AI: Risks and opportunities

May 28, 2018 | Sector & policy

Rachel Tonner from the Careers service at Imperial College Business School considers what artificial intelligence means for recruiters and employers.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already having, and will continue to have, an impact on HR. From how you recruit, who you recruit and your candidate experience, to your learning and development offering and performance management practices. It is an exciting time to be in HR and also an unknown future ahead. So what effects could AI have on recruitment and what opportunities and risks are emerging?


Few companies are using data they house on their recruitment processes to unlock their potential. Jeffrey Lovejoy, Europe and North America Recruitment Manager at FDM Group, recently spoke about the opportunities their data has given the company to streamline and improve their selection process. 

Companies should consider investing in looking at their data – data of applicants, data of their performance through the selection process and what indications of success could mean. How many stages there are, which stages tell you the most and the least? What is the candidate and assessor feedback telling you? Also what does your own workforce tell you? Gathering internal data can be achievable, and can reveal more about your employer brand, the successes and challenges of your current recruitment processes and where the gaps could be. 


A common fear of AI is around job replacement and the risk to current employees.  Yes, AI can take hold of basic tasks, yes, it can perform (some) functions that a person can in numerous roles. The most recent estimate by McKinsey is about a third of the activities of most jobs can be automated with AI. 

For companies investing in and embracing AI the results are positive – their employees are freed up from repetitive and time consuming tasks and are able to carry out more creative and engaging responsibilities. Retention is improving and AI can enable more employees to have increased job satisfaction whilst automated tasks are carried out more efficiently. 


Technology and learning is now readily available for people to access. Online courses and apps are affordable and allow flexibility for individuals and are not only for traditional programmers – anyone can make a start immediately and develop. 

Companies investing in AI and the staff training required are seeing excellent ROI. Discover Financial Services invested in technological focused training courses for teams and as a result had a 7% ROI from management and a 243% ROI in call centre agents. Companies and individuals have opportunities to access learning and enhance their skillset. Although you hear a lot of discussion around companies investing in upskilling their workforce, the changes seem to be still to come. I would encourage companies and individuals to research and action how to access this opportunity that can be so affordable and impactful.    

The risk

One of the biggest risks in the coming years with jobs changing so quickly is that companies are led by technology change, recruiting new staff to fit the new positions and forgetting about the potential of current staff. 

With workforces evolving, companies need to really understand the potential of their current employers and the transferability of their skills and experience. This way they can align their current workforce to their future staffing structure and enable internal mobility and retain talent, rather than losing employees who have transferable skills and capability. 

Understanding your staff beyond their job descriptions is likely a real time investment for companies to undertake. However the cost of recruiting new staff is high, and if there are already staff in your workforce that could grow into upcoming roles it would be a shame to lose them. 

What next?

Companies need to invest in upskilling their workforce and refining their recruitment process, alongside thinking of the bigger picture. Consider the impact technology could have on products and services in a number of years and whether the workforce and business strategy reflects this. 

If automated tasks are no longer such a large area of staff budget, what human skills do companies want to build on that AI cannot carry out, like creativity, critical problem solving, relational and innovation. Beyond this, don’t forget the importance of diversity. AI needs to be created by diverse teams, otherwise it’s programmed by the same people and is more limiting.

And for employees and job seekers? We need to accept and embrace that in this changing world we are going to be lifelong learners and take advantage of this opportunity to further ourselves and enhance our skillset and our positions. 

With technology evolving at such a fast pace and in such diverse ways, it is going to impact on all jobs – let’s move with it and see where this can take us and what we can learn. 

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