A Professor at St Petersburg University, Doctor of Sociology Vera Minina has examined a trend that has been gaining popularity in HR management – the use of HR bots. These are programmes based on artificial intelligence that can perform various management tasks. In her report, Vera Minina reveals: what modern HR bots are capable of; whether it is possible to “sneak past this watchful dragon”; and what options are left to the recruiters. Should recruiters prepare for unemployment or develop new skills? Digitisation of HR-processes is one of the topics to be discussed at the 4th International Labour Forum in St Petersburg on 27–28 February.

Artificial intelligence based assistance programmes can facilitate the routine work of recruiting specialists – search for candidates, invite them to interviews, and even make calls. They can also help applicants to edit CVs, answer their questions, and give advice on career options.

Vera Minina distinguishes three groups of modern HR bots depending on the complexity of tasks they have to perform. Level 1 bots perform simple HR operations: collecting and screening resumes, making phone calls to applicants, and sending messages. They are mostly used in mass selection processes, when both the applicant and recruiter have to answer standard questions. For example, Mya, an HR bot developed by a Californian company FirstJob, can: answer questions about the vacancy and the company; send SMS or text messages via multi-platform messaging apps about the stages of CV processing; and invite candidates for an interview. Even such companies as PepsiCo and L’Oreal use the services of this unpretentious assistant.

Level 2 bots are able to automate some analytical operations usually performed by a human being. Thus, for example, HireVue – a US platform for conducting video-interviews – can store and analyse the big data that is collected in the course of communicating with an applicant. It then creates an applicant’s profile and runs the candidate database without a recruiter. Level 3 bots involve even deeper analysis. They can predict how personality and behavioural characteristics of a person might affect his or her future performance in the company.

‘So far, HR bots have mostly been applied in personnel recruitment. Among the primary tasks to be performed by artificial intelligence is initial screening and ranging applicants’ resumes,’ said Vera Minina.

In fact, artificial intelligence might find a wider application. Bots can help in conducting on-line performance assessments and measure job satisfaction. They can identify interests, aims, problems, and ups and downs in the activity cycle to provide further training, or grant a vacation to an employee.

Professor of St Petersburg University, Doctor of Sociology Vera Minina

Vera Minina remarks, however, that we should not expect artificial intelligence to solve all the problems in the HR sphere. It would be wrong to think that the decisions robots take would be the most objective, as people will learn how to ‘by-pass’ HR bots and manipulate them. The developers will then have to continue work on improving the software based on artificial intelligence. Besides, artificial systems might pick a person who, despite having the right qualifications, will not fit into the corporate culture of the company. It is still an open question what is worse for an employer: an employee’s lack of qualifications or the damage he/she might cause to the organisational structure.

Vera Minina and other experts will speak in detail about HR bots and other personnel management tools at the International Labour Forum on 28 February during the scientific session on ‘Digitisation of HR processes in modern organisations’ held during the conference “Technologies and practices of effective human capital management”.

‘HR specialists will inevitably have to respond to the challenges posed by the introduction of HR bots,’ said Vera Minina. ‘I think they will need new competencies of working in teams with IT specialists, as they will have to set tasks for their robot assistants. Besides, they will have to learn how to handle big data and work with modern digital tools and cloud solutions in the sphere of HR.’