What Does AI Mean to the Future of Human Resources in Horticulture?

The future is now for generative AI (artificial intelligence), which can create new content and ideas and perform many job functions, and will continue evolving in every industry and job title. We are fortunate that a smart group of horticulture professionals is helping educate how to utilize AI in production, marketing, sales, IT, accounting, and even customer service.

But what about AI’s impact on and possibilities to enhance Human Resource departments and professionals? This is a complex question, as the bridging of AI with human interaction can be concerning. Human Resources is about people, and where is the tipping point between using a computer to manage human interaction before we dehumanize the process?

Current Applications of AI in Human Resources

The current and near-future application of AI in Human Resources borrows from the similar efficiencies AI is supporting other departments or roles.

Most notably in creating and generating communication such as:

  • Job descriptions that better translate industry-wide language and create job postings that will have a wider impact.
  • Create marketing or blog content that better portrays the positives of your company culture and why you are an employer of choice.
  • Create interview questions based on specific job descriptions, which will save interviewers time and increase the relevance of the question, especially with highly technical jobs.

Improving data analysis and analytics:

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  • Identifying trends in employee retention.
  • Determining ROI for specific investments in headcount, HR Information Systems, or other HR initiatives or software expenditures.
  • Forecasting the HR budget.

Increasing efficiency and productivity of HR professionals:

  • Applicant tracking
  • Overall Task Automation of daily or weekly transactional HR responsibilities
  • Project management, including employee training and onboarding process.

Areas of Concern and Potential Conflict for AI in Human Resources

AI applications unique to Human Resources are where the balance between human interaction and AI remains conflicting.

Increasing the accuracy and speed in identifying and hiring candidates is important. In theory, we use a job description and technical or skill set keywords. AI is regenerative. Thus, the process of “teaching” the AI software what the right keywords are for a specific job will get better and more accurate. However, this becomes dependent on the resumes or social media bios such as LinkedIn to include these. Having read thousands of resumes, it is impossible to note all the meaningful responsibilities, expertise, or achievements on paper. Thus, how many candidates are still not found? How many are found who embellished that keyword and do not have the experience? An experienced horticulture industry professional, whether HR or hiring manager, will have the intuition to read enough in a resume to set up a conversation where the missing elements can be assessed in communication.

Currently, the best application utilizing gen AI for finding candidates is in large skill pools where you are trying to fill a well-known job. Currently, the companies that will best benefit from implementing AI in Human Resources will be larger national or global entities receiving thousands of applicants. While Horticulture and Agriculture have companies of this size, most of our industry is made up of companies with smaller employment numbers, and our industry gets extraordinarily little response to job postings.

Several global companies utilize specific AI software to conduct the first interview with candidates. While the time saving is apparent in doing so, this is an application of AI that is polarizing.

AI will help with employee professional development with its ability to answer what career path a professional’s current skills and experiences may lead to. It can identify what additional training or education will help that professional progress forward.

Human Resource professionals in other industries are lauding the positive impact on the Performance Review and Engagement process. Please note AI is NOT being used to determine a person’s performance assessment. This will always require human judgment, empathy, and the right interpersonal communication. While better suited again for larger organizations, AI will compile performance data faster so that the manager can make human decisions more accurately and quickly. AI is reported to help better define action plans for the improvement and growth of an individual.

Current Risks of AI in Hiring and Personnel Management

What are the risks associated with utilizing AI in the hiring process and managing individuals?

Hiring Bias: Inputting the data of a perfect candidate, especially when replicating a current strong performer, historical job description, or a subset of top employees, lends itself to hiring the same demographic, same thinking, and same background individual. Diversity in skillsets, thoughts, and backgrounds is critical to company growth. Companies focused on DEI initiatives could find this counter to their efforts.

Ability to Assess for Behaviors: Referring to the AI solutions conducting interviews in place of a person engaging directly with a candidate, human interaction helps us understand one another’s behaviors and personalities. No matter how well coded, is an AI bot capable of the proper human interaction to make a decision that considers human soft skills? Picture yourself as a candidate being interviewed by an AI bot— how well do you think you would interview, and how would this leave you feeling about that company?

HR Compliance: Human Resources regulations and laws are constantly evolving at the federal, state, and municipal levels. How AI is utilized in hiring and helping HR manage employees will have to be considered, and rushing into its use without properly inputting AI data to account for compliance will lead to issues. For example, currently nine states and six major cities have enacted Pay Transparency Laws in the hiring process and internally with employees, with more coming sooner than later. AI is not capable of providing accurate data on Human Resource regulations and laws at this time.

Intellectual Property & Confidentiality Protection: Although AI can generate content closely resembling human output, it is not human. And since intellectual property (IP) in the U.S. focuses explicitly on non-physical creations or assets made by humans, AI presents a major challenge for legal disputes over patents and IP ownership, namely, who owns AI-generated content?

Thaler v. Vidal, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, sought an answer. In the ruling, AI did not qualify as a human. This meant AI could not be named the inventor on a patent. The ruling stated, “Here, there is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings.”

Accuracy of AI-Generated Data and Communication: It is important to note that all AI-generated information still requires human oversight for editing, accuracy of information, and tone of the communication. Early adopters of AI share that they continue to catch errors in AI-generated information. Thus, a human must continue to review this generated content. More important, especially in written communication, is tone. Does that email, marketing message, or job posting really sound genuine?

Costs of Using AI-based HR Tools

The cost of implementing Human Resource AI solutions varies significantly based on the type of solution, customization, and the company. The pricing ranges dramatically from $0 for basic versions that may still be in the BETA testing stage to over $300,000 for customer-specific HR solutions. An example of HR AI pricing for a singular solution is:

  • $149 per month for a started plan suitable for up to 50 employees
  • $299 per month for a Standard Plan
  • $599 per month for a Premier Plan

Current Human Resource AI Platforms

A sample of HR AI platforms being implemented by companies include:

  • ClickUp
  • JuiceBox
  • Workable
  • Toptal
  • Zoho Recruit
  • Fetcher
  • TribalBase
  • Effy
  • Recrooit
  • Textio

How to Prepare for the Future of AI in Human Resources:

Overcome the fear of AI replacing human jobs by beginning to play with and explore AI and encourage your HR team to do the same. Make it easier for your team to understand it and be the solution to how AI can eliminate mundane HR tasks they don’t want to do to improve efficiency and job satisfaction.

HR leaders will continue to play a large role in how we keep the emphasis on humans in Human Resources. Get out in front of the right HR application of AI and how we do not want AI to negatively impact the human element of hiring, being the steward of your employees’ careers and company culture. Help HR professionals understand how to use AI to think more strategically as professionals and find a way to get better answers to challenges and strategies more quickly.

While Generative AI will continue its progress in being utilized by Human Resources in the horticulture and agriculture industry, it will never replace the “Human” in Human Resources. At the end of the day, professionals want to work for a company that is authentic and real. Employees will stay and flourish at companies with a positive interpersonal culture, and companies emphasizing human interaction will continue to be the most successful. Utilizing current AI solutions, such as creating a job description or helping organize projects, is a great starting place, but AI is not yet ready to be used for anything related to Human Resource compliance.

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