Technology has made huge inroads into many sectors and has affected businesses in innumerable ways. The human resources departments once have been considered one of the least technical functions in an organization with time-consuming duties and significant amounts of paperwork. But in the last decade technology has permeated through the whole organization with HR platforms digitizing much of the information that needs to be processed. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the innovations that is changing HR in a big way, removing inefficiencies in the process of collection and analysis of people data. Another advantage of the AI is that it always adopts to up to date versions or fixes. Information is more easily accessible and can help to uncover hidden insights into an organization.
The transparency and cost-saving benefits brought about by HR technology have made it hard for organizations to ignore it. However, the potential impact of automation on HR careers is something that has started weighing on the minds of HR professionals. That is not to say that the HR function is not already deriving value from technology. HR has made considerable progress in making its processes faster, more efficient, and in many cases more inclusive of employees, and this has produced organizational benefits beyond mere cost reduction. Making HR processes simpler and easier to use can empower both managers and their employees.
A recent report by HR solutions firm PeopleStrong states that by 2020 a quarter of people may lose jobs in India due to automation. According to the company’s research, India will make up around 23% of jobs to be lost to automation globally by 2021. HR technology companies are increasingly investing in areas like artificial intelligence, and machine learning to augment HR service delivery. But, according to Tina Hamilton, President of myHR Partner – the automation can’t replace the human act of understanding what an organization needs from a specific position. Therefore, the HR function is likely to withstand automation given the high level of complex human interaction it entails. It thus could make HR a future-proof profession.
There is also a cultural barrier to get past, one that might be characterized as “data phobia”. This is the mantra from more dyed-in-the-wool practitioners that “I’m a people person, not a numbers person”. This is a mindset that needs to be challenged in the longer term through investment in skills around data management for HR professionals, and in the short term through a closer working relationship between HR and IT departments. The HR executives should understand the need for this investment and effort requires in making their life easy.
Much of the HR-led technology investment is focused on automating or optimizing existing processes. HR executives clearly value this approach – 44% of those surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) say they will initiate or oversee an increase in adoption of AI in their department in the next two years. Most of the companies are already incorporating data and AI to link employee benefit programmes more accurately to individual preferences.
Adopting and implementing AI technology is, however, a tough row to hoe. The initial cost like beta testing, debugging, software implementation and training makes the extensive adoption of the new software difficult. Hence AI is a slow process and its impact will be felt at a slower pace. The need of the hour for HR personnel is to understand how AI will shape the future of work. While there is no doubt that jobs will be impacted, there is a likelihood of new positions being spawned to handle new technological challenges. In order to meet these evolving needs, HR practitioners will have to upgrade their capability and resources to manage data and leverage AI to remain relevant. Because at the end of the day if HR personnel wants to play a strategic role within organizations, it needs technology to help it measure how human capital decisions affect the business and how business decisions affect human capital.
Market trends, employment trends, and macroeconomic trends may prove to be the most significant forces that the HR leaders will face in next two years. But if they fail to engage with AI, they will miss out an opportunity to better leverage the benefits of those trends in their organization and on its employees.