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From Lamplighters to AI Leaders: Conversational AI Opportunities for HR Leaders

Last week, I was invited to speak at DigiHR - an event designed for HR leaders from Greece dedicated to how they can transform through various strategies. My presentation, titled "From Chatbots to Talent Partners: HR Evolution through AI Dialogue" centred around the opportunities for Conversational AI across the entire talent journey.

You can see the recording of the session at the end of this article, but I wanted to write up my thoughts behind the presentation for you as well.


In an era marked by accelerated digital transformation, the Human Resources (HR) landscape is undergoing a profound evolution. At the forefront of this change is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots into HR practices.

In this blog post, we'll explore the transformative journey of HR professionals as they embrace AI dialogue, paving the way for a future where HR is more efficient, effective, and employee-centric.

Embracing Change: From Lamplighters to Electricians

Imagine a world where your job was to light street lamps manually. This was the reality for lamplighters in Victorian England. They would earn their wage by ensuring that street lamps were lit in the evening and extinguished in the morning. It was a career, a way of life.

However, the emergence of Thomas Edison's lightbulb disrupted this age-old profession, making it obsolete. This transition from lamplighters to electricians serves as a powerful metaphor for the HR profession's need to adapt to the changing landscape of AI.

Just as the lamplighters who couldn't embrace electricity lost their jobs, HR professionals who don't harness the power of AI may find themselves left behind. The message is clear: AI will not replace HR professionals, but those who use AI will replace those who don't.

The AI Landscape: Where We Stand

Before we delve into the impact of AI in HR, it's crucial to understand where AI stands today. Currently, we're in the era of "narrow intelligence." AI, as it exists, excels at specific tasks but lacks the comprehensive decision-making capabilities of human intelligence. Despite claims that AI, such as ChatGPT, represents general intelligence, we're far from achieving that level of AI sophistication.

However, it's essential to note that AI is rapidly advancing, and the lines between narrow, general, and superintelligence are continually blurring. HR professionals need to stay informed about these advancements to make informed decisions about AI integration.

ChatGPT: Redefining Human-Machine Interaction

The turning point in the AI revolution came with the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022. What set ChatGPT apart was its interface—chat. Unlike previous AI models, ChatGPT could understand natural language, making it incredibly user-friendly. This accessibility catapulted ChatGPT to unprecedented popularity, with millions of users engaging with it daily.

The success of ChatGPT highlights a fundamental principle: user experience matters. In HR, a positive candidate and employee experience can significantly impact talent acquisition and retention. AI-powered conversations, inspired by ChatGPT's user-friendly interface, are becoming key tools in delivering exceptional experiences throughout the talent journey.

Opportunities in HR's Talent Journey

The integration of chatbots and AI has unlocked numerous opportunities in HR's talent journey. Let's explore these areas where AI-powered conversations are making a significant impact:

1. Job Discovery

AI-driven conversational marketing, talent pool management, and even job applications have become more efficient and user-friendly. Candidates can engage with chatbots to explore job opportunities, receive personalised job recommendations, and gather insights about a company's culture and work environment.

Example: Acme Inc.'s Chatbot Career Navigator Acme Inc. implemented a chatbot named Career Navigator on their careers page. Candidates can have real-time conversations with the chatbot, exploring open positions, learning about the company's values, and even initiating the application process. This has not only streamlined the application process but also improved candidate engagement.

2. Screening and Assessment

Automated candidate assessments provide instant feedback, ensuring a smoother recruitment process and eliminating the issue of candidate ghosting. Chatbots can conduct preliminary interviews, assess candidate skills, and provide immediate feedback on their suitability for specific roles.

Imaginary Example: TechStart's AI Screening Bot TechStart, a tech company, implemented an AI screening bot for their technical positions. Candidates interact with the bot, answering technical questions and solving coding challenges. The bot evaluates their responses and provides a detailed report to recruiters, helping them identify top talent quickly.

3. Onboarding

Keeping new hires engaged and informed throughout the onboarding process reduces the risk of offer reneges and contributes to a positive start. Chatbots can guide new employees through the necessary paperwork, introduce them to company policies, and answer their questions in real time.

Imaginary Example: NewHorizons Inc.'s Onboarding Assistant NewHorizons Inc. revamped its onboarding process with the introduction of an Onboarding Assistant chatbot. New hires receive a personalised onboarding plan and can interact with the chatbot to complete forms, watch training videos, and connect with their future colleagues. This proactive onboarding approach has significantly reduced the attrition rate during the first 90 days.

