How AI can supercharge SME HR teams
By Ben Thompson, CEO of Employment Hero
Every business needs good people, but for a smaller business the impact of a single HR problem can be far larger.
What might be contained within a team in a larger organisation can easily impact an entire SME. And perversely, these companies often have HR teams that are either over-stretched or barely exist at all – despite the importance of people to any company doing well. The pandemic and Brexit have accelerated this problem for smaller organisations: Big firms have teams of lawyers still able to pull in talent from Europe or design remote working policies at a rapid pace. Smaller firms do not.
But help is on the horizon for these often overworked HR teams: AI.
AI can streamline repetitive tasks
The core responsibilities of any HR team – hiring, onboarding, and offboarding – often involve a significant amount of paperwork. Constructing documents from scratch or using templates can be time-consuming for one-person or part-time HR teams.
AI, specifically large language models like ChatGPT, can act as a powerful force multiplier. By providing a bullet-pointed list of requirements, HR professionals can ask the AI tool to generate a first draft of a job description. While the human touch is still essential for finalising the document, starting with an AI-generated draft is much more efficient than facing a blank page.
This can free teams up to do all the “maybe next week” tasks that urgent task often push off – things like taking employees out for one-on-one meetings to check on their tasks, getting a hiring pipeline ready for the months to come, and making sure policies are in the best possible position. For a smaller organisation these tasks have often been seen as just impossible – AI means they are entirely attainable.
Our new superapp Swag integrates some features from Open AI, including generative job descriptions and questions for 1:1s. But this is really just the start.
AI enables sophisticated data analysis
Paperwork is really just the start. AI can do more than just speed up boring tasks – it can also do entirely new things that an SME would be unlikely to consider possible without it. This is particularly true of data analysis, which HR professionals can use to assess the performance of both their teams and their organisation’s approach to those teams.
Computers have always excelled at data analysis. But as any data scientist will tell you, a lot of the challenge with data analysis is actually obtaining a clean dataset and keeping it updated. With so much employment information spread across multiple emails, pdfs, paper forms, and HR apps, just getting the data into a spreadsheet can seem daunting. But here once again, AI can help
AI will be able to gather vast amounts of data from diverse sources like PDF documents, emails, and websites, then conduct custom analyses for users. This holistic approach to team assessment goes beyond traditional KPI metrics and, when properly programmed, helps mitigate any biases that humans may inadvertently introduce during the evaluation process.
SMEs can outpace big companies on AI
Big companies change slowly, generally preferring long-tested solutions over new ones.
While AI is in its infancy, many large corporations are only beginning to explore its potential, worried about the potential for a rough headline or a mistake that impacts thousands of staff. In contrast, smaller companies can be more agile in integrating AI tools sooner.
When applied to hiring, this can help SMEs find the best talent that usually stays locked away at large firms. A lot of people would really like the energy of working in a small team, but don’t have the time to make the jump of applying for a job at one. A personalised approach to them – the kind of approach you can make with some more time on your hands – can be the thing that gets them to jump off that big cruise ship of an organisation and onto the speedboat of an SME.
The limits of AI and the human touch
AI will be a remarkable tool for HR, but it can never replace the human touch that the field inherently requires – it’s called “human resources” after all. No one wants an automated message telling them they are good at their jobs, or a party thrown by a robot to celebrate 10 years at a company. Similarly, the idea of redundancy rounds being conducted by an AI rightly chills the mind. Work is an incredibly important part of people’s lives and the levers that shape it should not entirely be handed over to machines. AI should aim to augment HR teams, allowing them more time to focus on these crucial elements. In these early stages of AI implementation, human oversight remains crucial to catch any glaring errors that AI may produce inadvertently.