AI in HR could have a positive impact – 56% of British SMEs say

Published on 12/12/2019 by Sonia Navarrete

Artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to be present in many aspects of our lives and HR is not an exception. But what does it mean to have AI in HR? 

ai in hr

Technology companies are starting to develop AI and machine learning technologies to make it easier for employers to deal with administrative tasks related to HR. Big corporations and banks are starting to look at AI as a possible partner when looking to hire the right candidates. In Wall Street, some of the major banks are starting to use AI to help detect personality traits that wouldn’t normally come up on face-to-face interviews in the selection process for candidates to avoid high staff turnover.

Gartner has identified talent acquisition as one of the key areas where AI has the potential to grow. 

 “Recruiters, who most commonly use AI prior to hiring, start with labor market analysis, competency identification, skills matching, and bias detection in job descriptions and candidate ranking. HR recruiters use chatbots for scheduling appointments or answering common questions.”


We wanted to know what SMEs think of AI, and in particular, what is their opinion of AI in HR: how could it change the way candidates are recruited and also how AI could be incorporated into HR processes such as promotions and salary revisions.

Highlights of the study:

  • 56% of respondents think that AI could make a positive impact on HR
  • Almost half of respondents (42%) feel neutral about having an AI assistant involved in the hiring process
  • Over half (59%) would prefer a human manager to make a decision about a promotion

Hiring process 

Over half of respondents (56%) feel that AI could make a difference in the hiring process. When we asked companies how would they feel about having an AI assistant involved in their hiring process, almost half (42%) stated not being affected by it.

However, a third of them (29%) stated being concerned about having an AI assistant involved somehow in the hiring process. When asked for the reason why they would be concerned, respondents mentioned the lack of ability to perceive the more personal skills of a candidate, potential bias from the bot, lack of objectivity or simply not trusting the capacity of an AI assistant to make the correct decision.

It’s interesting to note that almost half of the participants (47%) who have a junior position answered don’t mind having AI involved in their hiring process. And 40% of the respondents in junior positions are aged between 25-34 years old.

Only 11% of respondents would prefer an AI assistant to be involved in the hiring process. When we asked them the reason why respondents stated accuracy, efficiency and objectivity as well as cheaper cost. Out of the respondents who answered this, 12% have an executive position, and of these, 45% are also aged 25-34 years old.

Younger people seem to be more comfortable with the idea of having an AI assistant involved in the hiring process. This should not come as a surprise, as a third of millennials understand AI and have most probably had any experience with it, for example with chatbots and voice-activated devices such as Siri and Amazon Alexa.

Did you know? Millennials (also called Generation Y) are those born between 1981 and 1996 and Generation Z includes those born after 1996 to the present day.

Respondents with manager (30%) and senior (38%) positions expressed having concerns about the involvement of AI in hiring. 33% of respondents who answered having a manager position and 36% that hold a senior position are aged 35 – 44years old.

Generational preferences and relationship with technology could have a lot to do in these answers. What is clear from these is that younger generations seem to be more open to adopting AI in recruitment whilst people in manager or senior roles have more concerns about how it could help and the wider implications for the company on this.

Liaising with AI for promotions and salary, a matter of trust

Respondents state trusting a human manager more than an AI assistant when assessing promotions (59%). Despite this, over a third would still trust an AI assistant in combination with a human manager (38%). 

When looking at a decision regarding salary review, over half (57%) would be comfortable with an AI assistant making a decision over salary only if it’s in combination with a human manager. Only 9% would be comfortable with it and 32% would prefer not having an AI assistant involved at all.

We wanted to know what is the perception around the impartiality of an AI assistant when looking at giving promotions and salary increases. We asked respondents if they consider that an AI assistant would be fairer than a human manager when looking at this. 

We found that 40% would not want an AI assistant involved in any decision regarding promotion or salary revision. In this case, it was the respondents who have a manager (47%) and senior (43%) positions who answered not wanting an AI involved at all in the revision process.

However, a third (30%) stated that AI would make the process fairer. Looking in more detail, out of the respondents who answered having a junior (32%) and executive (47%) positions were the two groups that had a bigger percentage in this question and would find it fairer to have an AI involved in this process.

When looking at how could AI help in creating a personalised training programme, we wanted to know if respondents prefer to have just an AI, a combination of human manager or just a human manager. Over half of respondents (54%) stated they would not mind having an AI helping create a training program but with the help of a human manager. A quarter (25%) would prefer just an AI assistant to create the programme and 20% would prefer not having AI involved in the creation of a training programme.

When looking more in detail by job title, a third of respondents (31%) in junior positions would be comfortable with an AI assistant creating a training programme for them. Respondents with a manager (57%) and executive (59%) positions would prefer a human manager to be involved in the process of creating the training programme. Finally, almost a quarter of respondents with senior job titles (25%) would prefer not having an AI assistant involved in the process at all.

Despite this, SMEs are confident that AI could have a positive impact on HR

Over half of SMEs (56%) believe that AI could have a positive impact on HR.  It is worth noting that over a third (32%)  state not being sure about this, which could mean that they simply don’t have the information to make a decision. Most of the time, it is a lack of information that keeps companies away from trying and implementing new software as they don’t know what benefits could bring to their companies. 

ai in hr

Artificial intelligence software can bring many advantages to a business, starting with the automation of the more administrative and manual tasks, as well as the ability to create reports based on analytics that can provide insights to your business. It can also be used for sales and customer service in the form of chatbots. If you want to know more about what type of AI software could be suitable for your small business visit our listing to learn more.

Methodology of the study

To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of the target market UK.  Over 300 participants qualified to participate in the survey through screening questions out in November 2019. Qualified participants are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed) and work in a small to medium sized enterprise (1-250 employees).

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.


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