AI in the HR Spotlight: LeadersTalk with Mr. Laurence Yap, Regional HR Advisor at Huacomm Malaysia

UOA Academy recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Laurence Yap, Regional HR Advisor of Huacomm Malaysia. During this engaging conversation, we delved into his remarkable career journey and explored the timely and relevant topic of how AI is impacting the field of HR. Here are the excerpts from our interview:


Q1: How did you get started in HR, and what inspired you to focus on Learning and Organizational Development within your career path?

Let me provide you with some background about myself to offer context. I have had a diverse career spanning various organisations, having worked in multiple organisations throughout my professional journey. My focus has primarily been on Organisational Development (OD) and HR Operations.

In Western Digital Media, Mydin, and Pfizer, my role was in Training and Development. As the Senior Manager for Malaysia and the Asia Pacific, I then transitioned to focus on OD at Carsem, Paypal, First Solar, and Berjaya. As for Dexon, Huacomm, and Forest City, I held the position of Head of HR Operations.

Reflecting on my diverse career spanning various organizations, I’m struck by how each experience has contributed to bringing me to where I am today. Though I didn’t set out to focus on learning and organizational development, I can now see the interconnectedness of my path.

I first entered the training profession through roles at companies such as Western Digital Media, Mydin, and Pfizer, where I developed programs for frontline employees. This exposure showed me how fundamental it is to provide development opportunities that meet learners where they are. I realized that training aimed at empowering growth should honestly address individual needs and readiness levels.

As I transitioned into learning leadership roles at organizations such as Carsem, PayPal, First Solar, and Berjaya, my perspective expanded regarding the strategic impact of development. Designing curriculum aligned with company goals enabled me to shape organizational capability directly. Additionally, providing managers with the skills to coach their teams drove a culture of continuous growth.

With each subsequent opportunity, my experience in OD expanded further. As a Senior Manager of Learning and OD, I led projects aimed at improving corporate systems and processes to enhance scalability. Additionally, as an HR business partner, I advised executives on change management during periods of rapid growth or cultural transition.

These multifaceted experiences reinforced the invaluable link between OD and HR strategy execution. From coaching leaders and evolving team dynamics to managing corporate strategies, aligning competency models with future plans, and facilitating business processes, I witnessed how OD efforts unite disparate functions to activate strategy.

This holistic lens of development continues to shape me today. While essential, siloed training functions have limitations. When approached thoughtfully, OD integrates development across people, processes, and culture. This systematic view is critical to unlocking HR’s total value. With care and insight, OD practitioners have the privilege to guide organizations toward their highest potential.

Q2: How is AI currently being used in HR functions?

AI is currently revolutionizing various aspects of HR operations by automating many administrative tasks. Leading AI-driven tools such as Ideal, Arya by LeoForce, and HireVue employ natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to sift through large volumes of resumes and background checks efficiently, enabling the identification of top-tier candidates. Additionally, conversational AI chatbots like Mya and Olivia address common employee queries regarding benefits, time-off requests, and company policies. The availability and support hours of these chatbot solutions depend on how they are customized, integrated, and managed by each organization. Furthermore, AI-powered recruitment assistants like Stella from Paradox assist in crafting well-optimized job postings.

HR analytics platforms like Visier and HRForecast leverage AI to analyze employee data. Visier is renowned for its comprehensive platform that offers insights into all aspects of the employee lifecycle, while HRForecast excels in workforce planning and forecasting. Both platforms use AI to analyze employee data, providing valuable insights to assist HR professionals in making informed decisions regarding talent acquisition, retention, training, and development. For instance, they can help HR professionals identify trends and patterns in employee data that would otherwise be challenging to detect, predict future workforce needs, identify employees at risk of leaving the company, pinpoint employees in need of additional training and development, and measure the effectiveness of HR programs and initiatives.

These AI tools, in turn, allow HR professionals to allocate their time and resources to more strategic endeavours.

Q3: What are some of the benefits AI brings to recruiting?

