Human Resources – Is it Really Human? Really?

Paul Hebert A.I., Employee Engagement

I’ve been thing about this since I saw the book Humanize in 2012. The book was written by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant who run Human Workplaces. About that same time, I started blogging and tweeting using the #humanize hash tag. I thought I had started doing that before I saw their book, but memory is such an unreliable thing their book probably informed my writing. Either way, the start of talking about HR being more human for me was 2012.

Then, about three years ago (4 years after Jamie and Maddie started it) some of the big names in the HR space saw the traction in “HR should be human” and land-grabbed their piece of the idea that Human Resources should be more human. And now some of the biggest names in the HR consulting space are globbing on. Unfortunately, many see those folks as the initiators of the whole Human is HR vs. Human in HR. They aren’t. They’re just crafty followers.

But now… I’m seeing something absolutely hilarious… and the reason for this post.

AI for Human Resources

You read that right. Just as we get the humans back into Human Resources, we’re spending time and treasure to figure out how to make those humans artificial.

Does the irony not drip off that like 3-year-old maple syrup in December?

We need HR to be more human so…. let’s add a layer of technology that is “almost” like humans but not.

I get that AI is about applying technology to repetitive tasks and automating them to “free up” time to be human and help us make better human decisions. But wasn’t that the job of the current batch of HR tech? How’s that working out so far? Yeah.

I get that AI should provide less bias in recruiting and vetting candidates. Not sure how well that worked out for Amazon recruiting?

I also understand that AI is new. It’s shiny. It has no faults, no habits that drive you nuts. It is Brad Pitt before you find out he picks his nose or Beyoncé, until you find out she bites her toenails.

AI is all promise and no problem.

And it is the antithesis of what is needed.

AI is just another “squirrel” for HR to chase while it ignores the key element of quality HR; Managers who know how to manage at the human level.

I think I finally arrived at the point where HR doesn’t really need to be more human. It needs to teach managers how to be more human. But if HR continues to chase the next thing that will “fix” HR they will never get to the point of doing the work that will fix HR.

Playing with AI in HR today is a no-lose proposition. It’s all experiment and no responsibility. I can say “I’m working with AI for HR,” and everyone goes “Ohhhh….” No one really expects any actionable outputs. Go you.

Meanwhile, managers get worse at being managers. Employees stay disengaged. HR gets less human and more artificial.

And the answer to all our ills is right in front of us.

Be human. Be available. Listen. Don’t get distracted.

AI to me is what smart people “think” HR should work on.

What HR should work on is people.

Stop being artificial. Start being human.

PS. I am not a luddite. There are plenty of applications for AI in business – HR included. But putting a better motor in a car with lousy steering means you can go fast with less control. A surefire plan for disaster. That’s the real post. Fix what’s wrong before introducing another variable that can accelerate your problems instead of fixing them.