5 Expert Takeaways About How GenAI Will Impact the Future of HR
There’s a lot of speculation about how generative AI will impact HR. Here are five key takeaways industry leaders are talking about right now.
We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of how generative AI (GenAI) will change the ways we work and there’s a lot of speculation—and uncertainty—about how AI will impact workers. A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows people’s perspectives about the impact of AI on workers is varied. For instance, roughly six in 10 Americans believe AI will have a major impact on workers overall, but only 28% believe it will have a major impact on them personally.
Generative AI is transformative—and accessible
OpenAI’s research estimates that 80% of the workforce can incorporate generative AI technology into tasks and activities that happen in work today. That’s a big impact. McKinsey’s Lareina Yee remarks, “If you just take that 80% from OpenAI, that is not a replacement of jobs. That’s actually blending into the workflow of work that’s done. That is a profound impact on talent and on jobs.”
So far, the conversation about AI has been focused on increased speed and efficiency, the output of these new generative technologies, and AI’s impact on jobs and skills. Rather than zero in on the micro-level view on jobs, Dr. Anna Tavis, professor of human capital management at New York University, says we need to focus on the macro level of impact instead.
“Right now there's a lot of thinking that's going on at the micro level of jobs,” says Dr. Tavis, “but I think the macro level of organizations is what we need to be really thinking about—what does it mean systemically if everyone will get development?”
The future of HR with AI is much larger than jobs, speed, and output alone. It’s going to have a systemic impact with the potential to increase the effectiveness of managers, employees, and businesses at large.
5 key takeaways about the future of HR with GenAI
We’ve noticed five key themes across conversations with industry leaders, the latest research, and the landscape at large. Here are the five key takeaways everyone’s talking about right now.
1. Personalization at scale is possible
HR has long been on the path of developing a human-centric design for organizations, and for good reason. Gartner found employees working in human-centric workplaces are 3.8 times more likely to be high performers and 3.2 times more likely to have a high intent to stay. Focusing on the human needs of the business is important for driving strategy, too. When HR and people analytics teams consider what’s important to the people in each business unit, they’re better able to answer the questions leaders really care about, and in turn, drive strategy and a positive work experience.
AI enables HR to analyze and understand large and rapidly changing sets of data to deliver insights and answers with speed and accuracy. With GenAI, those answers can be surfaced to employees and managers when and where they need them, in the format they can best understand them in, like a simple text answer or as a chart.
IBM’s Tom Stachura, Vice President of Talent Solutions & People Analytics says, “[AI] allows us to deliver the right intelligence in the moment and achieve personalization at scale.”
In an interview with Visier, Dr. Anna Tavis shared, “To put it in one sentence, we’ve been on this path of human-centric design for our organizations—we brought data to help us understand where we are going because I think that was the nearest sort of breakthrough in human resource management. And now we have the ability to actually deliver to that promise through the vehicle of AI as it's becoming more and more distributed and available to us.”
With generative AI, HR can personalize experiences across the employee lifecycle. Recruiting can include more personalization about the candidate, their skills, and relevant jobs that match. For new hires, AI can assist in creating personalized onboarding plans to facilitate a smooth and tailored integration into the company. Managers can use AI to create employee development plans tailored to each individual based on their skills, career goals, and interests.
2. Faster employee training and enhanced employee development
Generative AI has already proven to be incredibly effective at getting new employees trained and up to speed. Research from Stanford and MIT studied the impact of GenAI at scale in the customer service sector at a call center. The research team found access to AI assistance increased agent productivity by 14%. The biggest impact was on less experienced workers, a group that exhibited improved performance across all productivity measures.
As employees gain more experience and skills, employee development is critical. Employees want to learn new skills, and employers want to retain and engage high performers. For employees, career development and skills training are overwhelmingly top of mind. In Visier’s latest skills survey, 96% of all respondents agreed that developing new skills in their workplace is important, and 65% strongly agreed.
“People would want to be moving,” remarks Dr. Tavis. “This is where organizations need to be preparing themselves to become those learning systems, learning environments, and cultures that we've been hoping for for a very long time.” With generative AI, there’s an opportunity to accelerate and scale learning initiatives, making them faster and more accessible.
IBM suggests that using AI tagging on learning content is a must here. When applied to learning materials, AI tagging helps HR recommend relevant training modules and provide personalized learning paths to individual employees. Using generative AI, employees can find training content more efficiently themselves, too. For example, with GenAI employees could have access to professional development virtual assistants to explore possible career pathing opportunities based on their role, skills, and interests.
