HR is often perceived as slow when it comes to keeping up with evolving employee expectations, caught in a ‘catch-up loop’ where people’s needs change faster than they can adapt, says Stephanie Coward.

This comes as no surprise as organisations continue to undergo vast amounts of change, such as restructuring to achieve efficiencies, cultural transformation to unlock new ways of working or the replacement of legacy systems and processes.

So, how can HR teams reconnect with the diverse set of employees they serve? The answer lies buried in data. In 2023, 92 percent of HR professionals used people analytics, yet many remain a few steps behind – still struggling to gain the workforce insights needed to inform decisions and identify problem areas.

Whilst tech, specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI), can help dramatically with gathering data – it is what HR leaders do with it next that will make the actual difference.

From HR managers to data experts

Understanding employees has become critical for employers in today’s constantly evolving work landscape, with data playing an instrumental role in this paradigm shift. An abundance of underutilised or mismanaged data frequently conceals vital information from strategic decision-makers. This leads to assumptions based on intuition, generic trends, or unfounded opinions rather than reflecting the true realities of employees.

The future of work is becoming increasingly complex, with diverse individual behaviours and the widespread use of collaborative platforms which offer many new, valuable data points. Therefore, investing in technology that effectively structures, analyses, and interprets these insights is crucial.

Traditional HR data, including demographics, payroll and absenteeism, can provide meaningful insights into an organisation’s operations. Additionally, roughly 280 million people log into the virtual workplace of Microsoft Teams daily, generating rich data from meetings, workday segmentation, collaboration metrics, focus times and networking. Other work experience technologies similarly generate data points; a trend likely to grow in a hybrid environment. It stands to reason then, that defining an workplace is no longer about making cumulative speculations but about understanding the raw, dynamic realities of daily operations.

Rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach, HR practitioners and people managers need to become data experts. Learning what insights to look for to create moments that matter throughout the employee lifecycle. Then, using these to help career progression, learning management, health and wellbeing to break the catch-up loop. Directly responding to employees’ needs.

To simplify data analysis and streamline processes, many HR leaders turn to AI tools like predictive analytics software and machine learning algorithms to gain unprecedented insights into their employees, which would have been inaccessible otherwise. As 70 percent of business leaders prioritise people analytics, it’s imperative to comprehend their employees’ skills and capabilities to effectively address obstacles, refine workflows, and implement influential HR strategies.

From A to Z: how AI can help HR

AI-empowered people analytics software is reshaping HR management platforms. This advancement combines AI with data-driven insights, allowing HR personnel to make well-informed decisions, elevate employee engagement, and boost the overall performance of the organisation. Spotting patterns and subtle behavioural shifts in employees is a unique advantage of AI which allows HR professionals to proactively anticipate and address engagement issues.

In addition, these sophisticated platforms automate routine tasks, freeing HR staff to concentrate on strategic ventures and personalised employee experiences. AI can revolutionise two-way communications using tools like chatbots to simplify interactions between HR and employees.

Overall, AI’s transformative impact on HR can’t be overlooked. It enhances recruitment, reshapes training strategies, and is a cornerstone for increasing employee engagement. AI can support HR through the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’, saving time, granting access to data and unlocking intelligence for benchmarking, analysis and planning.

In addition, HR predictive analytics tools underpinned by AI offer invaluable insights into workforce trends, facilitating pre-emptive talent management and efficient succession planning.

Addressing the ethical elephant in the room

While AI adoption carries challenges, such as concerns about data privacy and job displacement, strategic planning and transparent communications with the team can ensure a smooth transition.

A decision-making framework for the ethical use of AI in human resource management requires an emphasis on human oversight and intervention. HR professionals must consider AI a supporting tool to enhance their decision-making abilities. Human involvement is crucial for context comprehension, empathy, and evaluating intangible qualities that AI might struggle to assess accurately.

To address ethical concerns associated with AI in HR and AI-powered recruitment, managers should consistently monitor and evaluate the performance of AI systems. Conducting regular audits enables the identification and correction of biases or unfair practices. Establishing feedback loops, collecting input from candidates and employees, and improving continuously are essential to ensure fair and ethical practices.

Finally, working with AI-powered HR software vendors who operate within a well-defined governance framework can help. To address potential concerns, technology partners must follow a clear set of guidelines, limiting the scope of AI models to operate within specified parameters. Organisations must adhere to ethical and legal standards and mandate that AI systems only take action after verified approval from a human agent. This approach can reassure organisations and employees that the AI systems are safe and unbiased when helping with decision-making.

AI has divided businesses, with some ready to accept and embrace AI through guidelines and testing, whilst others prefer to limit its use or ban using Generative AI altogether. But in truth, it’s an evolution of what we already have, and HR leaders who remain frightened will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage.

As companies undertake the AI transformation, the fusion of technology and human proficiency is set to influence the HR landscape’s future, steering innovation, productivity, and workplace success.


Stephanie Coward is MD of HCM at IRIS Software Group.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.