AI and Automation: It’s time for HR to adapt and adopt

Guest blog by Peter Van Ostaeyen, Blockchain and IoT Consultant at SD Worx

Do you really imagine yourself sitting next to a robot at your desk? No. Neither do I. And when it comes to AI and automation entering the workplace, this is not the future we’re talking about.

Workforce automation is here, and it’s not going to be a passing fad. No one yet knows the full impact it will have on the workplace, but it’s clear that the very nature of HR and staffing is going to evolve dramatically in the next few years. In a recent survey by Gartner, two-thirds of business leaders reported that if their company didn’t digitalise more by 2020, it would no longer be competitive. That’s why when it comes to AI and automation, it’s time for HR to adapt and adopt.

When effectively deployed into the workforce, AI and automation offer companies and their employees the opportunity for innovation, growth and long-term value. However the realisation of this potential lies squarely in the hands of HR to intelligently and sensitively integrate these technologies into the workplace. Increasingly HR will act as the interface between human employees and AI technologies – and this should be seen as an exciting strategic opportunity.

HR teams need to ensure they are the hub of workforce technology innovation. Failure to make sure staff not only know how to use the new technology but are comfortable working in tandem with it, could result in retention rates falling, productivity diminishing and ultimately, an inability to drive revenue. When businesses are investing considerable sums of money in introducing this new technology, this is a failure they can’t afford to make.

Automation: The present and the future

Most organisations state that people are their greatest asset. The truth is, not all businesses look after their people as well as they could. The introduction of automation into the workplace is a chance to reprioritise humans – to really put them at the heart of the organisation. As such, HR teams have to be at the forefront of leading the way in ensuring their employees don’t feel they will be replaced and instead prove to them the real benefits that automation can bring to their workflow.

A recent report from McKinsey has revealed that up to 50% of tasks we tackle at work today could be automated by 2055. But, rather than seeing this as a negative, this is very much an opportunity.

When fully capitalised upon, we can already see that AI and automation are proving to be invaluable in the workplace. As they take on time-consuming, repetitive tasks, they’re delivering new services that previously never existed, they are allowing for more high quality human to human engagement and subsequently, they’re driving innovations that would otherwise be missed due to a lack of time.

HR: the digital powerhouse

Automation will require significant change management that must be carefully orchestrated from the outset if it is to be successful. Today when a new team is created, or a new employee joins the company, processes are typically in place to fully integrate them into the current culture. The introduction of new technology should be no different. HR departments need to consider, even before the technology is in place, what strategies are needed in order to best prepare their employees for the rise of automation.

AI and automation do not necessarily mean that there will be a loss of jobs, but the skill sets required are likely to change. As such, it is necessary that HR departments maintain transparency during the transition. Employees will need to know exactly how AI and automation is being implemented in the workplace and how it will affect their work cycle. HR will also serve as a steady hand to manage uncertainty and maintain motivation. For example it is likely that employees will need to go through training to upskill, with HR providing a steering role. Furthermore, when it comes to recruitment HR departments will need to consider more carefully what skill sets potential new employees have.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Workforce automation is a reality and is something that organisations, particularly the HR teams, need to be prepared to effectively and properly integrate. Businesses need to recognise that this a real opportunity for them to upgrade, not downgrade, their workforce – to empower their people to truly be the best asset of the business. HR teams that ensure they consider and efficiently manage how they will add people, upgrade skills and seamlessly integrate machines into the workplace will have a much greater chance of driving growth and return on investment.

Author: Editorial Team

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