AI’s Transformative Impact Discussed
“Just get started” and take incremental steps into the artificial intelligence realm is the advice for large and small organizations that Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux, ’01, shared in an eCornell Keynote Sept. 7.
“Scope something small so that you can test things, try it out, get feedback in real-time, and once it starts working, you can add on,” she said in the “AI and the Future of Work” conversation with Colvin, ILR’ Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution.
When administrative tasks such as benefits, time off and payroll processing questions are answered with the help of technology, employees receive answers 24/7 in a matter of seconds, LaMoreaux said. That frees HR generalists from routine tasks and gives them time to have more meaningful conversations with employees and managers about complex issues such as compensation.
As a result, employees are “getting value at a higher level,” she said. “Your judgment is what people want, and this unlocks you to spend more time doing that,” she said in a livestream seen by more than 1,000 viewers. “Because basic questions are answered, HR generalists are able to get to you faster, and trust builds more quickly.”
“Guardrails are particularly important … how is the experiment going to work? Set your principles … start with not having AI do everything. And governance lets you know when you are drifting,” she said.
“Standardization has a lot of value, but where you need to be a creator of a point of view, leave that to the humans … AI is never a decision maker. Decisions are made by humans.”
HR is leading the AI revolution in the workplace, and AI’s impact is sometimes misunderstood, LaMoreaux said. “Too much time is being spent on doomsday scenarios of AI replacing humans. We need to reframe. Are jobs going to go away? Yes, but that’s a small fraction of jobs that will go away over a long arc. New jobs being created will outpace lost jobs.”
Nine million interactions are handled through AI each year at IBM, where automation has led to cost efficiency and better experiences for workers and for HR generalists, “who are doing higher value work and having more fulfilling careers,” said LaMoreaux, who has led IBM’s HR AI initiative since it began in 2017.
Colvin said ILR students have increasingly sought to learn more about data science and how it can be applied to address workplace issues. The school has expanded the statistics and data science content of its undergraduate curriculum to prepare students for careers that will increasingly employ these tools. It has also added new courses addressing the technological changes transforming the workplace.