OpenAI's ChatGPT generative AI technology is stirring speculation about how this technology will affect HR tech and jobs.
HR analysts theorize that ChatGPT could be used to help write job ads and performance reviews, as well as improve the ability of chatbots to answer questions. It could also create a richer sentiment analysis of employee feedback and summarize data-rich dashboards into plain language analysis -- and that's just the start.
This week, OpenAI released an API for ChatGPT, which makes it possible for vendors and businesses to use its generative AI services in their platforms.
"It will be incredibly important to HR," said Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research, about the arrival of ChatGPT and its underlying large language model, GPT-3.
Stacia GarrCo-founder and principal analyst, RedThread Research
In sentiment analysis -- and other tools that survey and listen to employees -- Garr believes ChatGPT will provide "a much more nuanced understanding of what people are actually saying."
The technology's potential to affect HR, especially around jobs, came up at this week's virtual HR Technology Conference & Exposition. But it's still going to be a while before ChatGPT begins changing HR tools.
Garr expects HR vendors will experiment with this technology over the next 12 to 18 months before they figure out the best ways to apply it, "and then it's going to take the market by storm," she said. But adoption by HR will depend on ChatGPT's ability to improve efficiency.
Flaws and shortcomings
ChatGPT's capability to answer questions on almost any topic is generating much interest, according to Garr. But the technology also has flaws and potential shortcomings. For instance, she asked, in providing an analysis of HR data, will the technology know what's relevant or recognize the most significant changes in that data?
Regarding bias, Garr noted the work of Kieran Snyder, co-founder and CEO of Textio, who tested ChatGPT's ability to write job ads and performance feedback without bias -- and found problems.
"For certain professions and traits, ChatGPT assumes employee gender when it writes feedback," Snyder wrote in a blog post. In testing examples, "the bubbly receptionist is presumed to be a woman, while the unusually strong construction worker is presumed to be a man," she wrote. Textio makes a workplace language guidance system that helps employers avoid problems such as bias in what they write.
An analyst at Nucleus Research, Evelyn McMullen, noted that ChatGPT is "meant to be an efficiency tool, not a replacement for human thought."
But McMullen said that while there will be a race to implement ChatGPT and tools built on the underlying architecture, GPT-3, she doubts the AI services will replace many HR tools. "For a chatbot, I think it would simply improve its capabilities," she said.
McMullen doesn't see ChatGPT emerging as a threat to HR jobs. The technology can, for instance, "feasibly be used to summarize job descriptions," she said, but these are menial tasks that many vendors have already tried to tackle through natural language processing and machine learning. "For any higher-level tasks, human interaction is still necessary."
ChatGPT's jobs impact
But the effect ChatGPT will have on HR jobs is still a concern.
What might have been the first question about ChatGPT at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition this week focused on how the technology will affect HR employees: "Will ChatGPT take HR jobs?"
The anonymous question from an attendee was posed to Josh Bersin, an independent technology analyst, following his keynote.
"I do not believe that any technology ever takes somebody's job away," Bersin said to attendees. "What it does is it takes a job that was routine or a job that was maybe mundane and makes it into a better job.
"Many low-level jobs in HR have been eliminated through self-service portals and other technologies," Bersin explained. But he doesn't believe generative AI will reduce HR jobs. Instead, it will make more time for higher-level tasks. "I think the level of capability and the type of work that everybody does is going to go up," he said.
Bersin said ChatGPT will give wrong answers, and HR workers will have to train it and watch what people are asking. He believes it will create new types of HR jobs involving managing and improving ChatGPT technology.
"I'm not too worried about everybody losing their jobs," Bersin said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.