Paymaster Magazine
Illustration - Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) — what it is, and why it is so relevant to the HR industry

Headshot: Adrian Baillie-StewartAuthor: Adrian Baillie-Stewart — Director and Content Strategist at Content Strategics (Pty) Ltd

Editor’s note — This is the first in a four-part series of articles published exclusively for Paymaster People Solutions. The article series looks at the growing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the Human Resources (HR) industry. This, the first article in the series, describes and discusses what AI is, within the context of the HR industry and the impact it is having on HR professionals. Further articles in the series will consider the following related topics: AI and Recruitment, AI and Training, & AI and Payroll.

We invite you to watch this space — articles will be published on a monthly frequency.

What is AI all about?Illustration - Artificial Intelligence (AI)

If you are an HR professional serving in the HR industry, then you are certain to have encountered information that referenced the rise of AI and impact that AI is having on the HR profession. Consequently, if you would like to find out all there is to know about AI—such that you won’t be feeling as though you are in the dark any longer—then this article is a good place for you to start as you journey on towards more comprehensive AI enlightenment.

To start with, let us look at gaining an understanding of a suitable definition for AI — one that applies well to the HR industry too.

Defining Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In the broadest sense, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as “the capacity of a computer to perform operations [comparable] to learning and decision making in humans.”,[1] A more applied type of definition describes AI as, “trying to solve [by computer] any problem that a human can solve”[2] …but with significantly more speed than a human would take to solve the same or similar problem.

Another interesting definition states that AI “is a branch of computer science that uses machine learning algorithms that mimic cognitive functions, [thereby] making machines more human-like.”[3] Thus, it would seem appropriate that—for an industry that is commonly known as Human Resources—there ought to be a keen interest in emerging technologies that best leverages human-like functions for practical applications in various specialised fields of human resources (such as recruitment, training and payroll).

It is already commonly accepted knowledge that, within the human resources industry, AI has “disrupted HR and enhanced the way HR professionals get things done”.[4] “The biggest driver of AI’s impact on the HR industry is the massive growth of big data. Until now, we haven’t had access to simple software systems to track and analyze internal employee data such as: sick days, vacation requests, hiring trends, workflow, etc.”[5]

These new AI software systems are impacting the HR profession in a significant manner.

Illustration - Artificial Intelligence (AI)AI impacts HR in various ways[6]

AI in HR has gained much appeal because of its promise to leverage intelligent machines in order to assist the HR professional with new and inventive ways of keeping their focus on the needs of new job candidates as well as current employees.[7] Globally recognised talent management expert Meghan Biro, states that AI impacts HR in the following primary areas:[8]

1.  Personalisation for training and learning

With so many different styles of learning to be encountered amongst “the many generations [of employees] now [occupying] the workforce, embracing modern training practices has never been more important.”[9] Biro explains that:

AI is helping to personalize corporate learning, by capturing meaningful employee data relating to a wide range of learning experiences and behaviors. The same machine learning computer algorithms that “learn and recommend” by analyzing your choices of where to shop or what to eat, will “learn and recommend” when it comes to employee training. In fact, these systems will continue to parse and analyze as more and more employee interactions occur, and be able to tweak training programs accordingly, making training more efficient, and training outcomes more effective.

2.  Workflow Automation

Once-off scheduling and recurring scheduling can be the ultimate torment of many an HR professional’s existence. With relevance to workflow problems, AI has already proven itself to be the true “game-changer.”[10] Rob May of Recruiter.Com writes that the HR industry can “expect to see software in the next few years that automates simple HR processes like interview scheduling, employee performance reviews, employee onboarding, and even the answering of basic HR questions, …[which] will take on many forms, including traditional Web applications, conversational interfaces, and digital assistants.”[11]

3.  Improved Recruitment

It is generally accepted that, Human Resources (by virtue of its name being so closely linked with human beings) remains a challenge to engage with — for many credible reasons too. Traditionally, software has not done well to acquire base-level data on individual people seeking job positions, resulting in the recruitment process (up until now) remaining a somewhat tortuous process. This is set to change soon – in fact it is already changing!

Biro writes that, whilst “still, in its (relative) infancy, the [AI] software driving natural language processes and predictive language analysis will help speed up recruitment by allowing you to weed people out faster, and with fewer mistakes.”[12]

Ed. — At the Paymaster People Solutions Recruitment division, AI is firmly embedded within its online recruitment software-engine. For more details, you are invited to contact company CEO and Managing Director, Ian Hurst. Also, watch this space for the next article (in this four-part series) which will specifically focus on AI in Recruitment.

In the final analysis, a decided advantage of AI software systems involves the design of software that offers significantly improved prediction models. Biro writes that:[13]

Whether it’s predicting future turnover rates, reduced (or increased) employee engagement levels, concerns about internal employee communications, project completion problems, and any other unexpected hidden issues that would usually take years to surface, artificial intelligence will (most likely) be one step ahead of you. And when it comes to cost savings and overall organizational efficiencies, that’s a very good thing.

