How does AI affect the work environment in HR departments?
Researchers at Mälardalen University (MDU) are currently investigating how AI and machine learning are being used to automate interpersonal relationships in HRM. The aim of the project is to understand how HR departments use AI and machine learning and what consequences this will have for the work environment. The goal is to contribute to deeper knowledge about tools, how and why they are used, but also how these tools influence a committed, but rather stressful profession.
HR employees are responsible both for attracting and recruiting employees and for the organisation's processes regarding employee learning, development, performance and well-being. HR departments are also responsible for managing specific situations that arise in the interpersonal relationships in the organisation, for example by dealing with urgent work environment issues in the short term and by working with organisational development and culture in the long term.
At the same time, HR employees have a dual role: as users of AI in HR processes and supporting other employees in their interaction with robots and AI solutions. Therefore, HR departments can be said to function as a bridge between management and employees.
Rising trend in increased use of AI in HR work
Previous research has focused on AI and machine learning in HR and Management (HRM) based on the practical use in various HR processes, but there is a lack of knowledge about how HR employees themselves relate to and are influenced by the technology that they use. And this is exactly what researchers Eva Lindell and Anna Launberg are investigating, both are Senior Lecturers in Business Administration at MDU.
“Research in AI in HR and management (HRM) is a relatively new research field. Although the actual use of AI is still limited, there is a clear and largely uncritical trend towards increased use of AI and robots in HRM,” says Eva Lindell.
AI could create discrimination
Ett exempel där AI idag används är för att sålla och välja ut kandidater vid rekrytering. Genom att använda AI menar man att rekryteringsprocessen blir mer objektiv, vilket i sin tur minskar risken för diskriminering och exkludering.
- Men tidigare forskning visar att fördomar i både variabler och ingående data kan få oönskade, diskriminerande effekter i användningen av AI. Konsekvensen blir att automatiseringen skapar rekommendationer och beslut som riskerar att stå i konflikt till centrala HR-bedömningar och ansvar inom professionen, som exempelvis likabehandling, säger Eva Lindell.
One example is where AI is currently used to screen and select candidates during recruitment. By using AI, it is believed that the recruitment process becomes more objective, which in turn reduces the risk of discrimination and exclusion.
“However previous research shows that prejudices in both variables and input data may have unwanted, discriminatory effects on the use of AI and machine learning. The consequence is that automation creates recommendations and decisions that risk being in conflict with core HR assessments and responsibilities within the profession, such as equal treatment,” says Eva Lindell.
AI controlled search engines influence HR work
Another example that Eva Lindell highlights is that while there is currently limited knowledge available about how the use of AI affects HR work, AI controlled search engines and social media platforms are becoming an increasingly important tool for HR departments and managers. In Sweden, where social media usage covers a large part of the population, such a knowledge gap becomes problematic,” says Eva Lindell.
Why is this research so important?
“Making solid and valid decisions on HR-related issues requires both an understanding of the technology, how it works, and how it generates the ensuing results and answers. HR departments must address questions about both usability and the technical complexity of AI tools, but also the ethical aspects that AI raises. At the moment, however, there is a lack of knowledge about how the HR employees' work environment is affected by having to meet these challenges,” says Eva Lindell.
Financed through a R&D project at Afa Försäkring
The research project is called “Intelligent automation of interpersonal relationships in Human Resource work" and has been financed with SEK 4.8 from Afa Insurance within the scope of the research and development project “The impact on the work environment due to the automation, robotisation and application of artificial intelligence".
The research will be conducted in different ways: by analysing emerging attitudes and approaches to AI in industry journals and specialised press over the past five years, interviews with HR managers and employees, workplace studies and the development of practical aids and tools for HR employees.