by Mike Bollinger
15 Sep 2020
HR in 2030 and Beyond, A Look Ahead: Robots, Data, and Personalization (Oh My!)
Who could have anticipated that the automobile would contribute to the creation of strip malls and supermarkets? There were likely no media executives using electronic printing presses who anticipated the concept of social media or 24x7 always-on websites. As the construction teams on the intercontinental railroad hammered away, I bet they never thought they would one day look up and see airplanes flying over their heads.
It is hard to see around corners, or into the future, but having an idea allows us to prepare and adapt. How do emerging technologies, demographics and of course COVID impact new business models that will require ever-evolving strategies?
I invite you to take a journey with me on what the future of HR might look like and what technology may change everything 20 years from now.
The future of work requires we understand and embrace data.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum came out with The Future of Jobs Report, in which the organization suggested that by 2022, 62% of organizations’ information, data processing, information search and transmission tasks will be performed by machines – compared to 46% today. If the first thing we’re going to see is automation in the workplace, we must tackle data. Artificial intelligence depends wholly on clean, consistent data. One of the fallacies of humans putting data into systems is the constant variability. We are starting to see the use of robotic processing automation, or RPA, to automate the data tasks that consume day-to-day responsibilities of HR professionals, creating incredible value for AI by making data more consistent.
West Monroe Partners’ human resources department uses a bot named “Rosie”, borrowed from the classic American sitcom The Jetsons, to enter data on new employees into their systems. The result? What once took an HR representative about 25 minutes takes Rosie only five.
Technology will impact everything in HR from compensation all the way to recruiting. Blockchain will empower candidates to take control of their personal information in the hiring process. The HR support services will be rapidly automated through voice navigation. At Cornerstone, we are looking at new and unique modalities for which people can train, from integrating the learning experience platform into VR glasses to hosting hologram-led courses.
Look, there’s far more data than we can ever consume. The beauty of machines is that they can translate that data for us and tell us that we need it before we even know we need it.
So, the machines are taking our HR jobs.
Actually, I don’t believe that tech replaces jobs. New technologies don’t eliminate entire occupations, but only portions of jobs. For HR practitioners, we now see robots performing specialized roles within recruiting, e.g. scanning social media to identify the right person and right skills. Machines can also help with identifying diversity and culture fits in the recruiting process.
If you think about how HR will be directly impacted, there was a study done by Oxford that calculated the susceptibility of occupations to automation, in which they indicated that the HR administrative jobs had a 90% chance of being automated by 2035. For instance, HR spends a lot of time putting data into the system. Remember that bot called “Rosie”? Well, she is an example of RPA inputting the data for employees. And, what about responding to HR processes, like “Hey Siri, where can I find this benefit in my HR system?” A bot will answer that for you. Compensation? I’m sure a bot is figuring out how to automate that right now (and hopefully eliminate the pay gap while it’s at it!)
That same Oxford study, however, noted that HR professionals who are directors and officers are far more likely to be untouched by automation if they are involved in strategy and leverage valuable soft skills.
So, why do I think that tech doesn’t replace jobs? I believe automation provides us with an opportunity to both elevate our roles and explore entirely new career paths that simply don’t exist today. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report claims that while 75 million jobs may be displaced, 133 million additional new roles may emerge concurrently. The skills we have today aren’t going to be the skills we need tomorrow.
If I could share one piece of advice for my fellow HR colleagues, it would be to understand data and embrace it. The data still requires your ability to have insight, guide it in the right direction, use technology to both act and personalize the experience for your people. With every individual craving their own unique experience, we must partner with technology to solve for the personalization requirements.