The World Economic Forum suggests we are on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by ‘ubiquitous automation, big data and artificial intelligence’. The Institute for Public Policy Research, however, says that “despite the growing capability of robots and artificial intelligence (AI), we are not on the cusp of a ‘post-human’ economy.”
IPPR suggests that an estimated 60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of activities which could be automated with already-proven technologies. As tasks are automated, work is likely to be redefined, focusing on areas of human comparative advantage over machines.
The CIPD point out that “new technology has changed many more jobs than it has destroyed, and it does not destroy work. Overall, the biggest advanced industrialized economies have between them created over 50 million jobs, a rise of nearly 20 percent, over the past 20 years despite huge economic and technological disruptions.”
Challenge, change, and competition
There is no doubt that new technologies, ‘disruptive’ technology and innovation, and the risks associated with them, including skills shortages, are hot topics for HR professionals. We live in exciting times, where digitization and how to move from what we have now into the brave new digital world are an over-arching concern for HR directors. However, in many organizations, there are those who don’t recognize the pace of technological change and how it is impacting business models and the competitive landscape.
At 10Eighty we think it’s important that HR see AI and technological change as an inspiration with regards to innovation and productivity. The most successful companies will be those that are in step with technological change. What’s needed is a nimble and flexible organizational culture, and HR should see it as challenging and exciting rather than worrying. The CIPD suggests that “a key test for the future will be whether we can create resilient and effective structures and practices in the workplace and beyond to minimize the adverse impacts and maximize the benefits.”
The way we work will change; while AI is unlikely to displace human labor, it is going to change the labor market, our occupations and the type of work tasks we perform. The automation of work, rather than occupations, has implications for all of us. Currently, nearly half of all time spent at work in advanced economies is on tasks involving the collection and processing of data, or predictable physical activities. These are the tasks most likely to be automated, leaving people to focus on activities such as managing and developing people, interaction, collaboration, and communication, creative and caring work and unpredictable physical activity.
Top notch tools
AI, predictive analytics, and machine learning, in which algorithms make predictions about data, are starting to make an impact on HR in terms of candidate search and selection, and also predicting learning retention. Some headhunters use machine learning to identify passive candidates through their online behavior and in learning and development, professionals now use algorithms to identify the topics that people would like to learn more about.
In the meantime, HR chatbot technology is transforming areas such as induction and benefits administration especially when employees are looking for basic information. Chatbots are able to interact with multiple employees simultaneously, offering a self-service online HR database; such technology can save time and increase functional accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness.
In short AI tools will help HR professionals with better, faster and more accurate tools. HR needs to work with senior leadership to ensure they understand the implications and to make a robust business case for introducing new technology and the benefits of deployment for employees and the organization.