Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Nigel Guenole

Dr. Nigel Guenole, a psychologist, is Director of Research and Ethics for the Institute of Management at Goldsmiths, University of London and Chief Science Advisor to Podium Assessment Systems, a team of international academics, workplace psychologists, and technologists who offer assessments that give organizations insight into their employees.

Guenole’s research, which focuses on the use of analytics and artificial intelligence by corporate Human Resources departments, has appeared in scientific journals as well as the popular press, including Harvard Business Review. He was a speaker at WonderLearn, a June 5–6 conference organized by H-Farm in Venice that focused on the evolution of corporate education. Guenole spoke to The Innovator about why it makes sense for human resources departments to use artificial intelligence (AI).

Q: How can human resource departments benefit from using AI?

NG: There is a strong case for using AI to touch pretty much every point of the employee journey, from recruitment to learning and development. All jobs are going to change in some ways and organizations have a responsibility to prepare their workers. The key is how much data you have and the right experimental mindset. HR systems get better at processes they were designed to do by learning from data sets, summarizing outcomes of past decisions and leveraging feedback. Up until now in order to access the skills the company has in the organization managers completed a form about employees. It was considered an administrative task, one that was not taken seriously, usually done last minute and not dependable. Corporates can use AI to aggregate a better picture of the skills they have in their organization against the skills they need to have and, if you there is a gap there, take steps to close those gaps.

Q: Can AI help with retention of employees?

NG: Absolutely. AI can help individual employees get where they want to go by identifying adjacent career paths and the skills required and recommend learning paths, including what are the quickest paths people in the past have taken.

Q: Can AI help companies recruit people from the outside?

NG: HR can use AI to answer questions from job applicants and give insight into the company’s culture. It can also recommend jobs within the company to applicants based on their actual skills. The technology can make screening and time to hire faster and help HR to make better hiring decisions. The technology provides experiences in the hiring process akin to those offered by digital companies like Amazon and Netflix to attract employees to want to come and work for a corporation, offers decision support in the work flow in real time and the return on investment is hard to beat.

Q: What about bias?

A: There needs to be caution when it comes to the scale and the speed at which these systems are making decisions as AI could end up impacting millions of lives. Psychologists have developed a whole lot of processes to ameliorate these biases and ensure that they don’t create any adverse impacts but still predict job performance. The media has underplayed our preparedness on these issues. That said, it would be silly to say that all of the problems have been solved. People need to work hand in glove with designers of AI systems to ensure that the people impacted, like minority groups, are brought in during the design of these systems and not after they are completed.

Q: How do you recommend that HR departments get started with applying AI to recruitment and corporate education?

NG: I recommend a design thinking style workshop. Get experts in the room from HR as well as vendors and academics in order to facilitate what you are trying to do and build a use case. Then you can start to look around and determine if the AI technology that you need already exists or if you need to build something new. The challenge is to align the priorities and needs and demands of the organization and the workers.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.