One of the most talked about topics since November 2022 is whether AI will take over jobs normally performed by human beings. Thanks to the sudden emergence of ChatGPT, everyone has begun to sit up and listen, even from the non-tech fraternity. Its impressive conversational abilities has even caught Google by surprise, so much so that when the search giant tried to go one up on this new sensation with its version of AI chatbot called Bard, it failed embarrassingly and lost US$100 billion in market value in the process. Such is the magnitude of the race to global AI dominance.
But although AI is quick to process terabytes of data and expansive in its reach, it is only as powerful as the data it can have its claws on. In other words, if no such data exists, it will return no relevant results to us.
So in terms of job replacements, perhaps the right way to look at AI is to recognise it as a brilliant data cruncher rather than as a thinking machine. For it to think, it will require additional programming and learning (by the AI itself), similar to what some of the more sophisticated AI tools are doing out there at the moment. But just on the basic level of AI alone, people shouldn’t fear it too much unless their jobs are nothing but the repetitive and mundane ones.
From Jetsons, Kitt, Jarvis to Siri, OK Google
Although AI has got the world’s attention now, it is actually not something new because whether we realise it or not, this intelligent software has already been around us for some time. For example, what we thought of as “awesome” when our mobile phone’s scheduler was able to remind us about an event, today “codes” can activate our lights when we set it to “sunrise” or “sunset”. We could also instruct for our email to be sent after reaching a certain location. But where this will lead to can be quite nerve wracking because not only can AI take commands from us when we say the word, it has also gone where no one has gone before.
Case in point, I found a report explaining how a four-legged robot was smart enough to re-programme itself to stand on three legs after discovering that one of its legs was broken. Another interesting article also narrated about how a robot equipped with a camera was found to have captured faces of people passing by and systematically storing them in a database, all these without any prior settings to do so. This is perhaps the reason why people like Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk found AI to be a very daunting subject to tackle.
“The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” according to Stephen Hawking.
“[AI] scares the hell out of me,” Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk once said at the SXSW tech conference. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone knows, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”
But before any doomsday prediction can become reality, a Forbes article published in 2022 indicated what AI’s influence can potentially be like in the HR space:
- AI’s Role in Making HR Teams Informed & Efficient – in particular like hiring needs and matching of candidates.
- AI’s Role in Improving Employee Engagement – such as finding out why an employee leaves and how best to retain employees.
- Powering HR’s Future with AI – to serve as a critical and strategic “talent insights engine” of an organisation.
Closer to home in Malaysia, AI is generally seen as a “nice to have” add-ons to an existing HRMS but certainly not among the highest priorities, or at least not yet. This is because the intelligent codes of AI are only being added right now into the HR modules and as such, may take a while before it becomes a mainstay.
But what AI can really achieve right now is matching CVs to jobs. This is where AI’s pinpoint accuracy can raise productivity to another level. Taking it a step further, AI can also be programmed to conduct first round interviews. This is because AI can be taught to be interactive, like how ChatGPT is, to manage conversational interactions. Now, if this is done properly, recruiters will be empowered with more time in hand to better prepare for the second and subsequent round of interviews, and this is where the cognitive skills of an experienced recruiter will really come to make a real difference.
Humanly speaking, unlike AI, recruiters like us are able to assess a person based on their facial expressions, body language, emotions and all the non-verbal communication signals that are present from the candidates. We are also able to process background events more accurately like traffic disruptions before the candidate arrives for an interview or how the passing of a dear one can impact the candidate’s mood on interview day. Human intelligence as such is still very much an important currency of our trade, something I reckon will be irreplaceable, or at least not anytime soon.
So what does the future hold then for HR practitioners like us when AI is already sneaking up into our lives and right under our noses?
Like all technology that has come before AI, the key to remaining relevant is to embrace this new kid on the block. By this it means practitioners who are now used to the repetitive and mundane jobs must, at their quickest and most convenient time, look for opportunities to upskill and re-skill so they can move up the value chain. Because like all technology’s evolution of progress, it will arrive much sooner than later, just look at the pace of change in
personal computers, mobile phones, tablets, websites, job boards, cloud computing, cryptocurrency, autonomous cars, the list goes on.
At CXL, we will be looking at AI to improve our productivity internally first by testing out module after module to ensure they are performing to what we think they should. Only when this is accomplished will we then think about sharing this technological privilege with our panel of clients.
Fariz Abdullah is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CXL Group. The organisation offers HR solutions which include Contingent Workforce, Executive Search and Payroll & HR Outsourcing. Under his purview, Fariz has transformed CXL Group into an HR organisation that believes in the importance of advancing through technology but with a deep focus on the human touch in an increasingly digital era.
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