navigating the new era of HR

I recently had an accident and ended up with my leg elevated watching pay TV for a few weeks. Whilst recovering, I discovered the show Humans (which I binged) and it got me thinking.

For those of you who have not seen the show, it is about a near future where humans and Synths (human-like robots) are living together, and synthetics have become a major presence in the workforce. The series is focused on the social, cultural, and psychological impact of this. Whilst I don’t imagine we will be seeing life-like robots taking over the office anytime soon, the digital revolution is here now. In the last couple of months, the amount of debate around the use of AI and the future of work has increased exponentially and people are weighing in on this debate in every part of society.

Christopher Nolan, the director of the new film Oppenheimer recently likened the birth of nuclear weapons to the creation of artificial intelligence — and the dangerous consequences they could have for humanity if left unchecked. Extreme, but it shows the extent of the concern.

A quick search showed me that “Artificial intelligence (AI) could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, (investment bank Goldman Sachs), the World Economic Forum in 2020 predicted 85 million jobs by 2025 and Mckinsey's estimate was much more conservative at 45 million by 2030.

Regardless of the differing opinions of the extent of its impact, the fact is it’s here now and things are going to change rapidly. According to the recent data released by ChatGPT they currently have over 100 million users. And the website generated 1.6 billion visits in June 2023. New LinkedIn research of 2,913 professionals shows 28% of Australian workers are interested in picking up AI or machine learning skills this year, and 26% are interested in learning data analysis but 37% of Australian workers say they are not interested in learning any digital skills this year. 

It all begs the question: are we ready for this? Do we have the appropriate level of security and process in place to ensure equity and is it something we, personally or our business needs or wants?
In a recent report I read by Eightfold AI, the data showed that the majority of the HR leaders they surveyed were already using AI across HR functions like employee records management, payroll and benefits, recruitment and hiring, performance management, Learning and Development and onboarding. They also reported that a staggering 92 % of leaders intend to increase the use of AI in the next 12 to 18 months.

The benefits of using AI are well documented from allowing HR professionals to focus more on strategic initiatives and relationship-building to being able to leverage large amounts of data and therefore personalise employee experiences, make better decisions and reduce costs.

In a 2-year period our P and C function could look very different. Some of the questions this raised for me are:
- If basic admin functions will be absorbed by AI, how will that impact on the more entry level roles?
- How will we address the increased need for the higher-level skills such emotional intelligence, critical thinking and communication that are likely to become the more valuable skills we are looking for?
- How will we manage the ethical considerations and ensure that AI is set up to be fair, unbiased and equitable in all processes?
- How will we ensure that AI ensures the confidentiality of our employees’ information?

Interestingly when I asked Chat GPT to weigh in on this argument it said that it was “crucial to strike the right balance between technology and human expertise to ensure that the HR function continues to foster meaningful connections and drive organisational success in the ever-evolving digital landscape”.

Well said.
I am interested in your thoughts on this subject. If you are interested in attending an informal round table with other HR professionals on this topic, please let me know.


about the author

jeannette lang - general manager - VIC / SA

Jeannette has over 20 years of experience as a senior HR leader. With a strong network (nationally and internationally) of HR practitioners, she is focussed on the placement of senior and executive HR professionals.

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