WPP Case Study: ‘This is how ChatGPT is helping me in HR’

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If you’re not experimenting with ChatGPT and you work in an HR/wellbeing role, you probably should be. 

Adoption of AI tools by business is at a “turning point”, according to The IBM Global AI Adoption Index 2022, showing the global AI adoption rate is now 35%, a four-point increase from the year before.

But, if you’re nervous about the influx of tools like ChatGBT, unsure of where to start or even completely unaware of the technology – don’t worry – you are not alone. 85% of employers in a survey by Legal Island hadn’t heard of ChatGBT and only 5% understood how it could affect their work. 

It’s natural, too, that many professionals are concerned that the robots are going to take their jobs – 61% of HR managers are worried about this, according to software provider Personio.

But – as this article shows – these concerns are likely to be unfounded as long as you approach the new technology in a smart, strategic, curious, evolving way.

We spoke to one HR individual – Emma Grant, Global Senior People Partner,  at media company WPP – who is doing just this, for inspiration of where to start.

We first heard that you were experimenting with ChatGPT in your HR role via a LinkedIn post by People & Transformation Director, Maktuno Suit, who was congratulating you and a colleague for “taking the first steps towards” making ChatGPT your “newest team member in HR”! How did your first forays come about?

It came about out of a conversation I had with Lisa Woodall, who isn’t in HR at all – she’s our Global Head of Discovery & Design (IT). We were talking about AI and a challenge I was having at the time around creating a competency framework. 

Then she started typing into ChatGPT and – before we knew it – we had this idea about how we could use it in our HR team. It was one of those conversations when we both had the curiosity and the headspace to bounce ideas between us.

So, you’ve started using ChatGPT for competency frameworks for different jobs?

Yes. That’s something I’ve been playing around with. I’m exploring how we can use it to manage and automate the admin that comes with our jobs in order to free us up to focus on improving the colleague experience. 

I can use an AI chatbot to do something in seconds that would have taken me a few months and many meetings.

For example, the competency frameworks we’re building will provide employees with a career path helping them understand how they can progress either within the same field they work in today, or how their skills might apply to other roles enabling lateral career moves.

To create a framework for a single team takes many weeks of research and meetings with managers – defining skills, levels, scope and impact and how these differ as someone gains experience. Then, if you want to look at how these skills apply across different jobs, it could be months of research depending on how many types of jobs a company has, not to mention, a consistent language for how you define each skill which still feels relevant to each role.

To speed this up, I’ve asked ChatGPT to create competency frameworks for multiple job roles spanning entry level to senior leadership. This frees me up to have conversations with people about how they can progress in their careers with clarity and objectivity. 

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You’re saying that ChatGPT actually puts HR back in touch with people rather than focused on processes?

Yes! It gives me the time to have conversations with our colleagues and measure the effectiveness of what we are doing – we spend more time using the competency framework than creating it.   

What tips can you share that you’ve learnt about creating a competency framework via ChatGPT so far?

You need to point it at a data set that you can rely on. So, I wouldn’t just ask it to create a competency framework on its own. I’d direct it to an industry-recognised framework and ask it to use that as its source to build something new.

You also need to  optimise the questions you ask of it and try different combinations. I’ve noticed that if I ask a question in a slightly different way such as “create a role profile” versus “create a job description”, I’ll get a different response and more detail in one than the other and that’s not helpful when I’m trying to ensure  consistency. 

Also, it can’t replace working in a company and understanding its nuances, culture and politics. Fortunately that is where we have a role to ensure authenticity and relevance of what it produces.

Have you been pleased with what you’ve got back from ChatGPT so far?

Yes, very pleased. It can process an awful lot of data and look for patterns for you and distil them down very quickly.

What other potential can you see using ChatGPT in HR?

Creating job descriptions that become standardised, meaning you can ensure that everyone has can clearly see what their career progression looks like, horizontally or even laterally. Almost like a career mapping tool.

Where I think HR can use it effectively is process simplification, like the competency framework idea and churning through large volumes of employee data to recognise patterns and find insights.  Once it built the competency frameworks I asked it to define a career path for a Business Analyst who wanted to change jobs; it gave several options for working in project management, data governance and change management.

It can draw conclusions quickly so that all you need to do is verify that it’s correct. It’s also good for inspiration. I’ve got new, different ideas using ChatGPT by following a trail for a while and seeing where it takes me. 

How else, specifically on workplace wellbeing, do you think ChatGPT could be used?

Everybody knows how important mental health is and why we need to talk about it and these days, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the resources but people often don’t know how to access these when they really need them.

It takes HR professionals, and managers, time to build trusted relationships with colleagues to the point that they will reach out in the midst of a problem, and not everyone has the language to do so. Quite often I hear “I’m sorry I bothered you with this”.

As much as I’m always willing to listen and support, maybe some people would engage more readily with a Chatbot when they just need to be pointed in the right direction or understand a sick leave policy. I think it could help remove a large barrier to accessing support. 

What concerns might you flag to your team about using ChatGPT?

It goes without saying that HR  needs to be cautious when using open AI so not sharing employee data or anything that isn’t publicly available already. 

Also in HR we tend to deal with sensitive topics and we have a responsibility to act when there is concern for someone’s welfare. I don’t believe AI can take on that responsibility, especially in a crisis, so we have to be prepared to step in.

How do you think HR should best approach ChatGPT?

Viewing it like another member of the team that brings a different skill set and can work at lightning speed! 

And that skill set is one that is actually really hard to find because it’s about research and analysing  large amounts of data. HR people tend to be more outwardly facing – many of us want to add value and improve the colleague experience and that comes much easier when you have time to listen and engage with the business

Use it to automate processes and make things slicker, so that you don’t have to spend your time in the weeds of the work.

Are you worried that ChatGPT might steal your job? 

We’ve joked about this in our team. I’ve even typed the question ‘Are you going to take my job?’ into ChatGPT!

It replied  “No! No! Goodness no! I lack empathy and human experiences”. 

Honestly? I think we’re OK for now but it’ll certainly change how we work in the long term, hopefully for the better. 

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