The future of work is changing – quickly and irrevocably.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological innovations are driving this change and the working landscape in twenty, or even ten years’ time is going to be vastly different from that of today.
Developments such as social media, mobile working and cloud connectivity have already altered how, where and when people work – while AI, robotics, and smart technology are already making some traditional job roles obsolete.
In short, we’re facing an innovation deluge. And keeping on top of all the latest technologies and trends is going to be a key challenge for all businesses – but especially those that want to lead or disrupt.
So, where does this all leave HR?
To start with, let’s look at how one of the world’s biggest companies – food and drinks giant, PepsiCo – is adapting its HR processes to the changing landscape of work.
In Russia, the company is now using a new software service called Robot Vera, which uses advanced speech recognition software to screen candidates for manual jobs such as fork-lift truck drivers and factory workers.
The software automatically scans CVs on selected job sites and then phones candidates it identifies as having the right qualifications, making up to 10,000 phone calls simultaneously.
Candidates are greeted with this message: “Hello, I am Vera, I am a robot. I work with PepsiCo. Are you looking for a job now?”. If the candidate says yes, Vera then checks if any suitable positions exist and ask some simple follow-up questions.
With unsuitable candidates, Vera will politely end the conversation. But for potential hires, interview transcripts are forwarded to a human recruiter to make a final decision.
According to PepsiCo, the success rate from cold calls made by Vera matches the success rate by human recruiters, but Vera can complete the work in less than one-fifth of the time.
This example is, perhaps, an extreme one – it remains to be seen if mass robot phone screening will ever catch on – but the use of AI will undoubtedly transform the HR sector in the very near future, with certain processes becoming automated and computer-led.
Online chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, as well as screening job seekers, can help with simple employee-related tasks.
For example, Overstock – an American online retailer – has replaced a telephone-based system for sick leave with a chatbot called Mila. Instead of talking to a manager, or leaving a message – sick workers now call Mila, who takes care of things by asking a few questions and then passes the information to a manager. Mila also helps employees schedule time off, check schedules, and other tasks that have previously been done by HR staff.
Time to adapt
Digital disruption is changing the way tasks and processes are completed, so you need to look at the roles within your organisation, and establish how they are likely to change in the near future.
With AI and automation increasingly taking on the more routine and rudimentary tasks, you may need to design new roles that complement this new dynamic and fill them with staff who have a skill-set and knowledge-base that reflects the demands of new technology.
And this is true for HR itself, as much as any other department. So, look at your own roles and processes and assess how technology is likely to change and potentially improve things while understanding how you are going to adapt to a function. The examples from Pepsico and Overstock are great to use cases to help spark ideas. Ask your team, how can new technology be leveraged to improve HR practices and what are the broader implications?
At some point, HR must adapt to cope with the dizzying effects of workplace innovation – that much is certain. But how and when that change actually takes place is down to those involved. Will you be an early adopter or a laggard? There’s no doubt we will continue to see more companies demonstrate their use of next-generation technology in disruptive ways.
The choice of many will be to wait and see what those other organisations do. Technology is, after all, only part of HR’s remit and there are most likely more pressing issues that need your attention. But the danger of this approach is that you lose the opportunity to create a competitive advantage. This may not be important to everyone, but if you want to be the employer of choice in your niche, maybe innovation can help you achieve that.
It is those that embrace and adapt to the changing world of work who will reap the rewards and stay ahead of the pack. Disagree with this perspective? Let us know what you think.