AI will have its eyes on you: Slip up and you’re out

February 19, 2019 8:00 am


You might not have to worry about robots replacing you just yet. Your immediate concern should be whether AI deems you fit for duty or not.

According to Sadek Al-Assaad, HR/Business Expert and CEO of human resource consultancy Zeder Group, and in an interview with AMEinfo, “The entirety of the admin part of HR will be taken over by the machine.” What this means is that AI will keep tabs on you and report to your boss on your performance.

In part 1 of this interview, we go over the revolutionary impact AI and technology will have on HR, and what that means for employees. Part 2 will go live this week.

AMEinfo: What is the human resources landscape like in the GCC? Any notable trends?

Al-Assaad: From assuming a basic admin role some 50 years ago, HR departments have transitioned into pseudo-business partners to company owners around 10 years ago. Now, the new trend is for HR departments to become influencers across the companies’ entire value chain, becoming a driving force of change. With the incoming digital and technological revolution, the entirety of the admin part of HR will be taken over by the machine.

AMEinfo: How will technology help HR change business?

Al-Assaad: I’ll give you two examples: Recruitment and employee engagement.

For recruitment, you used to go advertise a job opening; you’d then receive thousands of CVs; you’d do the interviews; so on, and so forth, and you’d spend a couple of months trying to figure out who the best person for the job was.

Now, with the technology available, a program can highlight who would be the best person in terms of skills that fits your job requirements.

But this is not the “be all, end all” of the potential of this technology. Today, it’s known that it’s the attitude, the beliefs and the values of the job candidates that will make the difference in a business – not the skill. This is also where technology will be able to help in HR duties, identifying who the best candidate is according to this criteria – beyond just skills. Skills are available everywhere now. You need a programmer? You can get plenty. You need a salesperson? You can find many with the needed skills. The difference here is the attitude of this person, and the aforementioned technology helps in assessing the personal qualities and attitude of people.

For employee engagement, we used to do an employee engagement survey once a year where we send about 50 questions to employees in the business. They answer, then we tabulate the results, and 3 months later we generate graphs and numbers to tell us what we need to know about our employees. Perhaps 10% are at risk of leaving, 15% who are not fully engaged within the company, etc. This is a rearview perspective of the situation – [looking to the past and to past problems].

Now, with the new employee engagement methods, AI can really interact with employees on a daily basis or a need basis. Through the use of algorithms, these AI programs can highlight, for example, which people are at risk of leaving the company, or which employees are not engaged with their work, or whose engagement level has changed.

AMEinfo: So how does this technology assess this?

Al-Assaad: Actually, it’s like a chat box. A program messages an employee through a chat box asking about their day and how they’re feeling. It’s all automated – the program doesn’t need to be manned. Instead, it’s all made possible through AI. With the proper algorithms, companies will be able to have real predictive analyses of their employees, and then they’ll be able to move into a one-on-one discussion to connect with these unhappy employees. Despite the involvement of technology, employee relations are still a very human matter.

AMEinfo: Definitely, the end result will always depend on human interaction.

Al-Assaad: Basically, we used to work on identifying the 20 top performers, the 60-70 in the middle, and the 10-20 with the lowest performance. And then at the end of the year, draft another plan to figure out how to improve the low performance of those at the bottom of the results, how to motivate the middle-performers, and how to boost the high performers. This is extremely time-consuming. By the time you put a new action plan into place, it’s already too late. You’re already behind the competition.

AMEinfo: Are we seeing any large-scale implementation of this technology or is it still in the works?

Al-Assaad: It’s been in the works but [some versions] are already available. Personally, I don’t think that it’s the technology that is at risk here – it’s our mindset that might risk the proper implementation of these things.

AMEinfo: What you’re saying is that we need to be open to this technology.

Al-Assaad: Exactly, and especially from an HR perspective.

AMEinfo: I think, especially in the Middle East, maybe we’re a bit more traditional. We’re not as open to new technologies and new trends just yet.

Al-Assaad: Yes, it’s like “we’re the HR, we’re the police.” We’re here to make sure people are coming at 8 and leaving at 5. If you leave early, we deduct from your salary. (Laughs)

AMEinfo: Yes, it’s the factory mentality – the factory plant manager mentality of the Industrial Revolution. We’re way past that. Nowadays, companies are allowing for remote working, and new practices like this. They’ve actually found that these practices increase productivity.

Al-Assaad: Exactly, and giving goals. It’s a culture of achievement. It’s a culture of understanding where everyone is on the same page.

AMEinfo: And this technology allows you to always be on top of new employee issues without you having to invest so much money or time or effort into it, while at the same time, providing to your employees the listening ear that they desire.

Al-Assaad: Let me give you another practical example. Let’s say we decided to do a survey for our company today, in February 2019. Today, we’re going to survey the staff of 2018. We expect to get the results in June. By the time we analyze the results from June, we’ll put an action plan in September. By the time we implement the action plan, it’ll be 2020. We are already two years behind on our data.

AMEinfo: And the data is obsolete now.

Al-Assaad: So, the good employees have already left. The bad employees are here to stay. And these rotten apples influence the others. This is what happens.

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Mark Anthony Karam
By Mark Anthony Karam
Journalist
Mark Anthony Karam has 4 years of experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: [email protected]



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