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By Alex Smith, Head of Strategy and Execution, HCM - Public Sector, Oracle North America

On a cool September evening in Chicago 2021, an unexpected candidate clinched the Chief HR Officer of the Year – Non-Profit Sector award from HRO Today Magazine. That winner happened to be me. Back then, I held the position of CHRO for the City of Memphis, where, at that time, I dedicated over five years of service. During the HRO Today Magazine awards ceremony, I was questioned about how my HR team managed to achieve remarkable results in just five years.


My answer was straightforward: "agility." As CHRO, my emphasis was centered on motivating HR team members to embrace collaboration, client feedback, and explore fresh ideas, while learning and improving along the way. I encouraged the team to not be afraid to experiment: be open to pilot a concept, gather feedback, and improve it with each iteration.

Although I left the CHRO role before we had the opportunity to explore artificial intelligence (AI), the lessons I learned over the years implementing new programs and using this method, has given me insight on how to facilitate change and embrace modern technology in the Public Sector.


Here are a few ways Public Sector HR can get ready for AI: 


1.     Be Willing to Adapt


The first step in getting ready for a major technology change is being willing to adapt. This means that as HR professionals we must step out of our comfort zone of traditional compliance and hierarchy and embrace non-traditional approaches to solve agency problems. HR leaders must comprehend how AI functions and demonstrate the importance of integrating technology into daily HR processes. Specifically, when exploring cloud technology, HR can begin utilizing AI through the Human Capital Management system that’s employed.


2.     Next Level Collaboration


The second step is co-creating a new vision for an “AI-inclusive” public sector with your HR team. In the Harvard Business Review article, How HR Leaders Can Adapt to Uncertain Times (, the author suggests that “given everything on HR leaders’ plates today, they will not succeed if they don’t trust their employees to help them brainstorm solutions.”

So don’t be afraid to have your team members use “collective intelligence” to help you develop your AI Strategy. To get started, I suggest organizing a lunch and learn series to familiarize your HR team with AI concepts. Various sources, including online platforms and local universities, offer valuable information on AI. Before public sector HR can take the lead in implementing AI within their agencies, it is crucial for them to gain a deeper understanding of AI.


3.     Create a vision for new “AI-inclusive” Public Sector Employee Experience


With all the challenges facing HR, there is an opportunity to expand HR’s capacity and create a positive employee experience that makes it easy for employees to get questions answered and enhanced self-service. As the utility of AI advances, it has the potential to help create a superior employee experience in a number of ways including:

  • Personalized guidance: Give employees contextual support to help guide them through transactions and process flows.

  • Conversational AI support: Enable employees to get answers and complete workflows by conversing with an AI-powered digital assistant.

  • Intuitive knowledge base: Give workers access to a knowledge base with AI-powered search to help resolve routine inquiries.



To get ready for AI, HR leaders should begin to envision a new employee experience where there is more self-service, and HR can focus on more innovative programs. To get started, HR can start evaluating which processes are the most cumbersome and explore where AI could make a difference.


4.     Create a vision for new “AI-inclusive” Public Sector Candidate Experience


Given the hiring challenges facing the public sector, the integration of artificial intelligence in HR systems offers a unique opportunity for Public Sector HR teams to boost their efficiency and transform their hiring practices. For example, generative AI can help hiring and recruiting through:

  • Job posting creation: Create engaging job descriptions that convey a position's requirements and success criteria.

  • Agency highlights: Create concise summaries of agency information and long-form content on hiring topics such as benefits, the workplace environment and culture.

  • Candidate support: Give candidates generative AI-powered answers to questions about the company, hiring department, benefits and job requirements.    


To get prepared for AI, HR can start by gathering and reviewing candidate and hiring manager feedback to determine bottlenecks or challenges with current hiring processes. From there, HR can evaluate which parts of the recruiting process are difficult and explore where AI could be effective.

Resistance to Change

For all the exciting new capabilities AI may bring, there may be some resistance to these kinds of innovations. I encourage HR leaders to be vigilant in making it clear that change is inevitable. For public sector HR to lead and continue to meet the needs of its organization, it must embrace future technology. We already are seeing that the next generation, which uses social media and other AI-enhanced technology on a daily basis, fully expects that those same consumer-grade experiences will be available at work -- yes, even in the public sector.  To be ready for the workforce of 2030, HR needs to start preparing now.

How can Public Sector HR get ready for AI today?

First, invest in culture work and begin to encourage your team to explore new ideas and experiment. Second, be open to taking small steps: pilot new technology, gather feedback, and improve the experience with each iteration. No, the journey will not be perfect, but the only way you will know if AI (or any technology) can work for you, is to take advantage of the opportunity right in front of you.

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