HR: AI in the workplace complements jobs -- for now

Advice from HR about AI in the workplace can be summed up in one word: Relax. They see AI taking over admin burdens, freeing up employees for other work. But some remain concerned.

A fear about AI in the workplace is that it will eliminate many white-collar jobs, but those concerns might be overstated. For now, HR managers see AI-enabled systems as complementary tools that augment work -- and a plus for employees.

For example, Help at Home in Chicago, which has 50,000 caregivers for older adults and people with disabilities, installed a conversational AI system earlier this year to help with recruiting. The system conducts an initial screening of applicants by gathering qualifications, scheduling an interview and sending automated reminders through a text-based system.

Before using the chatbot system from Paradox Inc., a recruiter would have to log in to the applicant tracking system, give candidates a call and set up the interviews, said Sarah Anderson, senior vice president of caregiver recruiting.

Anderson said AI in the workplace handles the tedious administrative work for HR. "It really will free up the time for person-to-person engagement," she said in an interview at the recently concluded Gartner ReimagineHR conference in Orlando, Fla. It also speeds up the time it takes to fill jobs, she added.

AI offers an opportunity "to make work better," allowing employees "to spend their time on more meaningful, strategic work," Gartner analyst Christopher Long said in an interview at the conference.

He argued that HR needs to recast the discussion on how AI will affect jobs by moving away from "human versus AI" to collaborative intelligence.

Younger workers most concerned

But there are still concerns about the future effects of AI on jobs in the workplace, with some researchers seeing it as being as influential on the economy as the steam engine, electricity and computers. Younger workers might be the most worried.

In a survey, Gartner found that members of Gen Z -- people born after 1997 -- are the most worried about losing jobs to automation, with nearly a third citing it as a concern. Millennials came in second at 24%.

One attendee, Robert Davis, an HR adviser who works for the federal government and attended Long's presentation, said younger workers "see the power of AI and the lethargy of some of our existing systems." They know that there will be a better way of doing things, he said, "so the existing jobs may not be their jobs."

[AI] is not going to kick you out of your job.
Joseph MazzoDirector of HR information systems, EisnerAmper Group

The impact of AI is something HR teams that adopt the technology might have to address with employees.

"AI is not the Terminator -- it's not going to take over the world," said Joseph Mazzo, director of HR information systems at EisnerAmper Group, an accounting and professional services firm.

AI is "there to make their job easier," Mazzo said in an interview. "It's there to help make their day-to-day activities go smoother."

But when deploying AI, Mazzo, who also spoke at the conference on the importance of change management, recommended telling employees exactly how the technology will affect them. That could include using feedback surveys and focus groups to uncover where employees are concerned about AI tools and what areas should be addressed.

Still, AI "is not going to kick you out of your job," Mazzo said. "It's just going to make it easier" and allow you "to focus on the things you enjoy."

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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