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Disruptive technology is a good thing for HR

Via LinkedIn : Nowadays, one might think that due to the number of self-employed, the increasing number of zero-hour contracts, the fact that interns hardly ever get paid, and the dialogue on living wage, that the days when Norman barons forced serfs to build them a keep have returned. Luckily, that’s not the case.

But what is continuously evolving is the way we employ people, the alternatives we have for human labour, the way we invest in employees, and the return it brings to the organisation.

For a long time HR has held key responsibility for recruitment, training, and pay and reward among other people management disciplines, facing only minimal encroachment on its traditional territory.

But that secure, self-assured existence is coming to an end as a major transformation looms via the inimitable rise of technology.

Alongside advances in tech, there is an ongoing shift in the way we work. From the increasing use of zero-hours contracts to the introduction of the national living wage, HR is at the forefront of change.

And as disruptive technologies become more commonly available there’s a very real possibility that robots will be used to do many of the transactional tasks that HR previously completed. And that is just the beginning.

Artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, drones, autonomous transportation and Microsoft’s Hololens are all likely to play a huge part in the day-to-day operations of the HR department.

And that’s before we mention the innumerable new types of robot emerging from development labs around the world. These include surgical robots that aid operations, the origibot, which is a mobile robot with a telescreen and a gripper arm that will represent you physically in the office when you can’t be there, and kilobots which in large numbers can assemble themselves in any form required.

They will become strategic tools rather than playthings for IT.

These innovations will enable homo sapiens and robots to work together in the near future as co-workers, instead of separate entities, co-operating to complete the task.

One huge positive of the rise of technology is that it does away with human prejudices.

Equality on the work floor is still a challenge for employers despite recognition that a more diverse workforce can deliver better results than an all white or all male one. But humans alone don’t seem to be able to make this change. It is left to bodies like the United Nations to run initiatives like HeforShe to promote gender diversity.

Recruiters are human, they have biases and they make mistakes.

But AI or robots can crunch huge amounts of information and spot things that may not be apparent to the naked eye or do things that people cannot physically achieve. If we are willing to adapt disruptive technologies in the recruitment process the risk of human prejudices can be significantly reduced.

Another benefit is that technology can help our ageing workforce remain competitive.

Physical degeneration is a fact of life and one that often leads to prejudice against job candidates over 50. But technology can be used to identify and adjust working processes to boost productivity with limited investment.

This is already happening at BMW’s production plant in Lower Bavaria. Rather than performance managing out older workers or forcing them into early retirement, BMW looked for alternatives to help them retain loyal, long-serving employees.

The car manufacturer started ‘Line Project 2017’, where a production line team was set up to support older workers and boost their productivity. It included HR interventions such as more emphasis on healthcare, part-time policies and ergonomic changes including chairs, desks and flooring designed to reduce physical stress.

Initial project results revealed that the line of older workers achieved a 7 per cent productivity improvement in one year, equalling the productivity of lines staffed by younger workers.

These are just two examples of how HR will never be the same again but there are many more. And, while the changes technology may bring to HR are exciting they are be indicative of wider shifts in the corporate sphere.

What changes have you seen technology bring to your workplace?

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