Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
September 15, 2023

How AI Can Empower CHROs

Not a day has gone by during the past six months when AI does not come up in a headline or conversation. And for organizations of all sizes across industries, the key questions have been about how to ready their organizations for capitalizing on AI’s tremendous potential.

A recent Spencer Stuart gathering of CHROs highlighted AI’s rapidly spreading impact. The guest speaker at the event, Tim Dasey, PhD., an author and strategic consultant who for decades has been a thought leader on artificial intelligence, described AI as a “sea change” that may change business faster than any other trend we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

“Computerization has evolved over the past fifty years, but AI will roll out dramatically faster,” Dasey told the group. “The next five years will see unparalleled change.”

AI can be thought of as a genius that sometimes lacks common sense. What that means for CHROs and other C-suite leaders in general is that they will be critical leaders in interpreting AI’s output in the context of business and market nuances. The talent implication is clear: AI will displace traditional knowledge-based expertise, which in turn places more importance on ensuring there is strong, strategic leadership to guide organizations.

AI and the Fundamentals of Leadership

The irony, then, is that the fundamentals of leadership won’t change. The best leaders will be those who can problem-solve critically and conceptually, bring the right interpersonal and social dimension to work, and have self-awareness and the ability to take in new information and change course as needed. But an ability to access AI-enabled information and “thinking” can enable strong leaders to access richer, deeper, more valuable insights than ever before.

So what does AI mean for the people/HR function specifically?

  1. Faster speed. AI enables talent acquisition teams to more quickly create job descriptions, scrutinize resumes, give situational interview scenarios and measure skillsets. Humans will still play a role in these processes, but by initiating the more laborious tasks with AI, human workers can be allocated to focus on more strategic and interpersonal initiatives.
  2. More effective learning and development. AI can enable training, learning and development in more customized ways more quickly than ever before. Content can be created, games utilized and situational learning deployed across multiple geographies and cohorts in an efficient way. Functional experts can thus focus on spending time with leaders to understand where the business is headed, new skillsets that should be honed, and unique situations that can now be addressed with ease that previously may have been too manual or nuanced to handle efficiently.
  3. Real-time engagement tracking. Ongoing engagement tracking is easier with AI: It can automate surveys, measure culture, track questions related to employee morale and see where specific pockets for engagement lie so that companies can mitigate challenges ahead of time.

CHROs: Creative, entrepreneurial partners for enabling AI

Embracing this change is, of course, tricky, unless someone with authority inside a company is focused on continuous improvement and change management across functions. The CHRO should help leadership ensure this new or enhanced AI-focused position (or team) exists at the company — and then champion and partner with that person. That doesn’t mean an AI engineer needs to be in that position — in fact, it probably shouldn’t be the case. More important than mere technical depth is having someone with an understanding of job roles, processes and employee psyche.

Indeed, a strong and strategic CHRO can enable AI to free up time to be creative and entrepreneurial, and keep the relational “human” in HR and people functions.