More businesses are showing an interest in automating tasks — 94 percent of corporate leaders in seven countries, in fact, said in a recent survey that they feel automation, including machine learning- and artificial intelligence-based process improvements, could increase productivity.
The fact some companies are considering automation has sparked fears that the need for human employees will decrease, or in some instances, be eliminated altogether.
Could HR also be at risk?
Implementing Intelligent Automation
Given the amount of human resource-oriented tech tools that have debuted in recent years, it’s understandable that HR professionals may wonder if job automation could affect their role.
According to Bersin by Deloitte, it will. The company’s 2017 (and beyond) prediction report noted that the rapid commoditization of artificial intelligence, ranging from natural language processing to sensors and robotics, stands to affect nearly every job — making HR responsible for redesigning positions, duties and the organization as a whole to fully utilize and underscore the importance of the people side of the business.
More than half of companies, according to ServiceNow’s survey, have already started using intelligent automation in one or more business processes.
The good news, however, is the survey found HR is actually one of the least automated departments, indicating positions within it may not be on the chopping block. Just 37 percent of HR employee service delivery processes are automated — compared to, for example, 53 percent of IT services.
Yet with nearly half of the businesses in ServiceNow’s survey stating they plan to require advanced automation in the workplace on a broader scale by 2018, failing to plan for the changes HR may need to enact — or assuming your leadership knows which HR aspects require personnel, instead of a computer program — can be a risky approach.
Building a Case for HR
In the wake of the increased interest in automating tasks, it’s more important than ever for HR professionals to proactively work to ensure their company is aware of the value they provide.
The following tips can help you effectively guide any movement toward job automation — and, at the same time, protect HR’s standing in the organization:
Intensify your efficiency
Make all the money-saving, time management and productivity-increasing alterations you can so you’re providing the largest possible amount of value to the organization. (Get a few ideas from our blog post on cutting HR costs.) Numbers can be persuasive. Track your progress on improvements and tally savings from initiatives you’ve instituted to support your claims.
Be open about all you do
For your company to appreciate the efficiency and other contributions HR makes to the organization — and not suggest automating tasks that you perform — its leadership has to understand what your department’s work entails. Don’t assume every aspect is public knowledge. For some, making that information known can feel like uncomfortable bragging. Find out how to do it, without overdoing it, in our post on singing your department’s praises.
Include employees in your efforts
HR professionals may be tempted to focus all their promotional efforts on leadership; while they have much of the decision making power, employee sentiment can also play a part. If employees don’t understand the scope of what you do or why you do it — or are unhappy with your performance and are vocal about it — getting upper management support for HR programs, policies, and departmental hiring and retention may not be as easy as you think.
Innovate all the time
Technology may be able to empower employees to be in charge of tracking their vacation time and handle other items; intelligent automation can’t, however, create exciting, retention-friendly employee value proposition elements like new health and wellness and employee recognition programs. Companies need people to come up with inventive talent management ideas; the more frequently your department does, the bigger asset it becomes.
Communicating what initiatives and other undertakings your department is working on is a crucial part of securing funding and support within the organization, whether or not job automation is a threat you’re facing. HR’s achievements, however, aren’t the only thing you should think about disclosing.
Companies that externally promote some of their key internal initiatives may find it helps them recruit top quality candidates. Expressing your company’s personality and workplace culture, as well as the amenities you offer, can, too; that discourse should be an ongoing effort.
For more information on ways to promote what you’re about to employees, leadership, potential job candidates and the general public, read our blog posts on sharing your diversity successes, using social media to publicize your company’s image — and download our recent white paper on how to build an effective employee brand.