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AI’s Role in HR and Talent Acquisition Strategy in China

Human Resources

9th Jan 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making speedy inroads into China’s HR activities where it is being used to sift through CVs, reduce “wrong hire” mistakes, enable jobseekers to self-manage interview arrangements, and answer “frequently asked questions” that assist candidates in completing their job applications.

While China continues to play a leading global role as a champion of the use of technology, AI, and automation in general, should not be viewed as a replacement for professionals involved in the HR process, which remains a human-centric and relationship-focused industry.

Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, machine learning, automation, and jobs. These days, these words often go hand in hand, with China at the forefront – a fast-growing hub for AI and automation development. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, as well as smaller players in the industry, continue the push to develop AI applications and other disruptive technologies. We are living in an exciting time where self-driving cars are on the edge of becoming mainstream, and facial recognition software is being integrated into mobile phones, refrigerators, and other home appliances. Like any technological revolution, a shakeup of traditional job roles is inevitable, but the reality is that jobs will not be replaced – instead, they will evolve.

AI strategy for Chinese corporations
In China, where both foreign and local companies face fierce competition in targeting and attracting elite candidates, the introduction of
technology, such as chatbots that are empowered by AI, could be a differentiator from the competition. Take WeChat as an example. This Chinese-developed, world-leading
communication tool is not only a social media platform, but also integrates with platforms that enable HR applications, such as the promotion of employee referral programmes. This allows organisations to encourage employees to share WeChat postings with their networks to drive more candidate applications. In addition, WeChat also collaborates with various well-known social recruiting platforms such as Ajinga and Talkpush, which provide chatbot functionality using this platform. The crossover of social media platforms with recruitment features, supports the relationship-centric culture in China, and has led to unique and innovative ideas developed by the Chinese HR industry. 

In a sometimes unpredictable recruitment and retention environment, Chinese companies applying AI strategies within their HR environment are discovering that the key benefit of AI and automation is the ability to create efficiency, drive cost savings, and increase accuracy, whilst providing a better experience to both candidates and employees. According to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, AI-led automation is able to boost the economy of mainland China through significant annual GDP growth, depending on the speed of adoption. In addition, Wuzhen Institute, a state-run think tank, also pointed out that China was the world’s second-biggest investor in AI enterprises in 2016, injecting over US$2 billion into the sector. With the support from the central government, together with the endeavours being made by private firms on the adoption of new technology, there is growing confidence within the HR sector that the industry will be amongst many sectors that will continue to be positively influenced by AI.

AI and RPA can be applied to HR function
People generally do not immediately associate HR applications with disruptive technology due to its human-centric nature. However, developments in AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are especially beneficial to the HR sector, and these new technologies have already been applied to everyday HR activities in China, with proven results. For example, the most recently developed robot in China or elsewhere supports candidates by enabling them to self-manage interview arrangements, and answers “frequently asked questions” that assist candidates in completing their job applications. Candidates are aware that the process might not be human- to-human at every step, but appreciate the opportunity to receive information in whatever way they can, whenever they require. RPA in HR has been successful where tasks are repetitive and time-consuming, and where high accuracy is required. Examples include document management, payroll, candidate onboarding, HR data collection, performance management, and online learning.

Enhancing candidate experience
RPA can facilitate a positive candidate experience whilst at the same time creating an efficient process. With the screening and administrative process automated, recruiters are able to shift their focus back to being relationship builders – namely, speaking to candidates, connecting them to managers and guiding company inductions instead of spending a disproportionate amount of time on mundane paper work. Furthermore, the involvement of the robot can also diminish error rates, eliminate bias, and save time and costs by taking out human fallacy. 

Also, RPA has been proven as a smart tool in generating valuable data effortlessly for HR resolution, enabling HR practitioners to spend the extra time on performance analyses and working out creative solutions in improving talent satisfaction. In this regard, if implemented under the proper strategy, HR professionals, candidates, and employees alike should view AI and automation positively, and as a catalyst that opens up more possibilities, helping to develop their careers. 

One example of AI being applied successfully in China’s HR industry is the use of tools that can parse résumés using machine-learning technology. Another is video interviewing platforms, where candidate responses can be analysed for authenticity, based on facial and word recognition technology. The applicant tracking software (ATS) process works in one of two ways: spotting the most promising résumés among the thousands that job offerings in China tend to attract, or widening the net so employers can find a more diverse pool of candidates than they would select on their own.

It is also crucial to pay attention to the trending emphasis on big data in China, which was specifically mentioned at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The application of big data is regarded as essential in every industry and is used to transform departmental directions in companies, including HR. That being said, there is no reason why the HR industry should be threatened by robotics and AI, on the basis that HR is still a very human-centric and relationship-focused industry. If anything, the change will only be positive and allow HR professionals to automate menial and administrative tasks, whilst investing more time in business partnering and meeting strategic goals. 

Embrace opportunities AI provides
However, China-based corporations will not be immune to the HR challenges ahead, including finding, attracting, and retaining top talent. Other foreseeable barriers include increasing labour costs, high employee turnover, and the expectation of HR to do more with fewer resources. HR leaders will need to move people from repetitive tasks to having more candidate conversations, and building long-term candidate and employee relationships to combat these challenges.

In the past, it was often believed that businesses could not concurrently achieve all three dimensions of cost reduction, increased speed, and quality. However, significant return on investment can be gained in all these areas when AI and RPA solutions are implemented correctly. HR and talent acquisition leaders must embrace and not fear the opportunities that AI and RPA provide.


