Why AI will never replace HR

Like lots of people, I’ve been reading lots about AI recently and how robots and software programmes are going to replace humans. I have to say, I’m not worried about this at all. I’m sure there are things in development that are going to enhance an HR department in certain situations. But it will never replace the human side of HR. Why? Because the job market is now so competitive that employee experience is more important than ever. And no robot can truly understand employee experience.

Most great business leaders will tell you that people are their greatest asset. Therefore, it makes sense that your people are the biggest source of competitive advantage you’ve got. And that means they need to feel differently working for you than working for anyone else. The fight to get the right candidate into your business – and not your competitors - is tougher than ever right now. It’s not enough any more to say, ‘here’s your job offer and a description of what you’ll be doing’, Businesses need to sell the overall experience – the benefits, the training, the working environment, how you’ll feel working for us and how much better that will make your life. To put it another way, people who are treated like cogs tend to behave like cogs. And getting your employee experience right, so your workforce don’t feel like cogs is pretty simple to get right (yet so often overlooked).

We’ve all walked into restaurants that have had great reviews or had friends waxing lyrical about the amazing food, but if you walk in and experience terrible service, you’ll probably never go back. And it’s the same principle when it comes to the workplace – what can be done by employers to ensure the experience of your business attracts and retains people? If you take the restaurant example, it’s pretty easy. You want someone to greet you as you walk in, to not to be left waiting around for ages and to feel looked after. There are so many touch points going on before you even get to a mouthful of food. And these touch points inform in a positive, or negative way, how people feel about your business.

That’s why, at the moment my team and I are collating information on all the touch points of our business – before, during and after employment. There are about 267 things on the list so far and the results of the project will tell us what is good, bad and what needs to be improved – in incredible detail. If you, as a business, want your employees to feel a certain way (and therefore act in a certain way) there are tangible things you can do – and this project will highlight them.

An example, on my first day in a new job, I had an envelope on my desk with someone else’s name scribbled out and my name (spelt wrongly) on it. In the envelope were two fobs, with no explanation as to what they were and a scrappy sheet of paper with text in all different fonts telling me my log in details. Nothing was clear. It didn’t take long for someone to explain everything to me but how much better would my experience (and my view of my new employer) had been if I’d been given a neat starter pack?

Touch points really are the little things – and they occur at every stage of employment. Pre-employment it could be the interview experience or the assessment days. During early employment it could be anything from whether your job offer letter spells your name correctly to whether when you’re shown to your desk on your first day there’s a mouldy mug of tea on it. When you’ve been employed somewhere ten years it could be your annual appraisal, or whether you get a card from colleagues on your birthday.

If you’re thinking about your team, or business and what employee experience is like – and I’d urge you do this – you need to go back to basics. Look at every point of interaction with your company and do it at grass roots level. I’d probably start from the assumption that what you currently have isn’t perfect as businesses, people and values things change over time. If for example, you’re still offering potential employees the same interview experience as you were ten years ago, I’d say you need to look at it. Walk through a day in the life of a new employee – and one who’s been in the business for ten years and notice what every part of it feels like.

And it’s the feeling part that is key here. This isn’t about employee numbers or policies and procedure, or things that will fit into a neat computer programme. It’s a gut instinct. And that’s something a robot will never have.

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback – feel free to drop me a message via my LinkedIn

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