Is HR afraid of the future?

Chloe Hava


written on November 8, 2017

An insight into the hopes and fears of HR professionals. And AI doesn’t appear to be one of them. Yet.

All the talk about automation and the threat to jobs is not getting to the HR profession. The numbers are in and according to new research conducted by AHRI into the future of work, 96 per cent of respondents view AI as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Most HR professionals don’t believe that the jobs in their organisation will be supplanted by AI. However, what the future of the workplace actually means yielded some interesting results, with many thinking it could stretch anywhere from one to 10 years from now. Could it be that HR is in denial, or just optimistic? The survey results appear to point towards the latter, with most feeling technology will improve processes in their organisation. The sentiment seems to be that just because a certain technology is available, it doesn’t mean it has to be used.

“We call our facial recognition technology: “staff”

One organisation that’s determined to use technology where it sees fit is Bank of Queensland. One of the primary goals of the organisation is to maintain the human connection with customers despite advances in technology. This ethos is captured in the slogan plastered in the windows of their branches: “We call our facial recognition technology staff”.

At the heart of this idea is keeping people at the forefront of the business, despite the availability of automated technology. This is not to say that the bank doesn’t plan on using technology going forward. Frank Fillipone, owner manager of Bourke Street’s Bank of Queensland branch in Melbourne, says there is a place for technology, but not as a replacement for human interaction.

“Obviously we believe we’ll be assisted by technology, and that will help us in our goal of personalised banking. But we see it as something that will further strengthen and maintain those relationships and connections,” he says.

According to Fillipone, his employees aren’t afraid of an AI takeover either. “Our employees see technological development as an important and significant thing, as something that will increase efficiency and allow us to actually spend more time with clients. They will then be able to spend more time engaged in strategy and managing various circumstances,” he says.

In Fillipone’s eyes, this is what differentiates the organisation. “Human interaction will be more and more important going forward.”

Future fears?

So what does irk HR about the future? It’s worth mentioning that the gig economy is seen as having the potential to negatively impact on performance, customer service, workplace culture and ethical behaviour.  

HR can have a positive role to play in addressing the new world of work, as Lyn Goodear, AHRI CEO explains. “HR clearly has a central role in contributing to a responsive and resilient workforce that needs to accommodate itself to the new ways in which we are now working, and how we are going to deal with greater change as the rapidly emerging phenomena of artificial intelligence and computers are introduced into workplaces.”

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5 thoughts on “Is HR afraid of the future?

  1. Although the employees of Bank of Queensland feel that technology will only enhance the way they process and interact there has to come a point where some type of fear arises from AI.

  2. If 96 per cent of respondents view AI as an opportunity rather than a threat, then they either don’t know what AI well enough or have an inflated sense of worth of the HR profession.

  3. I would’ve been surprised at a different result, after all HR leaders are at the forefront of change in any modern organisation.

  4. I agree with Jeevan the impact of AI on the HR profession from recent future work research states the impact on HR will be approximately 47%. What that means is that approximately half of what an average HR professional does on a day to day basis will be easily replaceable by AI technology. The question is what will HR do for the remainder of that percentage – strategy, planning, counselling, or ?. The upshot from this technology is however you slice and dice it there will be significant HR entry level, HR administration that will be replacing people with AI.

  5. Maybe there are advantages in being old! It is about remembering changes that have occurred in the past. Some examples – Payroll personnel used to check and do calculations to timecards by hand now its all computerised, all training used to be delivered face to face now we have computer based training and many other mediums for its delivery, induction used to be presented in formal face to face settings now its often provided via computer, national IR negotiations used to be all done face to face involving extensive travel and absences from home base now much can be conducted by video link, computation of weekly/monthly salaries is computerised as is the annual preparation of group certificates. and I could go on and provided further examples of changes to HR activities over the years. The point I am making is that change is ongoing and HR has coped with it in the past and I am sure it will be able cope in the future. Of course HR will be better able to cope by being in the vanguard of organisation transformation/change, rather than having change foisted upon it by others who have the vision to introduce technology to improve operations/processes. By being innovative and a driver of change HR is then well placed to ensure that people issues are properly addressed. So don’t worry too much, just try to stay in front of the game!

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