Run for Your lives, the Robots are Coming!

Debate has been and will continue to rage about where we draw the line in the sand between technologies that assist us and those that replace us. Industry leaders and technology giants have also stepped up to the plate, and Ian Bogost in his recent article, “Why Zuckerberg and Musk Are Fighting About the Robot Future” —The Atlantic July 2017, makes a great point that we don’t really know what we mean when we throw around terms like AI and Robotics.

Robotics’ sounds much more palatable. We can look around and see how robotics helps us in everyday life–enabling the wounded to walk again, machines helping us to avoid high risk and life-threatening endeavors where the physical human being just cannot survive. But what about AI and Robotics in HR? That’s right… we’re not talking about deep sea diving, building an automobile, or performing precision, life-saving surgeries. We’re looking at HR. That function in our organizations that is so peopley (yes, that’s a made-up word!) that it focuses on how we humans interact with our colleagues, the organization itself and then how we seek to build a more engaged place to work and develop. Is AI and Robotics going hurt that peopley function?

My perspective is no. Far from it. Technology needs to be embraced. We cannot fight progress and should instead use it to our advantage. So, I looked at some ways in which the HR profession has benefited and can further benefit from the use of assisted technologies.

HR departments have evolved at a rapid rate and are often pioneers in how to assimilate technology in shared services, analytics, and data warehousing as well as new cloud-based HR systems like Workday, SAP SuccessFactors and Oracle Fusion. It has been these processes, which offer a more transactional and data-centric need, that have been easier to embrace. Think payroll processing, onboarding data in large volume recruitment drives or benefits tracking. HR Operations in this regard have seen some of the more tangible wins. Chatbots can mimic personal interactions and ensure that an employee feels a ‘personal touch’ when using the intranet to ask questions about employee policies, maternity leave, vacation allowance.

Talent Acquisition is an area where AI is beginning to really take hold and where advancements in technology are moving at a rapid rate. Technologies exist which can evaluate the accuracy and effectives of a recruiters’ job description writing skills and make recommendation to improve its impact or remove unconscious bias. Machine’s that use biometric face mapping technologies to identify facial pattern recognition to assess whether a candidate is telling the truth, enthusiastic or focused and attentive around particular subjects are in advanced stages of development and early utilization.

In Talent Management, organizations are already using software bots to manipulate data for the benefits of workforce planning. Manager can help lay the plans for where a future workforce should be located based on local demographics, costs of living, seasonal climate changes, rate of college enrollment and graduation. The ability for these bots to crunch this volume of data in a nanosecond could help make or save companies millions of dollars overall. Let’s face it, speed, accuracy, and cost are three buzz words for all leaders, not just HR, and technology intervention in HR processes can satisfy each of them.

Companies are also signaling the use of programs to remove us from the painful face-to-face performance management meeting. Instead, allowing you to continually track your performance and receive recommendations on how to improve based on assessments and attributes of more successful members of your team. In addition, learning programs that reflect your stage of development can then be recommended or even automatically enroll you.

Sensory technologies have been used in many studies to determine employee engagement and in part its relation to the physical work environment. The capabilities appear boundless.

The time to make a judgment call on whether we need an extra team of professionals in our workforce or just better systems is already upon us–digital innovation and disruption is here to stay. But it needs to be a decision that is made at the expense of people and our assets to an organization, but enabling us to thrive in areas of creative thought and engagement where the human touch will always be needed. Can a machine or network of machines remove unconscious bias totally from our hiring practices? No. Can it help to engage, nurture and consequently improve the performance of an individual? Not necessarily. But it can it give us the tools to do these things.

Technologies and people can work in harmony. And shouldn’t a place where people are at the very center of its purpose be the first to embrace it? Many would argue that HR is already leading the way!


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