Industry insights: How AI will revolutionize HR

Adam Binnie, the chief product officer at Visier, details how the company’s adoption of AI could change the industry.

Adam Binnie, chief product officer at Visier. Photo: LinkedIn

Earlier this year we shoulder-tapped local HR unicorn Visier for our How to get a job story series. Now, in the midst of an AI revolution, we are looking to connect with local leaders on how their companies are incorporating it into their business. We’re creatures of habit here at Vancouver Tech Journal. So it was only natural that we reached out to Visier once again for our Industry Insights story series — and this time, its chief product officer. 

The conversation has been condensed and edited lightly for clarity.

Vancouver Tech Journal: Can you describe what an average HR professional’s relationship with technology is like?

Adam Binnie: HR, like most organizational functions, doesn’t easily fall into an average category, as each organization has its own challenges. 

Most often people think of the role of HR Business Partner (HRBP) as most representative of their experience with the HR team. The HRBP’s main role is to support the business in understanding how people impact business results — for example, how easy or difficult it is to hire or retain critical skills, legal and compliance requirements on employment, or advice on coaching and development for team members.

What used to be an industry largely based on inference now relies heavily on the use of people, data, and technology. Technology to explain who is being effective, data about what roles and skills are in high demand or not, or technology that can be leveraged to define employee career opportunities. So HRBPs are in a transition. AI will only accelerate this transformation.

VTJ: Why do you think that relationship operates in this way? 

AB: Classically, HR was deeply involved in many compliance and operational issues. It was seen as an area of expense for the business, rather than a strategic function. The processes used to hire, onboard, retain, and dismiss employees were cumbersome and took a lot of time, effort, and training. Over the past two decades, these processes have evolved, and been digitized, automated, or distributed to managers. The result is that HRBPs today are far more consultative and provide far more counseling and coaching than ever before. At the same time, most other functions have found and adopted data-driven practices to provide evidence to support change and improvement. HR is no different.

VTJ: Can you describe what Visier does?

AB: Visier provides a set of applications, usually via the HR team, that provides all that people-data to employees, managers, and those HRBPs quickly and reliably. Our customers leverage our portfolio to expand from simple challenges like understanding how and where their workforce is growing and shrinking to more complex subjects like ‘What skills will we need in the future?’ or ‘What are the potential careers for each individual employee?’

Visier ingests data from the many other applications that exist in HR — most HR departments operate over 10 apps — collects that data together, supplies out-of-the-box analysis to identify key issues or opportunities to improve, and then demonstrates how action can be taken on those opportunities.

VTJ: How are you incorporating AI and machine learning into the business? 

AB: We see AI having a significant impact in many areas, and have been delivering many types of AI for the last decade. Leading up to today, we’ve used AI to offer a set of predictive models, like ‘Who is most likely to resign and why?’, normalize and match people to their skills, and model ideal career paths. 

What is exciting now is what generative AI has to offer for the future. We see generative AI as transformational in enabling the interaction of managers and employees with people-data. Before, providing these insights required training and support to allow managers access and understanding of the data available and how to employ it effectively. With generative AI, those users can now have a conversation with our generative AI assistant, Vee, and be led to those same insights in a faster, more digestible manner. It simplifies a complex process, making it easier for managers and employees to access and understand these insights.

VTJ: How have your clients felt about these integrations? 

AB: Our clients have been hugely successful and positive with our predictive and normalization efforts. But the new collective of generative AI capabilities being seen in the market is a different matter. They are taking a very cautious approach to their use for several significant reasons.

Firstly, generative AI has demonstrated that it can provide inaccurate (hallucinatory) responses. Secondly, generative AI, once trained on your data, does not have a mechanism to determine who is allowed to see that data — so it is not possible to keep private or sensitive data secure. Thirdly, generative AI needs to be retrained to remove any specific data from a generative AI model, and given GDPR and other privacy frameworks require the “right to be forgotten”, this would involve retraining the model repeatedly, which is cost-prohibitive.

Because of the way our platform is built, Visier has found a way to work around these concerns, so our customers can move forward and gain the benefits of generative AI.

VTJ: In many industries, AI is set to take away jobs through automation. How do you envision AI will affect the roles HR pros hold?

AB: I think today, most people see the consultative and counseling roles of HRBPs as being augmented rather than replaced by AI. However there are many areas across HR that could see an increase in automation. Take, for example, the many support requests HR deals with, or compensation teams that identify and measure market norms for compensation benchmarks. Both of these can benefit greatly from having AI automate the tasks. Then there are roles such as learning and development or recruiting, where AI will play more of a key role in the function, freeing up more time for team members to focus on more strategic value to the business.

VTJ: How have investors received your tech?

AB: Our investors and customers are very positive on our approach to bring AI into the HR function. Today, Visier has 35,000 customers leveraging our unique people-insights to improve the performance and satisfaction of their employees, and we expect many of those customers to look to embrace future technology enhancements, including generative AI. Visier fundamentally believes that the next 25 years will be all about increasing organizational productivity through people.

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