AI will not take away all our jobs tomorrow

June 25, 2018

It was great to attend LinkedIn’s EMEA #talentintelligence event this week and thanks to Tom Little for the invite. There were some interesting keynote speeches but one that I particularly enjoyed was about the reality of AI by Rand Hindi.

AI seems to be the hot topic across most professions and I have noticed that it is high on the agenda for discussion at most of the global HR conventions that myself and my colleagues attend. This is very understandable considering its potential impact on the future of work and corporates. What I find surprising though is the level of misunderstanding.

The biggest misconception about AI from my point of view is the level of capability. Yes, it is super impressive to see that Google can build an AI which can beat any human in the game of Go*. But what everybody seems to forget, this AI program can’t do anything else but win a game of Go.

Even if we assume you could have AI’s to learn multiple tasks and achieve good results with deep learning (outside of a lab environment), you can still only solve logical tasks. There is no consciousness and no emotional intelligence. I am sure AI will at some stage become an invaluable tool, but it will not replace human employees (apart from very operational roles), at least not in our lifetime. 

So why not today, why at some stage?

Well, I see three major challenges. Let’s assume for a moment that we have relevant, complex and affordable AI tools to hand, they will need consistent data in a workable format. A significant amount of small and very large global businesses can’t even tell you with a press of a button how many employees they employ at this moment in time – a reality which will starve any AI of its most import food, data. They typically lack a global system and are tied into various local solutions. Quite shockingly, according to the Frazer Global HR Spotlight report, 16% of business don’t have an HR system at all and only 19% use a talent management system.

The second and more challenging point is the lack of talent with the relevant technical skillset. There is an unsatisfiable demand for this talent globally. Additionally, there is also an exponentially growing demand for HR professionals with very strong IT skills with nearly a third of all businesses believing to lack enough tech savvy HR colleagues, but yet the function lacks ideas to make it an interesting career choice for IT talent. Further to this, you can see the same across other corporate functions, they are all fighting for the same people.

Lastly, but maybe most importantly, 46% of all HR leaders feel that they simply don’t have the budget to accelerate investment into relevant systems. Hein Knaapen suggests in his interview in our HR Spotlight report that focussing purely on data and systems is far too narrow, but that HR needs to be at ease with data and be very aware on what is happening in the field.

Can the capability-delta ever be closed?

Now, there are a number of businesses out there who are successfully using data and analytics, who may have already implemented and/or are testing AI tools (2% of businesses globally use AI tools in HR) such as chat bots. Interestingly, the delta between their reality and the reality of most other businesses, in terms of their technical & data (analytical) capability with regards to HR, is already enormous and rapidly growing. I always wonder, whether there is enough budget, talent and time available to ever close that gap again.

If you have more thirst for data, request a copy of the 2018 Global HR Spotlight Report here.  

*SOURCE: Wikipedia: Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day.