4. Learning and Development

Personalised learning experiences, coaching, and pulse surveys have become more accessible through AI-driven conversations. Employees can access training materials, seek career advice, and provide feedback conveniently through chatbots.

Imaginary Example: LearnWell's AI Learning Coach LearnWell, an e-learning platform, introduced an AI Learning Coach chatbot. The bot analyses individual learning patterns, suggests relevant courses, and even offers study tips. Learners can also engage in coaching sessions with the chatbot to enhance their skills.

5. HR Services

Streamlining responses to HR inquiries allows HR teams to focus on strategic initiatives rather than mundane queries. Chatbots can address common HR-related questions, provide information about company policies, and assist employees with various HR processes.

Imaginary Example: GlobalTech's HR Service Chatbot GlobalTech, a multinational corporation, deployed an HR Service Chatbot accessible through their intranet. Employees can ask the chatbot about HR policies, request time off, and get assistance with benefits enrollment. This has significantly reduced the workload on HR personnel and improved the overall employee experience.

6. Exit Interviews and Alumni Engagement

AI-driven conversations facilitate smoother offboarding and nurture relationships with former employees. Chatbots can conduct exit interviews, gather feedback, and keep alumni engaged for potential boomerang hiring.

Imaginary Example: InnovateX's Exit Interview Bot InnovateX, a forward-thinking tech startup, replaced traditional exit interviews with an Exit Interview Bot. Departing employees find it easier to share honest feedback with the bot, which has unveiled valuable insights for continuous improvement. Additionally, the bot keeps alumni informed about company news and job openings, resulting in several successful rehires.

Real-World Success Stories

Several organisations have already harnessed the power of AI-driven solutions:

McDonald's: McHire by Paradox McDonald's, a globally recognised brand, implemented McHire by Paradox, resulting in a 60% reduction in time to hire and a 95% positive candidate experience. The solution streamlined the recruitment process for franchise owners and branch managers, allowing them to focus more on restaurant operations and customer experiences.

Honest Burgers: Honest College by The Bot Platform Honest Burgers, a UK-based restaurant chain, leveraged Honest College, a chatbot-based onboarding and learning platform. This platform offers personalised training modules related to various roles and responsibilities, from job-specific tasks to life skills. It not only upskilled staff but also improved overall employee engagement.

IBM HR Services: Employee Transfers by IBM IBM, a global tech giant, automated the process of employee transfers through a chatbot. Managers can now initiate transfers, and the chatbot ensures error-free transactions. Last year, there was a zero-error rate in employee transfers, saving significant time and resources for both managers and HR personnel.

Boston Consulting Group: Boston Consulting University by BCG Boston Consulting Group (BCG) embarked on a mission to create a responsive online generative AI training program. By leveraging generative AI tools, BCG achieved a 60% cost saving in video content development. This initiative allowed BCG to provide high-quality training materials to their teams globally, leading to improved skills and performance.

Ethical Considerations and Regulations

In this era of AI, ethical considerations and regulations take centre stage. It's essential for HR professionals to establish AI ethical frameworks within their organisations. These frameworks cover data privacy, bias mitigation, and compliance with emerging regulations such as the draft EU AI Act.

Data Privacy Data privacy remains a top concern in HR. When implementing AI-powered solutions, organisations must ensure that candidate and employee data are protected and compliant with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR.

Bias Mitigation AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on. HR professionals must work diligently to identify and mitigate bias in AI models to ensure fair and equitable HR practices.

Compliance with Regulations The draft EU AI Act, which is expected to be in place by 2025, introduces specific requirements for AI technology vendors. HR professionals must ensure that their AI solutions comply with these regulations and that their technology vendors are also compliant.

Embrace AI, Adapt, and Thrive

In conclusion, AI is not a looming threat to HR; it's a catalyst for evolution. HR professionals must embrace AI dialogue as a powerful tool for enhancing efficiency, productivity, and employee experiences. Just as the world moved from lamplighters to electricians, HR must adapt and evolve in the face of technological advancements.

AI is here to stay, and HR professionals should not shy away from it. Instead, they should become the electricians of their profession, embracing the change and thriving in the digital age.

Adapt and evolve, for AI is the future of HR, and those who seize its potential will lead the way.

- Martyn Redstone

The future of HR is being driven by AI-powered conversations, and it's an exciting journey to be part of. With the right strategies and ethical frameworks in place, HR professionals can leverage AI to drive positive change and elevate their organisations to new heights. Embrace AI, adapt, and thrive in the transformative world of HR.

And here's the recording of my presentation given at DigiHR 2023in Athens, Greece 👇



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