As many as 1.5 million UK jobs could be eventually lost to automation, with many going in the HR (Human Resources) space – but overall, the impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in both work and in the HR job will mainly be positive.
That’s one way, at least, to read a number of interesting news items in the HR automation space that have come across our desks in the past few weeks.
Take the intriguing look respected US business magazine Forbes had at the whole vexed issue of what role advance automation might have in tomorrow’s companies, Why Robots Are Actually Making Work More Human. There, the point is made that we are all scared of ‘the robots’ – “Many people view the incorporation of AI at work with anxiety, if not outright fear [as] AI will end careers by automating much, if not all, of what we do for a living” – but this may be looking down the wrong end of the telescope completely.
Why? Because there is a distinct possibility, argues the report’s author, Oracle’s Emily He, that instead, AI will offload repetitive, rote tasks, freeing up time for teams to concentrate on the sorts of tasks that require uniquely human intelligence. She does this by sitting down with bestselling author and expert on the future of work Dan Schawbel, author of books such as Millennial Branding and Back To Human, to gauge his views on the impact of advanced tech on the future of work – and this is what he tells her:
• the importance of people skills in this new era cannot be underestimated
• people with soft skills are getting harder to find
• technologies like AI should be used as a bridge, not a barrier, to human interaction
but probably most important of all, that, “Instead of recruiters churning through hundreds—or thousands—of resumes, AI-fueled tools can crunch through the bios of current employees who are star performers to identify common traits that make them successful and then look for similar traits in incoming resumes” – while AI could also be used to identify at-risk employees on the verge of job hopping or even existing high performers who show strengths in certain areas and could fill a new opening better than any outsider could, the article argues, concluding that, “The opportunity now lies with HR to learn, understand and implement AI.”
Sounds positive – but change is happening, and it will mean at least some jobs in the Human Capital world are going, the UK’s official data body, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), tells us, too – with its findings well summed up in a round-up for People Management UK, More than half of HR admin roles at risk of automation, says ONS. Specifically, a majority, 58%, of HR administrative occupation could be automated, as well as 40% of HR and industrial relations officers roles.
Interestingly it’s the entry-level and junior roles, though, that seem most at risk – as just 28% of HR manager and director roles were at risk of automation, says the study, which also explains that the ONS threshold for when it thinks a job role to be at high risk through automation has to be at least 70%.
The study does not specify a time period for all this to take place, but does add that as many as 1.5 million jobs in England were at high risk of some duties and tasks being automated in the future – everything from waiters and waitresses, shelf-fillers and shop-floor sales staff being rated the most at risk of automation, with doctors and nurses, higher education teaching professionals and senior education staff the safest. ONS agrees with Forbes, it turns out – that it will be routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out “more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function”. Thus, the risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason.
So some jobs will go, but AI could still be more of a plus than a minus – and if you agree with the perspective of US website HR Drive’s Employees more productive, creative in highly automated companies, citing a study commissioned by IT vendor ServiceNow, that could be good news for the bottom line. Specifically, high levels of organisational automation allows for “digital workflows” – defined as humans both working with machines and also transitioning from repetitive to creative tasks, again. What this means in practical terms: 80% of employees in highly automated organisations said highly automated workflows raise productivity, compared to 59% of those in highly manual workplaces (data coming from a survey of about 800 US-based tech function executives and more than 20 interviews with global business technology leaders).
“ServiceNow’s research found that a large percentage of employees are willing to be trained for new jobs and opportunities,” concludes the article. “HR might take this as good news, and might also consider changing training processes to get ahead of talent gaps, especially those caused by new technologies,” it recommends… which sounds like great advice to us!