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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。



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。




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