What Can We Expect From Tomorrow's HR?

Tom Loeffert

Technology has reshaped and redefined the worker experience. Chats around the water cooler have been replaced by messaging apps and social media. Emails and meetings have been transformed by the likes of videoconferencing and online collaboration tools. And with these tools being affordable and widely available, they’re quickly changing businesses both big and small.

No area of business remains untouched – including human resources. We’re already seeing technology transform HR. SaaS solutions are using Big Data to give HR professionals a fact-based view of their workforce. Such tools can bring together various HR functions, including onboarding, learning management, performance management, succession planning, and applicant tracking, under one roof. Finally, HR is getting the consumer-friendly digital experience it needs to enable itself and its organization’s managers to have real-time information to make data-driven decisions.

In the coming years, we can expect technology to further transform this space. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can speed the otherwise time-consuming screening process. Chatbots can deliver personalized information quickly and efficiently to time-strapped employees, while virtual reality (VR) will allow organizations to test and train candidates in a controlled, simulated environment – a scenario that’s already proven to be especially beneficial in the medical sector, where there’s little room for error.

The benefits are two-fold. On one hand, machine learning, automation, and algorithms can give HR professionals the time they need to focus on more strategic business drivers. On the other, it can also help root out any unconscious bias from HR processes. Data can help identify where processes may be not working as intended and give the insight needed to intervene and correct the problem.

It’s an exciting future, but it’s not without its risks. Removing the ‘human’ element from HR is no doubt a daunting prospect. It begs the question, will HR professionals still have a job in the coming years? Or will everyone have to become a data scientist?

To serve a human workforce, HR will always need a human face. But my recommendation is for HR professionals to turn any fears into an opportunity. Look into the future skills you’ll need that’ll allow you embrace automation and remain relevant in your industry. All the while, you should be focusing on developing your business acumen, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills so you’ll remain more essential and more knowledgeable than machines could ever be.

On a wider level, you should be thinking about how new technology will affect your organization. You’ll need to adapt your recruitment strategies to attract the best talent. Likewise, you’ll need to attract top talent with the best tech skills to make the most of your current and future technology. And then you’ll have to work to keep such employees.

In the long run, there are wider questions to consider. How will you help the rest of the business implement automation tools? How will you deal with roles that are susceptible to being phased out by automation? What re-skilling opportunities could you offer those employees? A widely cited study by Oxford University states that 47% of current jobs in the U.S. are susceptible to computerization. Change will be slow and steady – but it will come.

Building an organization fit for the future requires foresight and the ability to shift culture, behavior, and mindset to cater to new needs. These are HR challenges that need to be addressed today if you’re to succeed in an automated future.

The next step for HR

It’s likely that you’re already on a digital transformation journey. So, look into ways of incorporating technology available today to help inform your long-term strategy. Automated time trackers and project scheduling apps can give you the data you need to find out where your organization’s inefficiencies lie. Then work with IT to find the right technology that can help.

But most importantly, HR should be setting a positive example for the rest of the organization in embracing automation. If employees are rejecting automation software, ask them why they have such attitudes. Whether it’s fear of tech or fear of change, understanding the root of the issue can help you help employees embrace the digital future.

Get more insight on who is responsible for ensuring that this culture change reaches all corners of the business, and how SaaS tools like SAP SuccessFactors are playing a key role in HR’s digital transformation.


Tom Loeffert

About Tom Loeffert

Tom Loeffert is the Director of HR (United Kingdom) at SAP.