Sue Daley: What has AI ever done for us?

Sue Daley

In a famous scene from Monty Python’s film Life of Brian, a character asks ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ leading to an extensive list of positive benefits gained from Roman occupation. It makes me wonder whether in the future we will have the same debate about artificial intelligence (AI).

Currently, this debate is dominated by headlines about job elimination and Terminator-style robots taking over the planet. Of course, the development and deployment of AI technologies by organisations raises profound legal, social and ethical questions that need to be carefully considered; however, it is important to have a balanced, constructive debate that also recognises the positive benefits, particularly about how AI could benefit individuals in the workplace.

Imagine a future where AI-driven chatbots enable employees to gain instant answers to HR-related questions and queries 24/7, and where recruitment and workplace promotions are based on ability, results and merit, and are not influenced by preconceived ideas or personal biases.

Thanks to AI, we can look forward to a future where employees can gain access to personalised, responsive advice about benefits such as healthcare, pensions and childcare. This could be done proactively and in real time, as and when individual circumstances change. This vision of the future raises questions about what the future may hold for those working in HR.

Just as we have seen in other areas, the adoption of advanced, digitally-driven technologies, such as AI, will change the nature of many jobs. We need to identify these changes now so that we can prepare the workforce through re-skilling and retraining.

However, it is important that we also consider how AI could change employees’ work lives for the better. For example, the use of automated, AI systems in HR has the real potential to reduce many repetitive manual HR tasks, freeing up time for HR professionals to engage, interact with and support employees to set and achieve their development goals and reach their full potential. This could become a key factor in helping organisations to retain HR staff.

By adopting AI technologies, employers release HR professionals to provide more pastoral care to employees, which could enhance the ability to identify areas or issues, such as mental health, where workers may need additional help and support from a benefits perspective.

So, the next time you see a Terminator-style headline about AI, stop and think about what it could do for you, and how its use could benefit you during your working life. You may find yourself coming up with a long list.

Sue Daley is head of cloud, data, analytics and AI at techUK