Citing notable examples where AI is ideal for use in the HR industry[14]

Candidate screening during recruitment

With many exciting possibilities still beginning to unfold, existing scenarios include instances where “companies can test candidates by having them interact with a chat box or AI tool, answering common candidate questions about the role while also asking for feedback and information about the candidate.”[15]

Candidate engagement during recruitmentWoman with robots peering over her shoulder

Most job-seekers, once they’ve applied for a job vacancy, receive little to no communication from the employer. With AI however, an automated engagement process is initiated — a process that goes well beyond standard automated emails or messaging workflows characteristic of your standard marketing-type software service. AI promises to offer real-time, unique engagement opportunities that best-fit individual candidates — engagement that is not merely driven by a tags, positions, locations or categories.

Career development in training

In complex organisational contexts, it is becoming increasingly necessary for a company to offer its employees a unique, customised set of training and learning options that will suitably advance their professional growth and career-path trajectory. With traditional manually-managed interventions, employers aren’t always able to do this productively and efficiently. However, AI offers exciting alternatives which promise to “scale a career development program or company coaching for each and every employee.”[16]

The few examples cited here, demonstrate a small sample of possibilities that the HR industry stands to gain from AI being incorporated into its HR software systems. If ever there was an exciting time to be an HR professional, then now is that time — the present day and age of HR.

Illustration - Artificial Intelligence (AI)Concluding thoughts – a future with AI will allow HR to best-deliver on its core mandate

Ian Hurst, Managing Director of Paymaster People Solutions, has designated strategic priority to the rolling out of AI software systems. As far as Hurst is concerned, all future products and services on offer at Paymaster People Solutions, will at all times be subjected to a rigorous analysis of the AI components embedded within its software systems. This is of crucial importance, so as to leverage AI to the best benefit of all Paymaster People Solutions’ clients. Hurst maintains that every HR executive should be giving sensible thought and planning to their overall human resources operations, by constantly asking the following primary question of themselves (and their teams): “How can I start using AI in order to be sure that the mundane is automatically processed using AI software, thereby freeing up my staff to get on with the more meaningful tasks and assignments that truly add optimal value to the company’s performance?” Hurst is confident that, when the HR function switches over to a focused strategy of AI usage, scarce (and useful) resources are significantly freed up, thereby contributing towards the human resource function’s ability to best-deliver on its core mandate.

Anthony Onesto (featured on LinkedIn Pulse) writes: “I think AI technologies embedded in human capital solutions can provide companies with unprecedented access to real-time human capital information that will allow a line leader, a manager, or CEO to make mission-critical people decisions, in the moment, [and] not months down the line when they are presented with out of date human capital information.”[17]

There is no doubt that, for the HR industry, AI offers excellent “cost reduction and efficiency gains, and once [AI] reaches its tipping point, the opportunity for HR and recruitment professionals will be huge.”[18]

To conclude, as Rob May of Recruiter.Com has so aptly said: “As a leader in HR, you should invest the time to understand where the best opportunities are to apply AI in your company, as it can—if done right—be more of a competitive advantage than any technology that has come before it.”[19]




[1] ‘Artificial Intelligence | Define Artificial Intelligence at’, accessed 16 November 2016,–intelligence.

[2] ‘The Definition of Artificial Intelligence’, accessed 16 November 2016,

[3] Jessica Miller-Merrell, ‘9 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting and HR | Blogging4Jobs’, accessed 17 November 2016,

[4] Meghan M. Biro, ‘Artificial Intelligence and HR: The New Wave of Technology’, TalentCulture, 3 October 2016,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Meghan M. Biro, ‘Artificial Intelligence and HR: The New Wave of Technology’, Converge.XYZ, 11 August 2016,

[7] Miller-Merrell, ‘9 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting and HR | Blogging4Jobs’.

[8] Biro, ‘Artificial Intelligence and HR’, 11 August 2016.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Rob May, ‘The Future of AI in HR’, Web/Online Publication, Recruiter.Com, (8 July 2016),

[12] Biro, ‘Artificial Intelligence and HR’, 3 October 2016.

[13] Biro, ‘Artificial Intelligence and HR’, 11 August 2016.

[14] Miller-Merrell, ‘9 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting and HR | Blogging4Jobs’.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Anthony Onesto, ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Change the Face of Human Resources’, LinkedIn Pulse, 14 July 2015,

[18] Cath Everett, ‘Does the Rise of AI Mean the Death of the Recruiter?’, Personnel Today, 19 July 2016,

[19] May, ‘The Future of AI in HR’.

Adrian Baillie-Stewart

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.