From robot wealth advisers to driverless vehicles, we live in an era where the Fourth Industrial Revolution blurs the boundaries between the real world and the world of technology. Major transitions are afoot across most industries and human resources is no exception.
The key trend expected to impact HR this year is automation, according to a 2017 market research study jointly conducted by Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The study surveyed 835 HR professionals from various countries, with 24 per cent of all participants based in the UAE.
An overwhelming 45 per cent of respondents anticipate job losses in traditional areas of work due to automation and advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Nevertheless, 32 per cent believe that technological innovation will lead to the creation of specialised jobs that still require human input and intervention. Automation offers a wealth of possibilities for the HR industry, from improving the accuracy and efficiency of work to deploying robots to take on mundane and routine tasks. It is expected to redesign the entire employee experience, dramatically slash costs and boost the vital role of HR in the corporate value chain.
A 2016 Ernst & Young Robotic Process Automation for HR & Payroll report estimates that HR employees spend 93 per cent of their time carrying out repetitive tasks, while 65 per cent of rules-based HR processes can in effect be automated. Inevitably, there are risks of redundancies to be faced through completely relying on automation to perform crucial HR tasks. However, companies can always reassign HR specialists to tasks that require human interaction or to more strategic positions. Automation will lead to new or redefined roles that require advanced skillsets and specialised knowledge. The DKP-SHRM study ranks the competency gap as the second most important trend to have an impact on the HR industry in 2018, followed by an aging workforce. Respondents are also concerned that future graduates and employees might not have the right skills or qualifications to fulfill emerging roles in the job market.
The responsibility for staying competitive and employable in a disruptive economy is shared among employees, corporates and governments. In this context, the UAE government launched the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution that aims to position the country as a global model for leveraging cutting-edge technologies to serve society and drive innovation to boost the economy. With greater exposure to disruptive technologies, citizens and residents of the UAE will be more likely to embrace technological change.
Whatever the future has in store, the HR function will remain a key enabler in attracting, developing and retaining quality human capital. Furthermore, HR professionals will continue to play a critical role in supporting business transformation with the appropriate structure, culture and capacities.
Ultimately, as we gear up for more disruptions and transformations and the lines between our real and virtual worlds continue to blur, we all need to invest in upskilling and empowering ourselves and adopt a lifelong learning mind set. After all, it is human skills and learning capabilities that differentiate people from machines.