AI for superior decision making, chatbots for personalized customer service, driverless vehicles—every day, we hear another story about technology disrupting industries or transforming entire business sectors.

There are countless articles about how robots will make our economies more productive and enhance our working lives. PwC forecasts that AI could “boost the global economy by $15.7 trillion by 2030.” It notably has the potential to eliminate the drudgery of monotonous tasks as well as increase safety and reduce risk in the “dirty and dangerous” industries.

Yet, there are also the inevitable fears about the thousands of workers being displaced from their jobs.

There’s even a website dedicated to predicting the likelihood of your job eventually being eliminated by a robot! Accountants and Auditors? 94%. Actors? 34%. Magistrates? 40%. HR managers? 55%. And so, we’ve come to the Rise of the Robots.

I’m sure you’ve just checked the website for your own job! Don’t worry (yet), it’s still very difficult to precisely forecast the overall impact of AI in the workplace. According to Deloitte, AI will eliminate 800 thousand jobs—while at the same time paving the way to creating 3.5 million new, better-paid ones. 

The rise of the hybrid workplace

Experts believe we’re moving towards a world of hybrid workplaces. One where humans will be assisted by AI in a variety of guises, from machine learning algorithms in our software applications to interactive voice assistants or bots we can directly interact with.

Of course, HR will not be immune.

We’ve seen automation creeping into HR for many years. For example, what used to take hundreds of hours of manual review is now accomplished instantaneously and without human intervention; technology instantly screens thousands of applications, filtering out any which lack particular skills or experiences. In looking for a new recruit, AI can take this up another level. By incorporating machine learning to identify specific strengths and skills possessed by successful past recruits, AI can better improve and inform the next selection process.

Voice assistants might even take on the task of fielding initial calls from prospective job applicants—answering routine questions related to pay, benefits, working hours, flexible working policies, and so on. And similarly, bot technology could streamline the onboarding process for new starters by taking recruits through the company induction process and answering any questions they may have. Automated insights and AI have the potential to drastically transform organizations.

There are countless other ways AI will be—and in many cases already is—impacting HR, from automating the management of holiday schedules to scheduling payroll and booking meetings. And the upshot for HR? Teams should have more time to concentrate on the other aspects of their jobs—strategic thinking, planning, empathy, people skills and decision making. In fact, HR teams will have more time to pursue the activities that inspired us to sign up for an HR career in the first place.

HR at the center of the AI transformation

As well as seeing their own roles change, HR has a vitally important part to play in helping organizations work their way through inevitable challenges as they transition to a hybrid workplace.   

HR is ideally positioned to assess the impact of AI as it begins to sweep through the organization. While Chief Technology Officer or the Chief Digitalisation Officer will oversee technology changes for the business, HR teams will be charged with managing the change process and individual human difficulties. More critical to the success of AI in organizations, HR will be the linchpin in fostering an AI-friendly culture, maintaining an engaged workforce throughout the transition and ensuring alignment and leadership throughout the process. HR ensures AI’s benefits are maximized.

With AI taking away some parts of employees’ jobs, where can workers use that freed up time effectively? Can their skills be easily deployed in other parts of the company? Is there a greater role for learning and development? Should there be a move towards embracing more part-time or flexible work?

HR should be a key influencer as company boards make strategic decisions about where and how AI should be introduced into the workplace and the speed at which it can be allowed to progress. HR should design the strategy to communicate and manage the resulting changes and impact on the workforce. 

Continuous listening provides continuous insight

Technologies such as continuous listening can be invaluable in helping HR understand the impact of change on the workforce. How are people feeling? Beyond employees’ concerns over AI, see what they think of the new AI systems. Are they delivering value? And can they be leveraged to further support human workers?

 It’s a waste of time focusing on scare stories where robots eliminate our jobs. The fact is AI is here. HR is ideally positioned to embrace this reality and play an instrumental role in driving AI transformation efforts throughout their organizations.

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