Defining the future of HR amid technological advancements

Neil Hughes
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Over recent years one of the most common challenges that our clients have asked us to help them with is to define a Human Resources strategy that will support the delivery of their business goals.

It is impossible to tackle that task without properly considering the impact that technology will have on both the business and on HR.

Technological advancements continue to impact all areas of our lives and work, and the pace of change is likely to be exponential in the coming years. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are revolutionising business processes, and HR is no exception.

So, what are the areas of HR practice that are likely to be affected and what does this mean for businesses, HR functions and for the profession?

Firstly, there is a clear opportunity for technology to automate “transactional” HR work. HR systems can automate tasks such as data entry and analysis, benefits administration, and payroll.

Chatbots can interact with both employees and line managers to answer straightforward queries in areas such as benefits and leave entitlements, and machine learning means that the complexity of the queries that they can deal with will grow with “experience”.

This automation can also significantly improve the HR service user experience through improved speed and accuracy of the processing of these mundane tasks.

Recruitment and selection is another area where there are clear opportunities for technology to revolutionise practices. AI and machine learning algorithms can help identify and screen candidates based on skills, experience, and cultural fit.

AI-powered recruitment tools can analyse candidate CVs and social media profiles to identify matches for job vacancies. This can help organisations identify top talent more efficiently, reduce the time and cost of recruitment, and improve the reliability of selection decisions.

Literally every phase of the employee lifecycle is ripe with opportunities for technology to enhance and revolutionise HR practice.

The case, therefore, for HR to embrace technology in this way appears to be compelling. By automating transactional tasks, HR professionals can free up time to focus on more strategic and value-added activities, such as talent management and employee engagement.  

This opportunity aligns closely with the vision for the future of HR that Dave Ulrich created in the 1990s, and the evolution of his thinking continues to shape best practice HR operating models. Technology appears to offer a generational opportunity to transform HR in line with Ulrich’s vision.

But what does this mean for the HR profession? Clearly, technological developments create exciting opportunities for HR professionals to add significant value to the organisations they work for and the employees and line managers they support.

However, the profession appears not yet to have grasped the implications for those entering the profession in the future. How do future HR graduates “cut their teeth” and gain the experience necessary to add value strategically if those entry level experiential roles have been replaced by the bots?

The opportunities in all of this are clear, but there is still thinking to be done on defining future HR career journeys.