Home » Former FedEx Exec Dr. Siow on AI in Talent Management: ‘It’s starting to tip the balance’
For Dr. Choon Neo Siow, who used to work at FedEx as the Managing Director for Training and Performance Enhancement, it’s time for the industry to leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in talent recruitment and management.
During an insightful interview with Amos Tay, Value Chain Asia’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Siow touched upon AI’s role in human resource management (HRM). And also what the industry’s future would look like as it embraces the transformative potential of AI.
“With AI, nowadays, you can collect data on the spot and churn the analysis out on an ongoing basis, literally…You can, then, improve on your test items and predictability almost immediately,”she shared.
Data-driven AI enhances HR’s role and efficiency
Dr. Siow emphasized that AI’s data-driven approach will revolutionize the HR industry by driving a smarter and more efficient talent acquisition and management system.
According to Dr. Siow, HR’s lack of ethnographic presence in the workplace has often been due to lack of time. AI’s integration into Human Resources (HR) operations can relieve HR professionals of tedious administrative duties. It allows them to focus more on higher-value tasks that are of great importance to talent management and organizational development work.
She shared that if HR were to hone their observational and note-taking skills and feed AI with better employee soft data or those that are not numbers but emotions-driven, their solutions and recommendations could be extremely valuable and powerful. However, this can only happen if they engage in the day-to-day operations of the business. Wherein, it requires a concerted effort and dedicated time.
Additionally, Dr. Siow noted that AI is of big help in talent recruitment. She emphasized its ability to assist test developers in properly curating test items. Also, she underscored the ability to creatively design valid items quickly that could accurately measure a candidate’s strength and suitability for a job.
“In FedEx, we would go to our data bank every two years to analyze [if] our [talent assessment] tests are accurate and valid,”said Choon Neo as she looked back at their company’s talent recruitment system.
AI and the issue on human replacement
Although AI brings undeniable efficiency, Dr. Siow believes that human intervention remains integral to talent acquisition and management. Such offers insights beyond mere quantifiable data.
“I don’t see AI replacing recruiters in the immediate future because you still need the human ability to provide information about context,”she said.
From her expert perspective, Dr. Siow admits that AI can do much in the recruiting, selection, and decision-making process. Yet no machine has yet shown an ability to foster relationships or grasp cultural nuances better than a true HR professional in recognizing and dealing with subtleties involved in helping others, such as clients or line managers, accept that decision.
Again, this presses the point on how HR’s role might need to change in utilizing a useful AI in the field. When AI captures and deploys instincts based on HR experiences like a person, maybe only then can humans be replaced by it in the HR world.
HR concerns in AI integration
As AI language models like ChatGPT surge in popularity, it raises concerns about ethics, privacy, and safety. Dr. Siow highlights the importance of addressing these issues.
OpenAI’s GPT-3 architecture, for instance, was fed 570GB of data from a wide range of sources, including books, articles, and websites, among others. This language model birthed Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, or ‘ChatGPT.’ It’s a chatbot that performs complex tasks and provides contextually-relevant responses based on given prompts.
“ChatGPT and AI can do the research for you. It gets all the information for you. Now, your skill set is very different; your role has been enhanced and your role is to enhance bearing in mind its ethical use,”she also pointed out.
In this sense, Dr. Siow notes the importance of treating AI as a supplementary tool for HR professionals as of now rather than a complete replacement.
“[T] hinking about how AI needs to be embraced and used in the most valuable way is really the key to moving forward,”she said.
On AI Bias
AI bias is a persistent issue that has drawn attention from years back. In 2016, ProPublica, an investigative journalism publication, exposed racial bias in a computer program used by a US court. Said program predicts the likelihood of defendants to re-commit a crime, namely recidivism.
In their report, 45% of black defendants are likelier to be “high risk.” This is based on the recidivism algorithm of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, or COMPAS program.
Approximately half a decade after racial bias was found in COMPAS, concerns about racial prejudice arose. It happened shortly after OpenAI publicly released ChatGPT. Users quickly called out the racist responses generated by the chatbot.
Considering said concern, Dr. Siow advocates for a more collaborative approach between HR professionals and AI developers. This is to proactively address ethics, privacy, and security issues.
Navigating the future
The combination of the strengths of AI with the invaluable expertise of HR professionals can strike the right balance in HR-related work. Such initiatives brought about what most experts call the ‘Fifth Industrial Revolution.’
Said period is marked by a resolute focus on sustainability and resilience. The revolution seeks a more collaborative relationship between man and machine in which AI takes on the usual scut work. While HR professionals’ roles charge toward higher-level data analysis and strategic decision-making processes.
“[HR professionals] should now be involved in developing AI tools and deploying [them] in an ethical fashion that benefits not just the company but also the employees,”Dr. Siow stressed.
For her, it is crucial for the HR industry to navigate this new era with a proactive move to co-create HR-AI instruments not faddishly but with great thoughtfulness of their efficacy. While it is expected to bolster efficiency in talent management, addressing AI-related risks and challenges is a must.