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Optimization Guru, AI Ethics Leader and Other Emerging Roles Reshape Human Resources

March 31, 2021 Leadership
By Dom Nicastro

The human resources industry has long expected disruption from automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. What it's had recently, though, is that transformation as well as the emergence of new roles.

"After many years of anticipating disruption in staffing and HR from automation and AI technology, the digital transformation of recruiting and staffing is well underway and even accelerated in 2020,” said Danny Ashraf, director of sales for Monster Worldwide, which runs the global employment website Monster.com.

Expect more to come as new HR roles emerge and traditional generalist roles come under pressure. As has often been the case in the past, recruiting is leading the way as competition for in-demand talent heats up and companies gear up for a new wave of hiring post-pandemic. 

“Technology will continue to directly influence the way recruiters engage with candidates in three key ways: improved communication, increased productivity and cleaner data,” Ashraf said. 

Where Tech Has Boosted Recruiting

Over the past year, Ashraf said staffing companies that embraced new technology, ranging from texting platforms to automated matching, grew faster and more productive than counterparts that did not adopt new technologies.

“Improvements in texting, chatbots and digital staffing platforms that connect workers directly with available jobs have not eliminated recruitment roles but have allowed recruiters to conduct more meaningful conversations with potential candidates and focus on revenue-generating tasks,” Ashraf said. “This digital transformation has moved the industry in the right direction without sacrificing the human touch, which is the staffing industry's linchpin.”

The proliferation of these powerful tools did highlight a weak point in the industry: the quality of resume data. “Ensuring that your resume data is fresh amplifies the performance and success of your texting, matching and automation technology investments,” he said.

HR professionals need to avoid letting data get stale and negatively impacting the candidate experience. "This is why auditing your data hygiene on an ongoing basis is of utmost importance," Ashraf added.

Related Article: 5 Necessary Human Resources Skill Sets for the 2020s

Consider the Legal Implications of Tech

There is no denying the uptick of new kinds of roles is putting pressure on traditional HR roles. Glassdoor reported in its Glassdoor Workplace Trends 2021 report that the number of HR generalists is down 37%. Meanwhile, technology roles are rising. But it comes with potential legal problems.

As the number of data sources and ability to use AI for HR decisions increases, it's important to understand the legal implications, said Peter Cassat, partner in the New York office of Culhane Meadows. His practice focuses on technology and labor and employment issues. 

“On the one hand, the use of automation and predictive capabilities in the hiring process can drive economic efficiency,” he said. “On the other hand, employers cannot rely on software tools or automation to replace the exercise of good judgment. And, to the extent that AI or software tools simply automate processes that already have bias built into them, their use may only serve to compound the problems associated with discrimination in the workplace.”

Artificial Intelligence Ethics Leader

That's why some AI ethics roles have been created. Matthew Fisher, area assistant vice president, health and welfare consulting for Gallagher and board member for the Greater Orlando Society for Human Resources Management, said he’s starting to see variations of this title as AI gains momentum. However, he cautioned, it is still very early and can create bias or outcomes that are not expected.

“We believe that this will become a very important role in HR tech but also across other pieces of tech that employers are using in their businesses,” Fisher said. “The discussion regarding the liability related to the outcomes of AI has just begun and it will be important for employers who are buying technology that includes AI to understand it and govern it.”

The role of ethics in AI technology was put in the spotlight recently following the exit of AI expert Timnit Gebru from Google. Gebru, a Black woman in a field that remains primarily white and male, said she was fired after criticizing the company's approach to AI systems and expressing frustration with the company's approach to hiring and diversity.   

Related Article: We Need Ethical Artificial Intelligence

Other Emerging Tech Roles

Engineering and technology are driving a further diversification of HR roles. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) covered some emerging human resources technology roles, including:

  • Chief HR Technology Optimization Officer
  • Experience Engineering Specialist
  • Data Science Manager
  • AI Chaperone and Coach

Indeed, a job listing website, shared data with Reworked on the rise of roles that include “experience engineering,” “experience engineer” and those containing some combination of data, science and manager. Since 2018, the share of job postings for experience engineering roles has increased by 33%. In that same time period, the share of job postings on Indeed for data science manager roles has increased by 34%.

Related Article: What Is Work Tech and Why Does It Matter?

HR Technology Optimization Guru

Fisher said he is seeing the role of “HR technology optimization guru” come into the spotlight.

“We see so many clients who are sitting on and paying for very powerful pieces of HR technology and not using much of it,” Fisher said. He cited his team’s Gallagher HR Technology Survey, which revealed that only 29% of respondents are using 75% or more of their HR technology and 51% indicated that they have no process in place to optimize their technology.

There are many reasons this happens, according to Fisher. Employers often think that because their software is “live” that they are finished. The reality is that the nature of cloud-based SaaS software is that implementation should never stop because the technology is updated at least quarterly, if not weekly. Further, some companies don't have a formal process in place to optimize their HR technology, and it is not part of anyone’s job description.

“We are excited by this new role of HR technology optimization guru because we believe it can have a significant impact on productivity, but also employee engagement," Fisher said.

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