3. Increasing manager effectiveness
Manager effectiveness is a top priority for organizations. Managers are critical in orchestrating team collaboration, properly prioritizing initiatives, and developing talent to ultimately achieve business goals. Managers are feeling the pressure from their leaders and their direct reports. Leaders want managers to spend more time thinking strategically and developing direct reports, and employee expectations call for more real-time, personalized feedback and coaching.
Managers understand the importance of developing their teams. In a recent McKinsey survey of middle managers, 86% of respondents said coaching employees and 56% said developing talent are the top two ways they add the most value to the organization. But employee development requires time and resources, and managers are already burned out from completing their own contributorship and administrative work while coaching their teams—often without receiving the same type of development themselves.
Enter AI, which can significantly help reduce the manual burden on managers by automating more administrative and reporting tasks so they can spend more time on strategic thinking and employee development. With more time to focus where it counts, and with access to people analytics and insights, people managers can better understand their teams’ level of engagement, resource utilization, and their needs related to things like compensation, flexible work schedules, and more. Using a generative AI digital assistant, managers can quickly ask questions about their team or a direct report and get answers instantly, enabling them to put that knowledge to use right away.
On the topic of generative AI, Bryan Hancock, Partner at McKinsey, remarks, “It’s an opportunity to get managers more consistently up to the level of performance that HR leaders have always wanted them to achieve instead of working on administrative tasks.”
4. Employees are already embracing the change
GenAI is already driving significant change inside and outside of work. It’s critical for companies to embrace the technology and build a strategy to use it—before employees set the standards. In a conversation with Harvard Business Review, Deloitte Principal Nitin Mittal noted that the use of generative AI is already happening, and that pressure and speed of adoption is actually coming from employees, who, he says, want to use the technology.
“If we don’t provide them these particular tools, and we don’t provide them all the ways of augmenting themselves through generative AI, they are going to find their own ways,” says Mittal.
Employees are already seeking the technology—and seeing productivity gains. A Visier survey found that overall, employees who are currently using generative AI applications at work reported an average of 1.75 hours saved each day—more than a full day’s worth of work each week.
So, how do you begin weaving GenAI into your organizational approach? Dr. Tavis suggests starting slow and finding a use case like coaching or development to test drive the technology. Once you’ve started using genAI, be curious and ask questions like:
What can I do to improve productivity across different functions in my organization?
What can I do then to apply generative AI to workflows in my organization where there will be value?
What new experiences can I create for employees?
How can I use generative AI to improve organizational design and effectiveness?
What can we do with GenAI to increase a sense of belonging, mitigate bias, and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion?
5. Using GenAI requires vigilance and trust
HR leaders must stay vigilant about AI regulations as they develop, and as this emerging technology continues to evolve. Some regulations have already been put into effect, like New York’s AI Bias law, and more are certainly to come. One thing that’s clear: AI should be used to enhance decision-making, not make the final call.
For example, if AI technology provides a series of recommendations related to, say, hiring one candidate over another, the responsibility is still on HR, talent acquisition, and the managers to review the information and make the final decision. Ian Cook, VP of people analytics at Visier shares, “I think that's one of the pieces of education that is very important inside an HR group is, yes, the machine is here, the generative AI is here to help you and guide you, but if you don't feel good in your gut about the decision in the end, then you have to explore why, because we are accountable for that decision.”
Companies need to be very savvy about generative AI and the platforms available when selecting vendors and consultants they want to work with. Similar to peer-reviewed academic publications, technology must be examined and vetted. “I think knowing who you are buying those tools from and being in a trusted relationship and joint accountability, understanding that if something goes wrong, you know you are in it together,” says Dr. Tavis, “because things are going to go wrong, these are all new technologies, so I think that that's where you need to be.”
The benefits of using GenAI in HR are vast—and evolving
Generative AI is not just a passing trend, but a transformative force that is reshaping the way organizations operate. Employees are already embracing the technology and benefiting from productivity gains. HR teams can use GenAI to achieve personalization on a large scale, speed up new hire training, and enhance employee development initiatives, including internal mobility, reskilling, and upskilling programs. Managers can use generative AI to automate mundane and administrative tasks, freeing up valuable time to focus on strategy and employee development. By embracing generative AI with a curious and vigilant mindset, HR leaders can spearhead exciting programs that create a better experience for people and drive success for the business.
On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and reskilling employees. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices like how to create a strategic compensation strategy, metrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.