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Artificial Intelligence in Army, Part 2: The use of AI to support Human Resources

The first part of this blog focused on the risks of human bias inadvertently coded into AI. Part 2 explores the opportunities of AI to support Human Resource (HR) planning and management.

One such opportunity is in preparing for, and adapting to, the disruptions associated with workforce trends such as the transient (or contingent) workforce. The exact number of transient workers in Australia is unknown, however, most estimates place the number at around 30% of the workforce and growing. No doubt an effective argument can be made as to why the majority of the Army should remain full-time employees; however, consideration should be given to how the transient workforce can be harnessed to fill niche or highly specialised positions within the Army, such as some of the more technical roles within Information Warfare. Another disruptive trend is the contracting labour market and increased competition for human capital, a direct result of declining birth rates and the aging Australian population.

There are other disruptions inherent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however these two by themselves are sufficient to ensure that the competition for talent in the labour market will continue to intensify, and unless Army is prepared to access all talent potential, in whatever form it comes, it will not be an employer of choice across all desired skills-sets. In order to be prepared for these labour market disruptions, the Army needs a HR system that is more flexible and can adapt more readily to the individual: this is where AI comes in.

AI will allow the Army to plan the type of workforce it wants in the future while allowing for the known disruptive forces. This will require some thought about the types of skills Army thinks it will need in 10-20 years, a difficult but necessary task if the requisite changes are to be made to ensure Army is not behind other competitors. AI can predict the skills, the workforce, and how the workforce might be employed—part-time, as required, or full time. A difficult but nonetheless important task.

Additionally, the application of AI to workforce planning will allow commanders to make faster decisions about leave over stand-down periods and could even assist with posting decisions, making it easier for career management agencies to identify where the gap in skills will be in each posting cycle and better select the individuals with the requisite skills. On a larger scale, soldiers and officers could be informed of what their postings will look like for many years. There is no insurmountable reason why each soldier and officer could not be presented with a posting schedule with an outlook of 5-10 years that considers his or her skills; the skills that individual is expected to learn at each location; and the skills that will be required in future postings—particularly in the earlier stages of the member’s career. This would not only remove the annual postings churn, but it would also manage the expectations of individuals and their families and allow families the luxury of location-foresight beyond one or two years. There will always be changes, but this is no different to how the posting system currently operates.

Lastly, when designed, developed and implemented correctly, AI can assist the Army in making better recruitment and promotion decisions. The negative impacts of subconscious bias and subsequent limitations on the merit systems typically used for HR management are well documented. It should come as no surprise that tall, attractive, Anglo-Saxon males are more likely to get a job (and get paid more) than women and minorities, resulting in largely homogenous organisations, particularly at the more senior levels. This trait is most prevalent in large organisations that pride themselves on being meritocracies, not unlike Army. These characteristics prevent HR systems from being effective, fair and transparent, and can detract from goals of recruitment and talent retention.

Potential employees are recognising the applications of AI in HR. For many years now large corporations have been using AI to improve HR systems in order to: ensure more efficient recruitment processes; reduce recruitment costs; manage employer and employee expectations; conduct text mining and sentiment analysis to gauge workplace culture trends; increase talent sourcing and retention, and remove subjectivity from promotion processes.

The market has responded to this growing demand for AI, and nationally and internationally companies that specialise in AI for HR are being established. SeedlinkTech is one such company who has developed a niche market in using AI to enhance recruitment and retention decisions through predictive recruiting, talent cultivation, succession planning and human capital diversity and inclusivity. They do this through computational linguistics, which allows them to use AI to understand intent, expectations and potential through the written word. Other examples of the use of AI to assist with HR can be found here. There is a lot of potential in this space, and the Army should embrace it.  

About the author: Major Hayward is an (ARes) Intelligence Corps Officer posted to the Future Land Warfare Branch at Army Headquarters. Major Hayward has a Bachelors in Economics, Masters in Defence Studies and Masters in Economics Studies. This academic background has resulted in a particular interest in disruptive labour market forces and their influence on how the Army proposes to fight in the future operating environment.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government. Further information.

Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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