AI brings a multitude of advantages to the recruitment process. Tools like Textio employ data-driven suggestions to eliminate unconscious bias and craft job descriptions that resonate with a broader pool of candidates. Textio’s platform is effective in reducing bias in job postings. A study by the University of California, Berkeley found that Textio-generated job postings attracted more women and underrepresented minorities than traditional job postings. The study was published in the journal “Management Science” in 2019. The researchers analyzed over 1 million job postings and found that Textio-generated job postings attracted 20% more women and 15% more underrepresented minorities than traditional job postings.

While Textio is a valuable tool for reducing bias in job postings, it is essential to note that it is not a replacement for human judgment and review. HR professionals should always carefully review job postings before publishing them to ensure they are fair and inclusive.

Chatbots, such as AllyO’s AI recruiting assistant, facilitate personalized and interactive candidate communication at scale while maintaining the organization’s brand voice and tone. AllyO’s AI recruiting assistant, for example, can address common questions about the company and the job opening, schedule interviews, provide feedback to candidates, and send reminders and follow-ups. The tool plays a crucial role in ensuring candidates have a positive experience interacting with the chatbot.

AI-driven video interview analysis, exemplified by HireVue, deploys natural language processing, speech analytics, and facial coding to assess qualities like critical thinking, empathy, and motivation, transcending mere qualifications. Such AI tools mentioned above have broadened the scope of candidates who can be effectively evaluated and diversify the talent pool.

Q4: How can AI assist with ongoing employee development?

AI plays a pivotal role in aiding ongoing employee development. Innovative skill assessment tools, like Pymetrics and, employ AI to map employees’ strengths and development areas, drawing from neuroscience and behavioural science games and tests.

These AI-driven insights recommend tailored training programs and job rotation opportunities, customizing each employee’s development journey. Mentoring applications, such as Microsoft’s Protégé, harness machine learning to match mentors and mentees throughout the organization.

Furthermore, immersive learning experiences delivered through virtual reality simulations offer employees a safe environment to acquire skills. For example, Strivr leverages VR technology to cultivate soft skills like leadership, empathy, and decision-making.

Q5: In what ways can AI improve the performance review process?

AI can significantly enhance the performance review process in several ways. Performance management platforms like Lattice, Reflektive, and Deepsight integrate AI capabilities to analyze data from diverse sources, including peer feedback surveys, project management systems, and past reviews.

Through natural language processing, AI can distill critical themes and sentiments from unstructured written feedback, providing managers with AI-generated performance insights reports and draft review suggestions. This not only saves time but also enhances objectivity and consistency.

However, it’s important to note that managers still play a vital role in providing subjective judgment, qualitative insights, and empathy and conducting face-to-face conversations to deliver comprehensive reviews.

AI is becoming increasingly prevalent in performance management software, as it can help HR professionals and managers automate tasks, gain insights into employee performance, and make more informed decisions.

Some specific examples of how these platforms use AI to analyze performance data:

  • Identifying patterns and trends: AI can identify patterns and trends in performance data that would be difficult or impossible for humans to spot independently. For example, an AI-powered performance management system could identify a trend of low employee engagement in a particular department or team.
  • Predicting future performance: AI can also predict future performance trends and outcomes. For example, an AI-powered system could indicate which employees are at risk of leaving or are most likely to succeed in a particular role.
  • Providing personalized insights: AI can provide customized insights into employee performance to employees and managers. For example, an AI-powered performance management system could provide an employee with insights into their strengths and weaknesses and areas where they need to improve.

AI is a powerful tool that can help performance management platforms deliver more value to HR professionals and managers.

Q6: What risks or limitations come with using AI in HR?

The use of AI in HR is not without its risks and limitations. AI models trained on incomplete, biased, or unrepresentative data can perpetuate historical prejudices in hiring, promotion, and development recommendations.

Over-reliance on AI to automate creative and strategic HR functions may inadvertently stifle innovation. Successful integration of AI into HR workflows necessitates robust change management to avoid skill redundancy.

