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Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast changing how human resources plan their companies’ workforce, a recent survey finds. 

The Harvey Nash Human Resources survey found that 15% of global HR professionals cite AI as impacting their plans now and that number jumps to 40% in the next two to five years. The survey polled 1,008 HR employees in more than 40 countries from Oct. 27 to Dec. 21.

Having a technology-enabled HR department was cited by 60% of respondents as having increased in importance over the last year, while more than half noted innovation as “very important” and 86% said that HR has a crucial role in advancing innovation.

“It probably comes as no surprise that technology is seeping into the Human Resources department, but what is particularly striking is quite how many HR leaders believe that AI and automation are affecting their plans already,” said Lisa Wormald, director, Harvey Nash Group. “The good news is that HR is not only embracing this innovation, but is a key part of it.”

New York-based startup, Untapt, is one of a number of companies developing AI technology that can more easily help HR and hiring managers to determine whether a potential hire is right for the job and to review a larger pool of diverse candidates, Fast Company reports. 

"People are very subject to unconscious bias, and with the help of the machine, you can overcome a lot of the unconscious bias," said Tom Haak, director of the HR Trend Institute. "When the machine learns what you’re looking for, it can say, if you find this type of candidate positive, here are other ones.”

Untapt cofounder and CEO, Ed Donner, said his software can make it more efficient to find candidates than doing a text search for resumes and cover letters. The software is able to learn from candidates already interviewed and make changes to its algorithms, he said. It also searches for diverse candidates, including women, veterans and people of color, who might otherwise go unnoticed by human recruiters.

"You’re dealing with this very noisy data set with a lot of information," Donner says. "That kind of problem is perfectly suited to artificial intelligence and to machine learning.”

Another company, San Francisco-based Restless Bandit, focuses on so-called “talent rediscovery” or allowing a company to search through previous candidates who did not make the initial cut to see if they would be a good fit for new positions. 

Steve Goodman, cofounder and CEO of Restless Bandit, however, acknowledges AI can’t totally displace humans in the interviewing/hiring process. "We can tell you the 15 people to interview, or the 20 people to interview," he said. "We can’t tell you who to hire.”

But that is not stopping some companies from developing AI technology to determine personality and aptitude for a job that goes beyond today’s more basic personality quizzes that some candidates have figured out how to outsmart, according to critics. 

In Asia Pacific, 70% of HR executives believe AI and robots will lead to big job losses in the next five years, Singapore Business Review reports, citing an MIT Technology Review research paper. But HR managers see themselves playing a broader, more relevant and strategic role amid the transformation.

“Automated HR tools have built-in capabilities to think faster; that leaves HR to focus on more meaningful things like getting the candidates onboarded,” said Glenn Dittrich, director of Smarter Workforce, IBM Asia Pacific. 

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