS training while helping staff at the VA implement a new electronic health record system. Nowadays, putting all these experiences together helps me bring a unique perspective as I partner with business to help them achieve success.
Q2) In the session description, you mention that AI sometimes causes apprehension and confusion for professionals. Why do you think HR professionals are reluctant?
Like every other industry, when it comes you AI, the greatest concern people have is about the impact on their jobs. What will AI do to our jobs? Frankly, that is a reasonable concern that can cause fear and provide anyone with pause. This fear is well documented. Research shows that a significant percent of people think they will be replaced by machines soon. That notion is further aggravated in entertainment where we see fictional examples of this happening. Add to this that depictions of AI in these fictional depictions are greatly exaggerated, information in the media can be confusing, and it's no wonder we are all a bit apprehensive about AI.
Q3) How do you see AI enhancing the work of HR?
AI can be a fantastic tool for HR. At the heart of it, it is really a time-saving tool. For example, Chatbots are the most popular AI-based application used by HR departments globally. This is a great time saving tool because it allows you to answer questions from potential applicants as well as current staff instantaneously, 24/7, in multiple languages and channels without human intervention. In fact, research has shown that HRs with mature AI applications can gain up to a day a week in time savings due to the use of AI applications. What could you do with an extra day of time every week?
Q4) Are there any areas of HR that you don’t think AI could enhance? Why or why not?
When a big part of your work is dealing with people, the types and strengths of relationships you have with those people is critical. But, when you are overburdened doing mundane tasks, it's hard to invest in relationship building. So, while AI can help you save time and allow you to focus your attention on the relational aspects of HR, it can't develop those relationships for you. At least, not yet.
Q5) What are some of the biggest obstacles to implementing AI technologies when working with HR professionals?
A few years ago, Gartner predicted 85% of AI implementations would fail, highlighting the need for a thoughtful and strategic approach to AI implementation. Start by taking a hard look at your organization's people and culture to see how previous technology changes have been received. Have people embraced and utilized the technology to its full potential or have they been resistant and slow to adopt, using only a fraction of the technology's potential? A lot of these issues speak to the importance of change management.
Secondly, because of the way machine learning works, a lot of AI applications are heavily reliant on data. How does your HR collect data? Do you have a mature data management process? Do you have enough data for AI to use? It is important to think through these questions. Think about how to best prepare your people and adapt your processes before you get to the actual implementation. This will significantly increase your chances of a successful implementation that realizes the benefits of AI.
Q6) How do you go about overcoming these challenges?
An effective change management strategy can help prep your people for an AI implementation, including increasing the speed of adoption and ultimate utilization of the AI application. Start by getting buy-in from leadership. Then, help your leaders to be effective sponsors by advocating, providing resources, and championing the use of the AI platform. It is critical to address employee concerns, reduce fear, and build desire for the AI application in advance of the actual implementation.
If your organization is not collecting data, you should start there. Work with your IT department to make sure you are collecting and safely storing work related data about your employees and their work activities. Make sure you are collecting data in a responsible, secure, and ethical way. To do this well, you should be working closely with your IT department and establish a data governance framework to help you collect and use data responsibly and ethically.
Q7) What is one thing you hope attendees of your session will take back to their workplaces?
There is so much confusing information in the media about AI making it easy to get confused and afraid of it. Hopefully, this session will help people gain a basic understanding of AI and how it can be used to help save time and support them in their daily HR activities.
Artificial Intelligence for HR is offered on Thursday, October 13, from 2:30pm to 3:35pm - both virtually and in-person. Be sure to add this informative session to your calendar in your conference app!
About Dr. Wayde:
President of Wayde Consulting, LLC, Dr. Ernest Wayde, brings a diverse and extensive background in healthcare and technology from both the public and private sectors. With his training and experience in organizational development working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Wayde has provided coaching and consulting to executive leaders in healthcare across the United States. As a Prosci-trained Change Management practitioner and trainer, he has firsthand experience leading change on a broad scale and can speak directly to the challenges involved. Dr. Wayde is a former Director of Data Management and evaluation, holds a master’s degree in Information Systems, and has numerous certifications in Artificial Intelligence, including a certificate from the MIT Sloan School of Management. With his passion for people, processes, and technology, Dr. Wayde strives to help organizations achieve business success through the successful integration of these critical business elements.
Website: Wayde Consulting
LinkedIn: Ernest Wayde, Ph.D., M.I.S.
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