It is crucial to emphasize that AI should not entirely replace human oversight and decision accountability. Continuous audits for ethics and compliance are essential, especially as regulations evolve.

 Q7: How can HR professionals develop the capabilities needed to harness AI?

HR professionals can develop the requisite capabilities to harness AI by actively engaging with AI tools to understand their functionalities and outputs. Dedicated training programs on AI applications in HR and a focus on data literacy and ethics are imperative.

Rotational assignments in data science roles can further enhance HR professionals’ capabilities. Ongoing learning through participation in conferences, acquiring certifications, and conducting experiments is essential to keep pace with advancing technology.

It is paramount to cultivate a collaborative mindset that allows HR professionals to work alongside AI while leveraging their unique human strengths.

Q8: How can organizations ensure responsible and ethical use of AI in HR?

Organizations can ensure AI’s responsible and ethical use in HR by establishing internal governance frameworks and AI ethics policies. Regularly auditing algorithms and data for bias, providing the right to explanation, and preserving human oversight of decisions can mitigate AI-associated risks.

HR departments must champion design thinking in developing AI-enabled workflows, primarily focusing on enhancing the employee experience. Collaborative efforts across functional areas, including HR, IT, Data Science, and Legal, are indispensable in building trust and promoting the adoption of AI.

Q9: What is the future potential of AI in HR?

AI is poised to handle high-volume administrative tasks, enabling HR to concentrate on more strategic priorities such as leadership development and organizational effectiveness.

Intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants will likely become common contact points for employee inquiries and services. Hyper-personalized learning, career pathing, and predictive analytics will become pivotal in HR.

Nonetheless, HR professionals will continue to offer indispensable qualities like emotional intelligence, design thinking, and ethical decision-making.

 Q10: How can employees adapt to work alongside AI technologies?

Employees should view AI as a tool that enhances productivity, creativity, and decision quality rather than as a threat. Developing growth mindsets and digital literacy will be critical in adapting to AI technologies.

HR plays a vital role in leading training and change management efforts to facilitate the smooth adoption of AI through transparent communication, user-centred design, and reskilling support. Workers should also continually develop versatile human skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, empathy, and relationship-building.

Q11: What are the top priorities for HR leaders in unleashing the benefits of AI?

HR leaders must prioritize understanding the various use cases of AI, conducting ethical impact assessments, redesigning processes and policies, upskilling HR teams in data and AI, establishing cross-functional governance structures, and leading change management efforts.

However, it is crucial to emphasize that AI should ultimately serve the organization’s talent strategy and people-centric priorities. Maintaining human involvement for oversight and complex decision-making is vital to ensure the responsible adoption of AI.

Q12: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in HR or non-HR who would like to be in your position one day?

Gain as much experience as possible in all areas of HR. This will give you a well-rounded understanding of the function and how it supports the business. Even if you have a specific area of interest, such as OD or HR strategy, it is essential to have a good foundation in all areas of HR.

Additionally, develop robust leadership and communication skills. HR Directors are responsible for leading a team of professionals and communicating effectively with various stakeholders, including employees, managers, and executives. It’s crucial to articulate your vision and strategy clearly and to build strong relationships with key stakeholders.

Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in HR. The HR field is constantly evolving, so staying informed about the latest trends and developments is essential. This will help you to be more effective in your role and provide valuable insights to your organization.

Get involved in professional organizations and networks. Networking with other HR professionals is a great way to learn from their experiences, get advice, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends. There are various professional organizations and networks, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), MIHRM, and the Association for Talent Development (ATD), that you can engage with.

Find a mentor. A mentor can provide you with guidance and support as you progress in your career. They can also help you to develop your skills and knowledge and to navigate the challenges of being an HR professional.

If you found this interview enlightening, connect with Mr. Laurence Yap and delve deeper into the world of HR by following him on LinkedIn at 👉🏼

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