Using Artificial Intelligence in HR Development: (Not) a Good Idea?
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR development appears to be a new phenomenon for companies. According to a survey of HR managers conducted by the Munich-based ifo Institute, only around five per cent of the companies surveyed use AI in their processes in HR departments (ifo Institute, 2023). Why are companies holding back? And how can AI be used profitably here?
By Larissa Pomrehn and Jasmin Georgy
What makes AI possible?
AI can be used in personnel development to create an interactive e-learning platform or to answer employees’ questions more quickly in the form of chatbots (Maity, 2019; Votto et al., 2021). Furthermore, AI can be used to customise training courses to the needs and learning characteristics of employees (Maity, 2019). AI can also help with decision-making regarding the allocation of training and thus achieve faster and potentially fairer results (Köchling et al., 2021). IBM, for example, already offers the Watson Career Coach, with suitable training courses for employees that are allocated based on their previous activities (Köchling & Wehner, 2020).
Enthusiasm or scepticism? Employees’ reactions to the use of AI.
Initial exploratory research results show that the assignment of training by AI causes less discomfort among employees than the assignment of daily work tasks (Pomrehn & Wehner, 2023). One possible reason for this is that digital tools and gamification elements are increasingly being used in training and that therefore AI support in this area is already more familiar to employees (Stone et al., 2015). Another decisive factor could be that the assignment of training has less far-reaching consequences for employees compared to recruitment decisions (Langer et al., 2019). However, opposing sources report that certain HR development decisions, such as including people in a talent pool or selecting training for certain individuals, are perceived as more unfair when made by an AI (Bankins et al., 2022; Höddinghaus et al., 2020; Köchling et al., 2021). Looking at employee reactions to the use of AI is particularly relevant, as they influence other organisational parameters such as employee turnover, employee commitment and company attractiveness (Wesche et al., 2022). In general, it has been shown that – regardless of the HR area in which AI is being used – company attractiveness decreases and staff turnover increases (Köchling & Wehner, 2020; Langer et al., 2019). This could explain companies’ reluctance regarding the use of AI in HR development (Chowdhury et al., 2023).
How should my company use AI in HR development?
In the view of digital transformation, companies should not shy away from using AI in HR development – despite potential negative reactions. To increase acceptance of AI in HR it seems to be much more important to create a corporate environment in which technologies and employees work together. This can reduce negative reactions in the long term and maximise the benefits of AI. Such an environment is created, for example, by disclosing the reasons for using AI and how it works (Höddinghaus et al., 2020). Furthermore, training employees on the topic of AI can build up more knowledge, which can lower the inhibition threshold for using AI and increase the acceptance of AI applications. However, HR managers should be careful not to offer AI as a stand-alone resource. It is essential that human managers are available for queries, as AI also makes mistakes and sometimes only offers superficial answers to specific questions (Rathi, 2018).
AI can be used by HR departments to help employees with lifelong learning and personal development.
However, it should not take decisions on its own without human intervention, such as the allocation of training. This is important to avoid negative employee reactions and to be able to detect AI errors.