As tech evolves, augmented intelligence — not artificial intelligence — will be key to business success

Jul 3, 2023

By Tom Meers, Chief Information Officer

Artificial intelligence — AI — and the analyses it is able to perform have overtaken my news feeds lately. And for good reason: The technology, while still imperfect, has come a long way from the science fiction models of the 1950s.

AI can create a weekly meal plan for you, write a college essay in Shakespearean English, create compelling images, all with a few simple keystrokes. The options are dizzying and endless.

The business world is also buzzing about AI. I am a data person: I’ve studied data management and analytics for decades and serve as chief information officer at InnoSource, a leading human resources, staffing and data agency.

And for me, in that role, data and AI are most interesting when we consider how they might help us identify, recruit and hire the best possible candidates for a given position.

Some of the predictive analytics available through newer technology and AI can readily and inexpensively profile job candidates. AI is also playing an increasingly pivotal role in prequalifying candidates — AI-driven chatbots can weed out candidates without the right background or experience, allowing recruiters to optimize their time and focus. We use this type of analysis regularly in our work to home in on the best candidates for our clients, and I think it’s something that would benefit most large companies, too.

It plays out like this: A company has an open position, and understands certain things about the skillset, experience and values a successful candidate will possess. In our world, recruiters must screen job candidates with a series of questions. AI-based chatbots can perform some of that screening, which optimizes recruiters’ efforts by allowing them to focus on the best candidates.

Additionally, we are beginning to see a more real-time use of AI where during an interview recruiters can feed the information into an AI or predictive analytics engine, which can, in turn, prompt the recruiter to ask better questions to qualify a candidate. Such capabilities also can grade or score candidates in real time allowing recruiters to decide if the interview should continue. The recruiter may also be prompted to ask questions specifically tailored to the candidate and the job, gathering better information that can identify the best person for a job.

This is a step beyond artificial intelligence, something we in tech call augmented intelligence. It doesn’t replace a person, who brings human observation, empathy and other skills to an interview. Augmented intelligence enhances a person’s individual skills. Think of it like a person and a computer, working collaboratively to reach a shared goal — in our case, the best hire.

These systems have a great deal of value. In addition to fine-tuning interview questions, they can also assess whether a given candidate might be successful in a given position, or whether a candidate is likely to quit their role within the first six months. They can evaluate key performance indicators, including a team’s efficiency, employee turnover and retention. What’s more is that candidates can be scored, allowing recruiting teams to quickly identify the best and worst candidate from a pool of applicants.

With the popularization of AI tools, such scoring can be customized to specific jobs and client-company priorities.

Of course, these systems are not flawless. Much of the HR data that ends up being analyzed is done in descriptive fashion, a data term that means the system relies on historic data to summarize and highlight key trends and outliers — to show what happens. Better systems evolve to conduct analysis that is diagnostic in nature — that not only gives trends of, say, turnover in years past, but information about why that turnover happened. Those models don’t just show what happened, they explain why things happen, giving companies and leaders more insight to make better decisions.

Incorporating AI allows for even more evolved analysis, offering the ability to predict what might happen in the future. And the very best AI offers not only analysis about what happened in the past, why it happened, and what might happen in the future, but an additional layer of evaluation that offers guidance around what leaders might do about a given problem. An example of this is the use of AI-driven “what if” scenarios that allow people to experiment with various parameters to see where a candidate might score best and what that candidate might do to improve.

That technology is evolving and is beginning to be good enough to offer that guidance.

The trick will be remembering that there is no replacement for human common sense. AI can provide pictures of historical trends. It might even be able to offer a possible playbook for future actions.

But in my opinion, robots will never take over the world, and here is why: Relationships matter. People, and the way they interact with one another, are incredibly complex. The human brain is capable of doing complicated tasks that no computer can replicate. The creative process employed by humans brings an element of novelty to how we solve problems. Such creativity often defies logic making it unlikely that machines will ever be able to totally replace humans.

I celebrate the business world embracing AI. The opportunities there are vast. But as it does so, I hope we all remember to embrace augmented intelligence as well. Because there is no replacement for human beings.