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Machines in managing minds

by J Devaprakash
Indian Management June 2024

Companies that fail to catch up with the latest HR trends may find themselves struggling to keep pace with the changing landscape, and may not be able to provide the best-in-class employee experience.

When the muchawaited motion picture Enthiran hit the silver screen in 2010, audiences were amazed by the lead character Chitti, the human-like, AI-based robot who defied human limitations effortlessly. Back then, the idea of such a machine becoming reality seemed far-fetched.

But within twelve years of the film’s release, the launch of ChatGPT in 2022 and Bard (later renam ed as Gemini) in 2023 ushered us into a new era of conversational artificial intelligence (AI), bringing the concept of ‘Chitti’ closer to reality.

Now, we can simply talk to machines and get things done—from drafting proposals to creating images and from preparation of tour itineraries to obtaining expert advices—just like a personal assistant. Recalling a scene from Enthiran where Chitti evinces an extraordinary reading speed, devouring books at an incredible pace, relentlessly requesting more. In a humorous turn, even bulky telephone directories are no match for Chitti’s insatiable appetite.

This act underlines the key difference between Chitti and humans. Unlike us, who become engrossed in the stories and narratives within books, Chitti processes information indiscriminately. To Chitti, a captivating novel and mundane phone listings hold the same significance— mere data. In the world of AI, what Chitti does is called data analytics, to be precise machine learning algorithms to process data.

The intelligent machines

“Artificial Intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programmes,” according to John McCarthy, the father of AI. These powerful machine algorithms are capable of churning through complex statistical analysis and massive amounts of text data in a flash. That is why business giants and leaders are now turning to AI solutions to automate tasks, make data-driven decisions, personalise customer experiences, and innovate for a competitive edge.

AI-powered Management

Among the 5 M’s of management (Manpower, Money, Materials, Machines, and Methods), manpower is considered the most critical factor in achieving organisational goals. In today’s dynamic digital landscape, securing and keeping talents is the ultimate challenge. Interestingly, the digital realm offers solutions, too. In fact, many organisations have already commenced tapping it. And, talent acquisition and management are now moving beyond traditional ways. Today, advanced technologies like chatbot, machine language, computer vision, etc. are increasingly gaining popularity. According to a recent survey, almost all the Fortune 500 companies including the globally top-listed ones, such as Walmart, Amazon, Apple, Ford, Tata, and Reliance are using AI in some way or other in their HR functioning. Keeping pace with private businesses, many public sector companies and several government departments in India have also began leveraging AI technologies in governance, including in recruitment.

Headhunting gets easier

Hiring new employees in a public sector company can be a long haul. It entails navigating a complex web of regulations and managing large datasets. In that, a significant portion of the process involves manually identifying the suitable applications. A typical job posting receives over 25 applications. Here is an instance to relate: The 7.2 lakh government postings (offered during 2014 to 2022) attracted a whooping 22 crore applications, according to a Lok Sabha written reply.

That is why, to many recruiters, screening is a nightmare. Applications verification is a gruelling task as analysing vast amounts of data is incredibly time-consuming, and relying solely on manual processes can be taxing. At times, screening alone takes months, leave aside the rest of hiring process. Besides, limitations of human such as fatigue, emotions and cognitive overload lead to additional hold-up in the screening process. And that’s where AI comes to the rescue.

Automating routine tasks

Repetitive, time-consuming tasks can be effortlessly managed with the help of AI solutions. Chat GPT-based tools are capable of automatically screening and shortlisting candidates by going through each application, checking for relevant skills, qualifications, and experiences, if the applications are too many. By introducing NIRJA, an AI bot and machine learning algorithm, in 2019, National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) reportedly became the first Indian public sector company in revamping its HR functions aligned with the most recent developments in the field. NTPC’s Intelligent Recruitment and Job Assistant (NIRJA) was aimed at facilitating its recruitment process. Another state-owned giant, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), too has jumped into this AI race by incorporating machine-language-driven solutions in its recruitment process. Evidently, AI is growing in prevalence in hirings across organisations, and now, several public sector corporations and government departments are turning to AI solutions to make their selection process simple and reliable.

In reservation compliance

In line with its Constitutional promise of equality, India uses a reservation system to give people from disadvantaged background a fair shot at jobs in government offices and stateowned companies. Government departments and companies comply with reservation mandates by keeping track of vacancies using rosters. It encompasses the control of different aspects, like employee scheduling, resource allocation, and regulations compliance.

AI tools in roster maintenance unlock smarter workforce management, resulting in a more efficient and productive business. AI solutions can also be beneficial in monitoring and ensuring adherence to reservation policies and regulations. It can automatically flag any discrepancies or violations in the roster and suggest corrective actions.

Using predictive analytics, forecasting of future staffing needs— by studying historical data and considering backlogs—can be significantly streamlined. As Forbes put it, “AI will be a game changer for headhunting.” Smart businesses are beginning to align themselves with the impact of AI, which is driving the fourth industrial revolution, and are moving towards “Smart HR 4.0.” Perhaps, companies that fail to catch up with the latest HR trends may find themselves struggling to keep pace with the changing landscape, and may not be able to provide the best-in-class employee experience.

J Devaprakash is the author of Machines in managing minds

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