Virginia Scully: Is AI people and culture friend or foe?


“The use of AI in people management is catching on”

By Virginia Scully, managing partner – people at Hatched

In recent years, ‘human resources’ have been given a makeover to become ‘people and culture’, with the aim of being more human-centric.

With that shift, the department has started to move away from protecting businesses and organisations to focusing on the people and putting their needs first. That means more time for human expertise and human interaction including important skills like empathy, fairness, transparency, inclusion.

In competitive industries, high demands coupled with remote work have negatively impacted social connection interaction and fun. This is also impacting creativity and innovation. Leaders are spending way too much time in the work instead of giving time to the role they play culturally in inspiring and developing the brightest minds of the future.

That, alongside changing legislation and the world of work’s increasing complexities, means we must invest time in the admin side of things as we grapple to understand the rules, requirements and laws around looking after our people.

Legislation changes are particularly overwhelming. In the last six months, we have seen half a dozen changes and it’s incredibly daunting. These changes require time-consuming rewriting of policy and over-overhauling of process.

This investment of time is taking away from our special sauce: human skills. The ability to coach, train, interact, support, empower and help our people build resilience is the work that matters. It’s the reason most of us took on the people and culture challenge. But it too often takes a back seat while we deal with the admin.


So why can’t artificial intelligence and machine learning help?

There’s been no shortage of chatter about the impact ChatGPT and its ilk will have on our industry. Copywriters are gearing up for a showdown while spreadsheet jockeys are most likely to be directly hit. But what about our back-end processes?

There’s an opportunity for people and culture to own these new tools. The first step is to familiarise ourselves with the possibilities and overcome the fear many have towards it.

Being at the coalface of the people, there are so many tasks we can look to automate.

The most obvious example is administrative efficiency: AI-powered HR tools can automate administrative tasks, such as payroll processing, leave management, and benefits administration.

In terms of policy and procedure, we can get AI on the job to summarise and consolidate wordy documentation. I’ve used ChatGPT to summarise complex legislation and policy drafting for legal review versus having our legal folks create from scratch.

Off-the-shelf tools such as Employment Hero can help ease the burden. We’re using the platform to manage our employee experience including recruitment, onboarding, offboarding, and productivity.

Personalised learning and development is a major focus for Hatched and AI can help to provide tailored learning paths and suggest relevant courses or resources by analysing individual learning preferences, skill gaps, and performance data. This is something the AI-powered platform Culture Amp can help with.

The use of AI in people management is catching on. Gartner’s 2019 Artificial Intelligence Survey found 17 per cent of organisations were already using AI-based solutions in the HR department with a further 30 per cent planning to follow suit.

As businesses continue to integrate AI into their day-to-day practices, people and culture departments can lead by example alleviating the fears staff have around the technology. This can be done through our use of AI as well as education programs, the establishment of ethical guidelines and feedback channels.

It feels almost counter intuitive to suggest AI can help people and culture teams given the biggest setback of using AI is the lack of emotions and empathy.

But by taking care of automatable tasks, we’re freeing up the humans to focus more on those traditionally soft skills like communication, listening, teamwork, adaptability, critical thinking, leadership and emotional intelligence. And that’s an approach that can benefit the entire business.

Top Image: Virginia Scully 

To Top