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Darci Ahlin-Stieren

Principal, HR Solutions, LLC
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Artificial Intelligence: Tool or Trouble?
Considering how to wisely incorporate AI
By Darci Ahlin-Stieren

rtificial Intelligence, or AI, and human resources, or HR, are two fields that are increasingly intersecting with each other. No one can dispute that technological advances have dramatically changed our lives.

From travel to healthcare, finding a good cobbler recipe or asking Siri or Google to search, shop, or play, we are in what passes for a “golden age of enlightenment.” That is, of course, until the next stage begins, and we look back and smile at how naive we were. And we have a pretty good idea of the next phase, as now—with AI—we can not only have technology find something for us, it can also make things.

First, let me state that I am NOT an expert on AI. In the HR field, AI remains a new tool that, like any tool, can be a great help or a pending disaster. The H in HR stands for humans. The A in AI stands for artificial.

You may have heard of schools enacting and sometimes rescinding policies regarding the use of AI for term papers and other substantive projects. The arguments against allowing students to use this tool are fairly straightforward:

  • Students must exhibit that they grasp the concepts they are learning in class.
  • The intellectual concepts present in their work are original to that student, albeit similar to that of other students writing about the same subject.
  • Many projects are to be the work of a single student and not a collaborative effort with others.

By now, you may be thinking, “That’s great, Darci, but what does that have to do with HR?” That is a fair question. After all, Associated General Contractors, or AGC, of Alaska members are constantly using the proper tools for the job and incorporating the newest materials or processes as they become available and are cost-effective. Why hesitate when it comes to AI in HR? There are a few things to consider:

  • AI compiles, sorts, and presents. It does not provide judgment.
  • AI may present certain content as factual when it is not.
  • AI does not have a personal, human understanding of your staff’s personality, workplace environment, or company aspirations.
  • AI is lousy at organizing the company party and would make a horrible secret Santa.

But let’s not kid ourselves: AI looks cool and can do some amazing things. Even if you don’t use it at work, many different industries are:

  • A paralegal uses AI to draft a brief as a first step for a legal proceeding, subject to review.
  • Construction companies use AI to draft numerous permit applications, saving them time and money.
  • Logistics companies use AI to formulate and analyze an operational change that could have major implications for the company and its clients.
  • HR uses AI as a tool to draft a company policy that is compliant with laws in a state that the company is expanding to.

Clearly, AI is a powerful tool that will become a part of our lives and the operational aspects of the companies we own or manage. But like any powerful tool, an operator is still an essential part of the process. The core work performed by AGC of Alaska members requires humans to drive, pour, lift, weld, and inspect. They need human interaction for business development, staff collaboration, and insight into the social, economic, and political climate in which the company operates.

From a practical standpoint, AI isn’t there yet. However, with proper IT security protocols, your company should feel free to explore how this tool can build on your staff’s success and goals. Some tips:

  • Develop a policy regarding which tasks are eligible for AI assistance. This may require some time to be brought up to speed on WHAT practical applications AI may have for your company, but getting ahead of the tech curve can help prevent the “now what?” moment that may arise.
  • Don’t ignore it. Imagine thinking that email, Bluetooth, Google, and a legion of other technologies were a fad and would go away soon. Prominent US economist Paul Krugman declared in 1998, “The growth of the internet will slow drastically… By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than that of the fax machine’s.” Don’t be Krugman.
  • Control the pace of implementation to match your timetable and not to match that of others. Given the powerful tool AI is developing into, rushing to embrace it is (potentially) as bad as ignoring it.

As I stated at the beginning of this column, I am not an AI expert. But I am an HR professional. From my standpoint, AI isn’t at a level to turn your staff over to and frankly may not be within our lifetime.

It’s the culture of your company, the growth opportunities you afford your staff, and the sense of career fulfillment that is a cornerstone of today’s workforce that are far more powerful tools than AI. It’s human nature after all.

Darci Ahlin-Stieren, PHR, CPC, principal of HR Solutions, LLC, is a certified human resource practitioner and leadership coach with more than twenty years’ experience. A trusted resource and business partner, she offers scalable human resource outsourcing solutions, training, and leadership coaching.