How AI can be the key to unlocking your scale up – improving HR processes and building the best team

Columnists

In this series of blogs, Daniel Pitchford investigates the ways AI can successfully scale up a business.

Start-up businesses are under constant pressure to perform, show their worth and become successful. Often, when businesses want to scale at speed, they look to new technologies like AI to help increase production and the bottom-line. What they tend to overlook is how AI can help improve infrastructure, providing much-needed support for teams under increased pressure as a business expands.

Investing and implementing this technology correctly is vital. If done right, it can maintain growth, while also providing HR teams with assistance so they can focus on larger concerns and issues.

Smoother, smarter recruitment

The HR team in any start-up is usually small, often consisting of just one person, who often has another role in the company that they were originally hired for. As soon as a business begins to expand and there’s need for extra resource, pressure is put on HR and function heads to find the best candidates in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. The added pressure can lead to snap recruitment decisions without the luxury of time for rigorous testing. New candidates may not integrate well or be able to deliver on promised skills, which in turn can slow down the progress of a business and have a knock-on effect on the wider team.

AI offers powerful support during recruitment drives. Automated systems can analyse certain time-consuming tasks such as reviewing CVs and cover letters – checking at a much faster rate than a small team. Businesses such as Ideal have tapped into this market with a product that increases HR efficiency, while also allowing management to maximise their time by only interviewing candidates suitable for the job. A further argument for AI is its potential to remove human bias from this step in the process, which will lead to a fairer and more equal selection process – that is, if the systems have been safeguarded from the algorithm designer’s bias.

Unilever recently announced it had saved 100,000 hours of work and around $1m in recruitment costs by using AI. It partnered with HireVue, which analyses facial expressions and language used during video interviews to find the right candidates for the business. Even though it is a multinational business, it shows the value these systems can bring to any recruitment process. The time and money saved from implementing AI systems can help start-ups stay one step ahead of competitors in recruiting the strongest and most relevant candidates to continue the growth of the business.

Improved employee morale

Starting any business is stressful, but as it begins to expand, tasks and pressure can begin to build across the whole company. There’s a direct correlation between rapid growth and increased employee turnover, as there can be confusion about the business diverting from its original mission, losing what Harvard Business Review calls its “start-up soul”.

With this added intensity, there’s the risk of a lower morale and the potential loss of some of the best talent in the business. This can stop the company’s scale up in its tracks – as the adage goes, a business is nothing without its people. For years, businesses have been striving to improve several key aspects to an employee’s journey from talent management and development, engagement, learning and development, and enhanced internal communications. AI offers significant advances across all of these areas – not just at the front end of the funnel – but also in supporting and enhancing talent once hired. The crucial issue for companies is: how do you keep people constantly engaged? How do you train them effectively and provide them with the tools to effectively carry out their tasks and excel in their role?

Technology like KeenCorp can flag when a certain team member‘s morale is worsening, while Humanyze helps HR understand the reasons why enthusiasm is slowly seeping away. It assesses language and communication within businesses and can analyse the reasons why certain teams are performing differently to others. Comparing two branches of the same bank, for example, Humanyze determined that the better performing one had an office layout that allowed for more face to face communication. Putting the learnings into use and redesigning the other branch’s office space to improve open communication, it saw sales increase by 11%.

Having a view of this is invaluable in any business but is especially useful when a company is expanding at scale. The ability to detect issues before they snowball is essential, to ensure the company can continue to evolve with its best talent involved throughout.

Much of the conversation around implementing AI in a business context focuses on productivity and a boost to finances – and it misses the significance of using the technology to support people at work.

Employees often feel concerned that these automated systems will replace humans, but instead education needs to be provided to show teams that this technology will be used to provide added support. It is vital start-up businesses understand the value AI can bring in supporting HR teams – and how it can help everyone in the exciting process of scaling up.

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