ChatGPT Opens the Floodgates for AI in HR
One look at ChatGPT, and you can’t help but think of the Turing Test.
Mathematician Alan Turing developed the Turing test in 1950 as a way to establish if a computer is capable of showing intelligent behavior that's indistinguishable from a person. ChatGPT, with its conversational style, has according to several reports, passed that test.
Since its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has ridden a tidal wave of attention, which shows no sign of slowing down.
Already, HR experts are fighting over the superlatives they can apply to ChatGPT. “It’s bigger than anything humanity has ever dealt with, hands down,” gushed Todd Mitchem, CEO of AMP Learning and Development. "This takes [AI in HR] to the next level," said Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, Mich.
Of course, since ChatGPT represents a new path into the world of AI, pundits, analysts, business leaders and venture capitalists are already speculating about what it’s good at, what it’s bad at and what jobs it will replace. Copywriters, support agents and software developers should all be afraid, according to Miroslav Dimitrov, president and chief operating officer of New York City based NWO.ai. Bloomberg suggests salespeople and risk managers should be looking over their shoulders. And the Daily Mail included retail staff, graphic designers and cybersecurity experts on its danger list.
Business and technology writer Bernard Marr sees ChatGPT not so much as threatening HR jobs as augmenting them. While the technology takes on a number of routine tasks, he writes in Forbes, HR practitioners can spend more time developing relationships with the individuals who make up the company “in order to build a better understanding of them and the challenges they face.”
What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT, developed by the San Francisco-based AI company OpenAI, is essentially a chatbot that ingests data, then uses that data to answer queries “in a conversational way.” It can communicate with users, answer follow-up questions and challenge incorrect assumptions. A dialogue might go something like this:
Person: Who was president of the United States in 1955?
ChatGPT: Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States in 1955.
Person: Which party did he belong to?
ChatGPT: He belonged to the Republican Party.
There’s more to this AI than simple Q&A, though. ChatGPT can translate text into computer commands, pick or generate keywords from blocks of text, explain computer code or find and fix bugs in source code. (That’s why it’s considered generative AI, or AI that can be used to create new text, video or other media.) And that’s just a start.
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Actually Doing Stuff
Artificial intelligence has gone in a relatively short time from being a solution expected to solve future problems to something anyone would expect current-day technology to include. HR executives now view AI's incorporation in any technology they buy as table stakes. Saying a product is “AI powered” doesn’t make a solutions provider stand out anymore.
In fact, AI has worked its way into most every corner of HR: It predicts workforce needs to aid in workforce planning. It facilitates talent acquisition by producing more targeted job postings, tracking candidates and assessing skills. It improves retention by analyzing data generated by exiting employees. It deploys internal surveys and identifies learning needs so the right employees take the right courses.
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Yet with the ascendence of AI came the skeptics. Many analysts saw the rise of AI as more of a marketing gimmick than a technical accomplishment. One look at the number of applications claiming to be “powered by AI” would validate their skepticism. Back in 2017, tech journalist Devin Coldewey wrote in TechCrunch:
"There is no official or generally agreed-upon definition of artificial intelligence … But this lack of consensus hasn’t stopped companies great and small from including AI as a revolutionary new feature in their smart TVs, smart plugs, smart headphones and other smart macguffins. (Smart, of course, only in the loosest sense: like most computers, they’re fundamentally dumb as rocks.)"
ChatGPT has the potential to shake up this perspective. In a breathtakingly short period of time (it was launched in late November 2022), ChatGPT has generated a wave of enthusiasm from both end users and technology buyers.
When the app ingests certain types of data, it generates new content in the form of text, images, audio, code and videos. To use another example posted by OpenAI, tell the chatbot to “write a TV ad about the status of ChatGPT,” and the system returns:
"The ad opens with a shot of the ChatGPT website on a computer screen, with a busy loading symbol in the center. The camera then pans out to reveal a bustling office, with engineers working at their desks and typing on their computers.
A voiceover begins: 'At OpenAI, we're dedicated to bringing you the best in artificial intelligence technology. Our team of engineers works tirelessly to make sure our chatbot is always up and running, ready to answer your questions and provide helpful insights.'"Related Article: Artificial Intelligence in HR Remains a Work in Progress
Generative AI Enters HR
Industry analyst Josh Bersin believes that ChatGPT will push many brand-name technology companies to become even more aggressive with AI than they already are.
He believes advanced technology is entering a phase much like the early days of mobile development, when the new tech was incorporated into corporate systems, then matured until it became a platform of its own on which complete solutions could be built. “… today most digital system design [is] for mobile first,” Bersin notes. “They build entire tech stacks around mobile, and we study behavior, markets and consumers through their phones. The same thing will happen here.”
Which is to say generative AI will be everywhere. Using it to create campaigns for candidates and employees seems like low-hanging fruit, as does building conversational chatbots that can lead a candidate through a company’s recruitment process or an employee through benefits enrollment. Learning programs will simplify — and make cheaper — the tasks involved with ongoing training. Scheduling bots will streamline the chores that go along with setting up multiple interviews.
For HR, the “basic” capabilities of ChatGTP provide a workable toolset to address needs in communications, coordination, learning and logistics. The question that remains is what will HR do with it and how widespread will it be?
About the Author
Mark Feffer is a journalist who focuses on HR technology and workforce data.