IBM is using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate HR tasks and allow employees to focus on more nuanced work that requires human touch.

IBM has developed several AI tools to help businesses run more efficiently and accurately, Nickle LaMoreaux, the firm’s chief human resources officer, told Fortune in a recent interview.

For example, the company has created AskWatston, a benefits virtual assistant that responds to employee queries on vacation policies based on data such as tenure, location, and days already used.

IBM also uses AI in performance evaluation to cull through data on past performance ratings, skills, training, and length of employment.

This saves managers time to invest in coaching employees on how to improve and maximizes career progression.

Overall, the company’s HR department has saved nearly 12,000 hours in the last 18 months by automating systems that previously required back-and-forth exchanges between managers and employees, providing HR with more time to focus on things that matter.

“We’ve got over 280 different A.I. automations running inside HR right now,” LaMoreaux said, adding:

“That’s what is different here. It’s making HR more human because we’re spending time on things that matter.”

AI Could Replace 7,800 Jobs in IBM

While AI use has granted IBM time to focus on revenue-generating production activities, it may also result in the loss of 7,800 jobs in back-office roles, including HR roles that AI could perform.

In May, IBM paused its hiring of back-office roles to shift focus onto skilling employees on AI and upskilling talent to meet the demands of the future.

“We don’t want to bring in a bunch of people and then find out that large portions of their job are actually being transformed by A.I.,” LaMoreaux noted. She added:

“We are being cautious. We are pausing in certain jobs, so we can shift the hiring focus to the revenue-generating, product-building pieces.”

The World Economic Forum reported that AI could affect 40% of all working hours, with clerical, and secretarial roles likely to see a quick decline.

To prepare employees for AI, LaMoreaux suggests companies provide skilling and programs well ahead of the point of severance and be transparent about AI’s strategy.

IBM champions skill-based hiring in tech, with more than 50% of IBM jobs in the US not requiring a bachelor’s degree.

The company assesses candidates on new factors such as being capable of working alongside AI and large language models, asking the right questions, gleaning the right analysis, and understanding what’s worth automating.

“We’re finding that individuals with some of these A.I. and automation skills have gotten them from nontraditional channels. Maybe they’ve taken community college classes or boot camps online. Some individuals have gained these skills in the military,” she said.

LaMoreaux added that she believes every company is a technology company and will be impacted by AI.

Generative AI Could Cost 300 Million Jobs: Goldman Sachs

In an April report, Goldman Sachs said the rise of generative AI will lead to a surge in task automation that could see as many as 300 million US jobs affected.

The report claimed that generative AI, with potentially large macroeconomic effects, is set to disrupt the global labor market and leave an impact on a wide range of businesses across different industries.

Specifically, the new technology would expose two-thirds of full-time US jobs to automation. Furthermore, of these impacted positions, as much as 50% of their workload could be replaced by AI.

Image Source: Goldman Sachs

The investment bank also noted that the widespread adoption of AI could increase the total value of goods and services created worldwide by 7% in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Goldman argued that, historically, worker displacement from automation has been offset by the emergence of new jobs that account for the vast majority of long-run employment growth.

The investment bank mentioned that a recent study by economist David Autor and coauthors found 60% of the workforce is in occupations that didn’t exist in 1940.

“For example, information-technology innovations introduced new occupations such as webpage designers, software developers and digital marketing professionals,” the bank wrote, adding:

“There were also follow-on effects of that job creation, as the boost to aggregate income indirectly drove demand for service sector workers in industries like healthcare, education and food services.”

This means that over 85% of employment growth over the last 80 years has been made possible by the technology-driven creation of new positions, the bank said in the report.

Image Source: Goldman Sachs

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