人工智能對中國人力資源管理及人才招聘策略的影響


人工智能對中國人力資源影響日深﹐包括應用在篩選履歷﹑減少錯誤僱用﹑讓求職者管理面試安排﹐以及回答「常見問題」﹐從而協助求職者完成應徵申請。

雖然中國在科技應用方面繼續領先全球﹐但人工智能和自動化不應當作人力資源專才的替代品﹐因為人力資源是以人為本及著重人際關係的行業。

人工智能、機械人、機器學習、自動化、工作,這些詞彙今時今日經常連結在一起,尤其在中國這個人工智能及自動化發展迅速的樞紐,百度、阿里巴巴、騰訊及其他規模較小的同業,持續推動人工智能應用和其他顛覆性科技。我們正身處精彩的時代:無人駕駛即將成為主流,容貌識別軟件正應用在手機、電冰箱及其他家庭電器。一如任何科技革命,傳統職位難免經歷巨變,但事實上有關工作不會被科技取代,而是不斷演變。

中國企業的人工智能策略
在中國,外資和本地企業要物色及吸納頂尖人才,都面臨激烈競爭,運用聊天機械人等人工智能科技,可讓企業在競爭中脫穎而出。以微信為例,這項由中國開發、全球領先的通訊工具不僅是社交媒體平台,亦可應用在人力資源管理上,如結合相關平台,用作推廣僱員轉介計劃,讓企業鼓勵僱員在朋友圈分享微信貼文,吸引更多求職者申請工作。此外,微信亦與菁客和Talkpush等多個知名社交招聘平台合作,提供聊天機械人功能。這類合作符合中國重視人際關係的文化,讓中國人力資源行業孕育出獨特創新的意念。

市場有時無法完全預測招聘及挽留人才的趨勢,有些中國企業將人工智能應用在人力資源管理,發現人工智能和自動化有助提高效率,減省成本及增強準確度,同時為求職者及僱員提供更好的體驗。根據麥肯錫全球研究所的最新報告,運用人工智能的自動化技術,可推動GDP每年大幅增長,促進中國內地的經濟發展,關鍵在於技術的採用速度。此外,國營的烏鎮智庫指出,2016年中國在人工智能產業投入逾20億美元,是全球第二大投資國。中央政府大力支持,加上私營公司致力採用新技術,與許多其他行業一樣,人力資源專業有望繼續從人工智能技術中獲益。

人力資源專業採用人工智能及機械流程自動化
人力資源專業以人為本,多數人不會馬上想到將顛覆性的科技應用到人力資源管理。然而,人工智能和機械流程自動化(Robotic Process Automation,簡稱RPA)對人力資源專業尤其有利。在中國,這些新科技已經應用在人力資源管理的日常運作,而且成效卓著。舉例而言,最新開發的機械人可協助求職者管理面試安排,並回答「常見問題」,協助求職者完成應徵申請。求職者明白申請過程中並非每個環節皆人對人對答,但仍樂見透過這種方式,獲得所需資訊。將RPA應用在人力資源管理成效顯著,特別是重複費時,且需要高準確度的工作,如文件管理、計算員工薪金、員工入職手續、收集人力資源資料、表現管理及網上學習等。

提升求職者體驗
RPA可為求職者帶來正面體驗,同時建立具效率的流程。篩選及行政流程自動化,可讓招聘人員將重心放在建立關係上,包括與求職者溝通、促進求職者與管理層聯繫、安排
入職輔導等,而不是花時間處理一般文書工作。此外,運用機器亦能減少人為錯誤,降低出錯率,同時節省時間及成本。

RPA這類智能工具,可輕易為人力資源決策創造有用的數據,讓人力資源從業員有更多時間分析員工工作表現,制訂更能滿足人才需求的創新方案。因此,若配合適當的策略推動人工智能,相信人力資源從業員、求職者及僱員將樂於接受人工智能及自動化,他們會認同這些技術能帶來更多機會,幫助自己發展事業。

中國的人力資源專業運用機器學習技術分析履歷表,是人工智能應用的成功例子。另一種應用是視像面試平台,根據容貌及文字識別技術,分析求職者的回答是否真確。至於求職者追蹤軟件(Applicant Tracking Software,簡稱ATS)則可從數以千計的求職者中找出最佳的履歷,或擴大搜尋範圍,讓僱主找到更多合適的人選。

此外,我們須留意中國大數據的趨勢,中共第十九次全國代表大會亦有特別提及這點。應用大數據對各行各業都非常重要,此舉可改變企業人力資源等部門的發展方向。但人力資源行業不必把人工智能和自動化視為威脅,畢竟人力資源專業仍是以人為本,著重人際關係。即使出現任何變化,這些變化都是正面的,科技有助將繁瑣的行政事務自動化,讓人力資源從業員騰出更多時間去建立業務合作關係,達致策略目標。

把握人工智能的機遇
然而,中國企業今後仍要面對多重來自人力資源管理的挑戰,包括尋找、吸引及挽留頂尖人才。其他可預見的困難還有勞工成本不斷上漲、僱員離職率高,以及如何加強人力資源部門的工作效率。為了解決這些難題,人力資源主管須重新調配工作,讓下屬減少重複工作,更多與求職者溝通,從而與求職者和僱員建立長遠關係。

從前很多人認為企業無法同時降低成本、增強效率及提高質素,但如能正確運用人工智能和RPA,這三個層面便可同時獲得投資回報。人工智能和RPA帶來許多機會,人力資源管理及人才招聘主管應好好把握,毋須畏懼。

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