Technology is disrupting the HR industry, but organisations can prepareÂ by embracing policies that encourage a blended workforce.
By Simon Kent
Technology-driven change in the workplace should notÂ be feared. Indeed, HR teams should welcome it as anÂ opportunity to contribute more to the success of theirÂ businesses. Recently, the UKâs own Work and PensionsÂ Secretary Amber Rudd emphasised the benefits ofÂ technology by saying, âAutomation is driving theÂ decline of banal and repetitive tasks so the jobs ofÂ the future are increasingly likely to be those thatÂ need human sensibilities, with personal relationships,Â qualitative judgment, and creativity coming to theÂ fore.â
Current thinking seems to be that the so-calledÂ âFourth Industrial Revolutionâ will ultimately resultÂ in a âhybridâ workforceâone that combines humanÂ and machine workers in a seamless, efficient, andÂ effective relationship. Technology will take care of theÂ tactical work whilst people will do the thinking andÂ big decision-making. Achieving this new partnershipÂ is already placing pressure on HR to understand whatÂ machines can do, and how to ensure the machinesÂ relate to their human contemporaries in a positive way.
For some, this is not a revolution. AI and machineÂ learning are simply part of ongoing technologicalÂ evolution. âThere wonât be robots on the payroll anyÂ time soon,â says Robert Ordever, managing directorÂ and workplace culture specialist at O.C. Tanner Europe.Â âNonetheless, HR leaders must be prepared for theÂ impacts of greater automation. In particular, they needÂ to ensure the âhuman elementâ of the workplace is notÂ lost.â
Ordever argues that technology has already broughtÂ greater isolation for people in the workplace andÂ this will be an increasing trend for HR to address.Â âItâs the role of HR leaders to ensure staff enjoysÂ positive human connections, encouraging workplacesÂ that are collaborative, relationship-building, and fullÂ of camaraderie. After all, when an organisationâsÂ workspace enables interactions with colleagues,Â employees enjoy a 28 per cent increase in a sense ofÂ well-being.â
Essentially, argues Ordever, HR needs to create aÂ workplace that first and foremost promotes face-to-faceÂ interactions and friendships as a guard againstÂ any de-humanising impact brought about by the rise ofÂ technology.
âTo prepare their new hybrid workforce, organisationsÂ must start to identify âkey employee momentsâ orÂ âmoments that matter,â using both technology and theÂ human touch to do so,â argues Jonquil Hackenberg,Â head of C-suite advisory and managing partner atÂ Infosys Consulting. Hackenbergâs department addressesÂ the digitalisation of HR, supply chain, and operations.Â âFocusing on the human will be the real value addÂ for HR specialists,â she says, adding that it will be HRÂ professionals who decide where human interaction isÂ still needed for a company to do business.
She turns to technology use in HR as an example.Â âAI technologies help HR professionals move fromÂ administrative tasks to focusing on the human andÂ building the best teams possible,â she says. âWithÂ more resources and time to invest in the training andÂ support of current employees, HR departments areÂ better equipped to face the challenges presented byÂ the âwar on talent.ââ Hackenberg believes that HR willÂ be tasked with upskilling existing employees, movingÂ them into roles that are vital to the business butÂ difficult to fill. âBy harnessing AI to reduce the timeÂ and labour taken to source candidates and monitorÂ performance, HR professionals can drive upskillingÂ and reduce the impact of talent scarcity on theirÂ organisation,â she says.
According to research by document processingÂ company ABBYY, the hybrid workplace isnât necessarilyÂ something that existing employees will resist. TheÂ survey found that two-thirds (63 per cent) of UKÂ workers are willing to outsource work to robots. ThoseÂ jobs included inputting data, taking minutes andÂ notes, electronic filing, and processing documents.Â In addition to this, 20 per cent of Britons believe thatÂ robots could do a better job than them at data entryÂ and electronic filing. Neil Murphy, global vice presidentÂ at ABBYY, says the workforce will increasingly expectÂ organisations to adopt innovative automation toÂ remove mundane and repetitive tasks and boostÂ productivity. Again, this trend will place a greaterÂ impetus on employers to recognise and embrace theÂ higher value their employees can bring.
Ultimately, getting this right will require not just aÂ transformational IT strategy, but a transformationalÂ approach to HR. Murphy believes that HR leadersÂ should be trained to more effectively recruit andÂ manage the upskilling of the workforce, not least toÂ address the generational divide which may dictate howÂ open employees are to working with new technology.Â âThere is no one-size-fits-all approach to introducingÂ new technologies into the workplace,â he says. âItÂ requires strategy, vision, and buy-in from employeesÂ across the businessâfrom the boardroom to the backÂ office to the shop floor.â
The time has come for HR to make its ownÂ transformation. At Infosys, Hackenberg says HR mustÂ embrace analytics to take advantage of the vastÂ amounts of data it has collected about past, present,Â and future employees. Working with this data canÂ lead to efficiency gains, more accurate candidateÂ profiling, and better recruitment and performanceÂ measurement.
âTechnology aside, building an intimate connectionÂ with potential candidates or existing employees willÂ enhance employee experience, employee productivity,Â and staff advocacy,â she says. âIn turn, this impactsÂ brand equity, attraction, and retention. The nextÂ obvious step is for organisations to move towardsÂ predictive analytics on all of this data to prepare forÂ the future of their workplace.â
Times may be changing, but with the right attitude,Â knowledge, and intention, HR can be in the drivingÂ seat in the new world of work, bringing the perfectÂ balance between humans and machines to theÂ workplace.