Over the past decade we’ve experienced tremendous advancements in the field of technology, and as such, various HR processes and activities can be completed much faster and more accurately than ever before. With the rise of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, innovators in our sector continue to truly push the boundaries of what’s possible. However, as did the industrial revolution, this ever-developing landscape throws up a number of questions concerning the road ahead. For instance, how will technology and automation affect jobs, what impact will it have on the overall culture of the workforce and what exactly is the long term benefit?
These are the thoughts and takeaways from a HR Leadership Think Tank held on Tuesday 14th November, hosted by HCL’s Jaya Kiran Satish (Director- Human Resources). This Think Tank sought to discuss the topic of “Automation and its Impact on HR”.
Humans vs. Robots: What experience do we have with Automation, AI and Robotics in HR and what is its potential?
The discussion around Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace has been around for years, but as we approach 2018, AI is finally becoming a reality in the workplace. Chatbots, robots, and virtual assistants powered by advanced algorithms are rapidly joining the ranks of workers in every industry and profession. This leads many people to ask the question “will robots take my job?” Let’s take a look at some important topics to consider:
- How should businesses best use AI to their advantage? Is there a way to implement AI without negatively affecting employees?
- Are businesses choosing not to automate jobs to keep employees?
- Do we need AI? Is it being pushed by the vendors or pulled by businesses?
- Even if AI is brought into the workplace, will people revert back to old ways as they do with many change programmes?
- The younger generation was born into the digital world (iPads, iPhones, contactless payment, etc.).
- How can organisations best utilize their talents to help improve and revamp older business practices?
There are benefits to bringing artificial intelligence into the workplace, including increased productivity and the opportunity to automate mundane tasks. With the rise of AI, it’s important for businesses to build a culture around continuous improvement.
Do we understand the impact Automation, AI & Robotics will have on jobs? And are we ready for it?
Although automating jobs means increased productivity, it also means shrinking labour demands with an expected one in five jobs terminated as a result. This leads us to beg the question – is AI sustainable or overly aggressive in terms of pace? Will AI cause a big disruption in society? Let’s take a look at some other important questions that businesses need to address:
- In the future, will we have more temp workers with big skills gaps/lack of appropriate skills?
- Is there a ‘skills gap’ or a ‘wills gap’ – if a business provides the training, will employees take it on-board?
- Are people tired of change and not taking AI as seriously as they should?
- Will AI take over your job or provide a supporting role to make you better at your job?
- How should a business prepare its workforce for this change?
What areas of HR do we anticipate being impacted and what is driving the business case?
- Engage more with hiring managers and candidates.
- Spend more time speaking with each other and less time in the ‘engine room’ behind the scenes.
- Talent Acquisition historically created a culture that it can save the business money.
- Review ROI rather than upfront investment.
- Run tools around culture and fit then the tools can pull out a tailored target.
- Don’t let AI just focus on ‘CV sifting’.
- Use AI to create actionable data to help make informed decisions.
- Past experience is the least informative indicator of future success.
- Find out more about candidates then tailor the process dependent on cultural fit, personality, etc.
- Balance between anonymisation in applications but then also counteracted by initiatives such as increasing female representation in the technology sector. How does a machine take these pieces into account? The ‘softer side’ should be factored into the agenda.
- Many new start-up companies are entering the HR tech space with the idea of being bought – can Workday/SAP keep up the pace with its new competitors?
- Artificial Intelligence will help automate the following administrative tasks:
- Pre-employment checks, CRB checks.
- On-boarding, a repetitive, high-volume activity.
- Brexit’s right-to-work, reference checking.
- Employee engagement pieces, e.g. employee surveys, check-ins, birthdays, etc.
- Benefits, e.g. potential to ‘read’ an employee and show enhanced benefits depending on life stage/personality e.g. gym membership, pension, healthcare, etc.
- Bonus, salary reviews etc.
- L&D, e.g. automation of skills gaps, suite of learning tools.
- M&A, e.g. bring companies on-board faster.
- Reporting, e.g. reviewing data to identify any accuracy issues
- ER cases and grievances, e.g. intervene and see who’s accountable. If computer says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ waste less time on appeals as people disagree.
The amount of automation that AI can support are infinite, but that leads us to question: what is the human side of human resources? Do we want to go down such a binary route?
What steps can we take to prepare HR and the business?
- Businesses should think about their change programme, org design, and structure and build awareness through communications.
- How agile is the business during change?
- Will companies overcomplicate reporting and analytics to discourage/support AI?
- Where does AI sit? Do we assume it sits within HR admin & HR tech teams? Wider context – wider HR community need to understand for eg. OD – if changing organisation to be more successful then need to recognise and understand AI and what this means for the wider agenda.
- HR is at the heart of the business and must support the business through the change.
- When changing and thinking of new technology and people, HR must help people move on and re-deploy more easily.
- HR needs to take a leap away from being a “support function” to being more of a “marketing function.”
- HR should not be reactive, but rather forward-thinking, commercial, and values-lead.
- Use the data to challenge the business – HR as the same credibility as Finance and IT.
- HR and Talent Acquisition has the biggest spend around the table through salaries, hiring etc. and yet businesses have more focus on tiny efficiencies in the business.
- Use automation and data to push back to the business.
- Do skillsets need to change within HR for it to move forward?
Different organisations will evolve at different speeds with the frontrunners setting the standard for other companies to follow.
How will AI impact the ethics and culture of the workforce and what will be the long term benefits?
- What does automation mean culturally?
- Can we support this on culture rather than efficiencies?
- Do you force through change or gradually bring people on the journey culturally to get buy-in and genuine adoption by all?
- Ask the question, “Does it solve the problem AND make you feel good?”
- Pure efficiency focus solves the business problem but doesn’t make employees feel good internally.
- Review the internal experience too in combination.
- Will we risk being more insular as a workforce?
- Will the computer know you better than your colleagues?
- AI will give you more time but how do you use that time?
- Recognise time as an important commodity rather than just have more jobs put on people.
- Instead give more room to be more creative and provide more time to connect
- Will we shift to being more productive by doing less? Enable personal choice.
- How smart is AI?
- It learns, remembers, and can absorb much more data than people.
Algorithms are fast-becoming a fact of workplace life, and HR can help change the conversation from fear-based to opportunity gains. A more optimistic view is that the rise of bots will bring economic prosperity and a major spike in job satisfaction. This view is based on the belief that robots entering the workplace will bring with them plenty of jobs as well. Besides figuring out which jobs can be better served with robots at the helm, HR departments need to discern where a human element will still be necessary.