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I have written several times in about employees being replaced by robots. It is certainly something most of HR professionals should be aware of and prepared to deal with. Generally when you think of robots in the workplace you think of a factory floor or even with the delivery drones that have been in the news of late. But what about robots working in the administrative areas? Can HR be replaced by a robot?
Is this the HR lady of the future?
If you see HR as a set of transactions then it is easy to see how HR could be replaced by a robot. In fact in many companies that replacement has already occurred. Software or other computer based systems have already replaced HR when it comes to getting a copy of the handbook, or a form, or requesting leave time or enrolling for benefits. Generally most of us were happy to get rid of these transactions, though I know of many people who still see that as the crux of their role in HR and are loathe do give them up. Eventually even these people will realize those types of things are gone from day-to-day HR.
Beyond that arena is it possible for HR to be replaced in the areas thought to require more “humanness”? What about deciding whether someone needs to be terminated? What about settling arguments between two employees? Or investigating sexual harassment?
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AI may be the replacement
Artificial intelligence is advancing on a rapidly. What if HR was replaced by an AI robot? What would the advantages be? I can think of several:
Knowledge of employment laws, benefits laws, compensation laws, etc., a level of knowledge that few humans could obtain.
- Applying that knowledge in a totally consistent manner.
- Emotionless decisions.
- Availability 24/7
Naturally this “HR lady” would lack the “humanness” that we see as being essential to the role of human resources. Indeed, many say that “humanness” is one of the characteristics we will need to keep in order to prevent losing our jobs to robots.
If you are currently in HR you need to think about your own job. What aspects of your job could be replaced by a robot with artificial intelligence? What can you do today to start moving those things away from what you do now? This will help you get to the essential “human” aspects of your job, the Raison d’être of what you do in HR. This analysis will help you focus on the important and start the process of getting rid of the unimportant.