Shona Hamilton-Higgins is the CEO of Lilac HR and is a thought leader on the topic of career progression and adaptability. They took some time out to speak with The Industry Leaders about this vital subject.
What's your career journey been like and how has that led you to be an authority on this topic?
My career journey hasn't gone at all the way I thought it would! I left sixth form to work with horses and train to be a riding instructor. I was going through my training when my boss told me she had run out of money and not to come back tomorrow! So I took the first job I was offered in a call centre which was a horrific experience. As soon as I could escape to something else, I did. I took a job as a Receptionist for a civil engineering company. I worked there for several years and worked my way up into different departments including civil engineering, telecoms and eventually, HR. I was unfortunately made redundant from my HR Administrator role, but the redundancy pay allowed me to invest in my first CIPD qualification which, in itself, helped me land my next HR job in food manufacturing. I spent the next several years completing two diplomas in HR and working up the corporate ladder into HR Business Partner, HR Manager and Employee Relations specialist roles before deciding to go self employed as a consultant in 2018!
Are there specific jobs in your industry at higher risk of AI disruption?
It depends on how you look at it. AI does pose certain risks to HR, but mostly it provides opportunities to be more efficient and save admin time. Systems and technology have been helping HR to be more proactive in business support and I feel AI will do the same for those who embrace it.
What skills do you think young professionals should learn to stay employable in a world with AI?
Agility (Not the Crufts kind!). I think young professionals need to know how to be agile in how, where and when they work to enable them to keep up. The world is changing rapidly for business owners and their HR support needs to be able to help them keep up.
How can AI help business owners and executives make better decisions?
The primary benefit I see in AI is the time it can save business owners. More time means more headspace which means better decisions. Not only that, but AI can analyse data for you which helps you to make more informed decisions about your business.
What ethical issues should businesses consider when using AI?
The way AI is used and allowed in your business could pose some ethical challenges. For example, candidates applying for jobs might use AI to create their CVs which might mean their work experience is more exaggerated than if they had drafted it themselves. Hiring managers should be able to spot a CV from ChatGPT! In addition, we are automating more and more of our HR processes. I'm a big fan of automation, but we need to be careful to ensure we are not completely removing the human element of human resource processes. AI is brilliant, but there is still a lot it can't do for us so businesses should be choosy about how they use and for what purposes.
How will AI impact leadership and management?
I think the impact of AI on leadership will be a mixture of great and not so great. On one hand, I see the potential for leaders to utilise AI in positive ways to improve their written communications with their team and encourage more analytical, data driven decisions. But on the other hand, I see the potential for leaders to lose their interpersonal skills which we so greatly need in the workplace.
What specific skills or roles do you think AI can't replace in your industry?
AI can't replace the human touch of HR. Sure, it can help you to write a disciplinary letter or an investigation report, but it can't replace gut instinct. It can't replace the impact a good HR professional can have on a business simply by understanding and adapting to the people in the organisation.
Finally, what does the future of work look like with automation and AI, and how can ambitious professionals thrive in this changing landscape?
If you want to be successful in this changing landscape - I encourage you to learn as much as you can (where it's relevant to your business, of course). Understand how to make your systems leaner, more automated and use AI where it actually saves time and contributes to your activity. Not only will it make your life as a business owner or professional much easier, it will help you to stay one step ahead of your competition.