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How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Recruitment Processes

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The benefits and risks of relying on algorithms in human management.

Regardless of how you feel about artificial intelligence, the reality is that it is coming and will likely transform every industry. In a matter of decades, we may not even recognize the types of jobs we have and how we do them. The area of human management is no exception.

In a recent survey by global organisational consulting firm Korn Ferry, 63 percent of HR professionals thought AI was already changing the way recruiting is done today. Algorithms can source and screen job candidates far more efficiently and effectively than people can. Today, many recruiters use sourcing apps that search the Internet for professional profiles and CVs, which can hone its effectiveness as it learns more about the characteristics of a successful employee.

Intelligent software, in the form of chatbots, is even interacting directly with candidates: making initial contact, providing guidance through the application process, and on-boarding new employees. For candidates, the benefit is that they can get their questions answered 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. For hiring managers, delegating such tasks to a machine frees them up to do more complex, strategic work.

Google is a global leader in what it calls “people analytics,” relying on a data-driven approach to managing human capital. The firm relies on algorithms to predict which new hires are most likely to succeed, which existing employees may become retention problems, and which managers will be the most effective leaders. Businesses can also use AI to offer individualised professional development training and coaching.

The number of ways that artificial intelligence can transform HR management are vast and continue to grow—which is both promising and concerning. Each innovation in AI creates new opportunities and new ethical questions.

For example, some recruitment video platforms already in use rely on biometric and psychometric analysis to evaluate a candidate, while others detect if someone is lying by tracking subtle movements of their eyes. But how reliable are these tools, and how much weight should they be given in hiring decisions? Should candidates be informed that they are being assessed in these ways and be given the opportunity to decline participation? As an industry, we haven’t yet reached a consensus on such issues.

Some businesses that had fully embraced algorithms in recruitment are discovering that programs can make mistakes too. One of the most popular arguments for the use of AI in recruitment and hiring is that algorithms don’t have the same biases. While human hiring managers consistently tend to favour job candidates who resemble them, screening software should, theoretically, evaluate job applicants more objectively. But just recently, retail giant Amazon abandoned its online recruitment tool because they found the algorithm was biased against women. “The AI was simply automating bias, rather than getting rid of it,” Dr. Boris A. Altemeyer, chief scientific officer for Cognisess, a British HR analytics provider, told Forbes Magazine.

Another major concern about artificial intelligence is that it could completely displace human workers. Fortunately, experts seem to agree that this won’t happen in human resources. “We think of machine learning and AI as an increasingly capable decision support tool for HR professionals,” Greg Moran, COO of Wiretap, explained. “No machine can ever replace human judgement, but judgement can be better informed using tools that AI provides.”

The fact that Africa doesn’t yet have the same AI infrastructure as other continents may actually be an advantage. This gives us more time to learn from the mistakes of others and to try to answer the complicated ethical questions that may arise.

But now is certainly the time to begin thinking about how to incorporate artificial intelligence in the human management practises of your businesses, and to weigh the costs and benefits of doing so. The presence of AI is growing across the continent. Just a few months ago, Google opened an artificial intelligence research lab in Ghana, joining similar research centres in South Africa and Ethiopia. A growing number of AI startups are also popping up throughout Africa.

Whether we like it or not, the AI revolution will come to Africa—and human resource leaders need to be prepared. “To remain competitive, companies must be at the frontier of innovation in all its forms,” advised Aadil Patel, National Head of Employment Practice of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, in IT News Africa. “The role of HR will need to be realigned with the way work essentially ‘gets done,’ pushing boundaries to bring new solutions to a business.”