More on HRM

Why HR will continue to be about people, not machines

Although AI is set to take over many HR tasks, what came through loud and clear at the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition is that people will continue to have influential and important roles in workplace management.

The AHRI National Convention and Exhibition came to a close on Wednesday and attendees were lucky to draw lessons from a selection of high-calibre international speakers from many professional backgrounds. Here are some important themes that arose consistently over the days.


Trust is not only the backbone of personal relationships, but professional ones also. In recent years, however, corporate scandals, poor ethical behaviour and financial mismanagement have helped to foster mistrust among consumers and employees towards big business.

During his presentation Aaron McEwan, senior director and advisory leader at Gartner, said that at the heart of good corporate culture is trust and commitment. If you have a leader that talks about initiatives and innovation but doesn’t embody these principles, or who allows policy-based barriers to prevent employees from doing their job effectively, trust is eroded.

Giving employees the freedom to make decisions is key to an organisation becoming more agile said David Thodey, speaking from experience as former CEO at Telstra and now head of Australia’s top scientific body the CSIRO. In her keynote, author and academic Rachel Botsman laid out what stood in the way of that progress, saying, “Trust has two enemies, not just one: bad character and poor information.” Utilising technology to enhance rather than detract from human connections is important. Which leads us to our next theme.


Whether it’s job satisfaction, workplace activities or employee engagement, the collection and interpretation of data is essential for change initiatives. If you want to sway leadership, you need the data and research to back up your argument. Author and president of Corporate Coaching International, Lois P. Frankel said that of her 40 years in HR, “If I could have done one thing differently it would have been more frequently using data to support my positions.”

At the HR Tech Conference, Dr Susan Entwisle, executive director at, referred to the Bersin Talent Analytics Maturity Model, which reveals that  56 per cent of organisations are reactive in terms of business demands and ad hoc reporting. Organisations that use analytics to develop predictive models and carry out risk analysis are in a small minority, making up only 4 per cent. Entwisle offered a sobering prediction for HR, saying, “It is my belief that transactional HR will be automated.” If this bears out, if it wants to survive and thrive, HR has to already be at the higher levels of decision making such as analytics, strategy and engagement.


But is data enough to convince key stakeholders? In her presentation, Lois Frankel explained how sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. Her theory on executive presence – the non-technical ways in which you telegraph your leadership potential and capability to others essentially comes down to three qualities: appearance, communication and gravitas.

She gave great tips on how to enhance all three, and relayed her response to those people who think such skills are unimportant, “If you think they’re soft skills, why are they so hard to learn?”

Speaking about HR’s role in leadership David Ulrich, Rensis Likert professor of business at the University of Michigan, said that successful leaders manage all stakeholders. They recognise that “leadership is not about me, but about the value I create for someone else”. He defined leadership as the intersection between talent and organisations and said that HR has the important role of bringing those two together. When that happens, said Ulrich, everyone wins.

Save the date for next year’s AHRI National Convention and Exhibition from 28 to 30 August 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Express your interest online.


Leave a reply

  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Graham Little
Graham Little

Organizational success is having the right thing done in right place at right time. It is only about people when the organization applies people to do it. and people is about a general theory of psychology, not about HRIS, big data, HCM software systems, ERP, etc… it is about how people treat people, and how the organization treats people, and how, it serves people in significant part ahead of serving itself, ahead of serving the governance, or stakeholders. Every aspect of any economy must serve the citizens, not the other way around, that is the lesson I hope we learn… Read more »

Tim Baker
Tim Baker

Well said Graham. HR tries to validate its existence by processing everything and everybody. Remember: It’s all about the people.

More on HRM