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AI Presents HR With An Extraordinary Call To Action

May 28, 2024by Barbara Flynn0

SHRM executive in residence talks about unlocking human potential in the age of AI

By Roy Maurer


HR leaders are uniquely positioned to drive human-centered artificial intelligence adoption in the workplace, according to Nichol Bradford, the AI+HI executive in residence at SHRM.

Speaking in a SHRM webcast on April 30, Bradford said that HR professionals have a tremendous opportunity to shape the future of work as AI+HI catalysts and change agents, fostering learning, experimentation, and growth.

AI+HI stands for artificial intelligence plus human intelligence and represents the best path forward as organizations navigate the disruptive wave of change the powerful technology is already ushering in.

“The central question is: How can we activate the human-centered change that will expand jobs versus replacing them?” she asked. “What has been thought of as a technology solution with a human problem may actually be a human solution with a technology augmentation.”

This seismic shift will require a reinvention of the meaning of work. Bradford said that currently, for many people, “a job is what you hoped to do plus a series of tasks you didn’t sign up for. Where we’re headed is a transition into a job being what we hoped to do and time to work on our creations, new products, new customers, new businesses.”

She said that AI will take over job tasks, and if a job is primarily a set of tasks, that job might no longer exist. “AI is coming for those tasks. However, if your job is creation and you have an AI assistant to help you, that’s wonderful—more joy and less toil,” Bradford said.

AI+HI Maturity

Economic benefits will come from AI maturity, Bradford said. Being AI mature means that the understanding of AI and its use is dispersed enough throughout an organization and people use it in their daily work to create projects.

“But there’s a journey to get there,” she said. “It starts with exposure, curiosity, and then experimentation. Then, you get comfortable with AI and think about it when you start new projects. AI fluency will unlock new business models and new ways to deliver value to customers.”

Bradford said that companies can be divided into three types when it comes to innovation. There are the ones that embrace reinvention and change. There are the organizations that drag.

“But what’s exciting is that most companies are in the middle,” she said—cautious adopters that can be transformed. One key to that transformation is catalysts who support significant change or action.

In the case of technology adoption, catalysts tend to have horizontal and vertical relationships across an organization, understand the business priorities and direction, can identify projects that contribute to business priorities, and are able to get buy-in and support for adoption, Bradford explained.

An AI catalyst can be anyone in the organization who leads the company to AI adoption and return on investment, she said. “But the AI+HI catalyst is someone who sparks human-centered AI adoption by reimagining work, reinvigorating workers, and partnering with AI catalysts to reinvent the organization,” she said.

AI catalysts are more successful with HR support. Some of the areas in which HR will lead in this transition include molding the vision for AI+HI, change management, learning and development, skills assessment, talent planning, and managing workplace culture.

Bradford said that there are multiple roles for HR in this transformative process, including as the creators of policies and programs; as the consumers helping shape when, where, why, and how AI is used; and as the guardians of and enforcers of best practices and ethical uses of AI.


Barbara Flynn

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