Breaking Through the Artificial Intelligence Barrier in HR

Posted by Cathy Reilly


When I heard about Ben Eubank’s new book: Artificial Intelligence for HR, I knew it was a “must-read” for me, given some of my AI concerns in HR: How will AI impact the hiring processes, will it de-personalize employee experiences, overwhelm us with big data and what new skills will be needed to really be successful in HR of the future?

With Ben’s expertise, I knew his take on AI for HR would be valuable, plus I needed to break through my own AI barrier. I picked up Ben’s book and poured through it. It’s filled with clear information, supportive facts, insightful examples and key takeaways. I highly recommend this book as a staple for everyone in HR and add: Read it with a highlighter, since you’ll want to note many of the gems it contains.

I had the recent privilege to catch up with Ben about Artificial Intelligence for HR. Here’s how our discussion went:


CR:  Ben, Something grabbed my attention right from the very first page of your book. You talk about how Carnegie Mellon University had many of their robotic scientists suddenly lured away by Uber. They never saw the new reality of industry convergence coming. This sends an important alert to businesses: Realize that competition for talent can come from any direction.

Can you provide some insights on how HR professionals and leaders should be shifting their thinking and strategies for hiring, and keeping talent in a climate of industry convergence?

04.16.19 AI box symbol from Ben's bookBE:  If you consider this example in the greater context of automation and the changing demand for skills, it really makes sense. For instance, in the last few years every company, regardless of whether they are in the automotive, financial services, or healthcare space, is calling itself a technology company now. Those skills they need are shifting, which means they are now competing with more traditional tech companies for the same kinds of talent. The practical takeaway is to be looking at how hiring is changing for the firm and look at other parallel industries where opportunities to procure talent may exist. Those same opportunities can be considered threats if left untreated.


CR:  You explain that job candidates want a more personalized experience and interaction in the application process. How is technology/AI helping to improve these areas? Is technology/AI helping businesses improve the candidate feedback and rejection part of the recruiting process? 

04.16.19 AI box symbol from Ben's bookBE:  Love this question! I think that AI, specifically chatbots, are helping employers to create better conversations with candidates. One of the stats that helped me to understand just how different this “feels” for candidates in the process is that 75% of them say “thank you” to a chabot, even when they know it’s not a real person! This is making the process more human-centric, and that’s a good thing.


CR:   I see that one of your goals in writing this book was to help HR better understand data and analytics, since this initially is not part of their core skill set. What are your top tips for an HR professional to know in this regard? 

04.16.19 AI box symbol from Ben's bookBE:  I’d say the first one is to look for ways to be more evidence-based in your approach. Instead of relying on your gut or on past experiences, look for any research or data that might support your decision-making processes. The second step is to get more mature in how and what your firm collects as far as data goes. For instance, when IBM was trying to change the internal skills and competencies of the workforce, the leadership team became very focused on measuring and examining the skills acquisition of the workforce on an ongoing basis. Otherwise how would they know if they achieved their goal? The short version: don’t be afraid to leverage data--other functions of the business do and it only enhances credibility over time.


CR: If there was absolutely one “must-have” AI application for human resource departments, what in your opinion, would that be?

04.16.19 AI box symbol from Ben's bookBE:  There is so much volume and focus on the recruiting side of the HR space in terms of AI applications, but I personally would have loved to have a simple chatbot to support requests for information or support from our HR team. When I ran the HR function at my last company, the challenge was finding time for the more strategic activities we needed to accomplish. A simple tool like this can automate up to 80% of the requests for HR support, giving plenty of additional time to focus on the high-value activities that drive results.

CR:  I really like one of the quotes in the book by Gordon Sandford: “If you train yourself to be a robot, then you’re out of a job.” You get into the fact that we need to differentiate our skills or face the consequences as we’re facing the steady flow of incoming technology at businesses. What’s one of the top skills an HR professional should be looking at honing?

04.16.19 AI box symbol from Ben's bookBE:  The skills model we developed out of this research prioritizes five key skills: creativity, curiosity, compassion, collaboration, and critical thinking. I can make the case that all of them are highly important for HR leaders to develop both in themselves and in their teams. If I had to pick one, it would be creativity. Algorithms, bots and AI are incredibly powerful, but they don’t have the ability to dream, imagine, and create. That’s a uniquely human skill, and we should look for opportunities to highlight and develop those creative talents in order to maintain our relevancy in an age of increasing automation.

Ben Eubanks is an innovative human resources professional, speaker, author, and blogger (

Cathy A. Reilly is the CEO & Founder of Onboardia, Inc., HR software, Pres. of KeywordHR Consulting,  and the author of “The Temp Factor: The Complete Guide to Temporary Employment”. For more information, contact us at 800-771-8610 or visit us at



Topics: Management, Human Resources, Employee Experience, @Technology

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