Technology is evolving at a breath-taking pace and the HR
profession role has, until recently, tended to focus on
sourcing talent to support digital products and services.

Emerging technologies have the potential to truly reshape the
world in which we live and work, as AI and machine learning
afford enormous potential, for the future. The hope must be
that the workforce will be able to focus on more creative and
interesting work facilitated by interaction with technology,
predicated on a changed relationship with work and the
workplace.

All areas of the organisation will be affected as sophisticated
automation changes the emphasis at work; robotics and AI will
replace repetitive work and there will be a greater need for
creativity and social skills as well as a focus on design and
customer service. As automation increases people will take on
high-value roles requiring data analysis and problem-solving
skills.

In the HR department, new technology has the potential to
mechanise many tasks and probably roles but also offers the
potential to enable smarter ways of working. I hope this means
that as suggested by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and
Andrew McAfee new categories of jobs will evolve that will in
the broader perspective compensate for those replaced by new
technology.

Automation at work

The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, which
tracks the trends shaping the agenda for HR and business
leaders, only 16 percent say they are ready to manage a
workforce with people, robots and AI working side by side. In
contrast, Bersin by Deloitte says that 33 per cent of employees
expect their jobs will be augmented by AI in the near future.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that roughly half of
today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, give or
take 20 years. McKinsey are unequivocal on the subject:

Automation will change the daily work activities of everyone,
from miners and landscapers to commercial bankers, fashion
designers, welders, and CEOs.

I posted recently on the value of well-designed onboarding
tools and this is a perfect example of where we might choose to
use new technologies. Automated and onboarding can be used to
engage with new hires, during the period before their start
date and onwards. AI will be able to organise the transactional
tasks and will act as a virtual HR assistant in the process,
securing and filing the documentation employee profiles and
dealing with query resolution.

Back in 2016 the FT reported on Matilda, a 30cm tall robot
designed to shortlist job applicants and interview them. What
makes her different from human counterparts is her ability to
form decisions free of whim or prejudice, says Professor Rajiv
Khosla, director of the Research Centre for Computers,
Communication and Social Innovation at Australia’s La Trobe
University, who developed her.

Security and privacy

While such robot technology is not in general use, yet, it is
normal to use computers to collect large volumes of publicly
available information about candidates during the interview
process. The implications are clear.

One of the major challenges posed by these new technologies is
security. As professionals, we understand why this is crucial,
but the tracking and sharing of information is an integral part
of the new connectivity. The debate around issues such as the
control over data will intensify and we will need to clearly
demarcate our moral and ethical boundaries to protect
individuals and corporations, designing policies and processes
that respect all parties.

There is an exciting future ahead for HR as the use of
state-of-the-art technology in the recruitment and retention of
the managers and innovators will drive superior performance in
organisations. Technologies sometimes referred to as
‘disruptive’ will actually afford opportunities to the way in
which we attract and engage talent in the workplace.