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AI - will robots take over the workplace?

I’m sure you’ve read wild speculation about the impact of artificial intelligence on our lives. Some of the most extreme predictions have been about the technology’s impact on the world of work.

While no one can say for certain what the true impact of AI will be in the workplace, human resources professionals will be in the thick of any changes which do occur. As such, HR teams need to be prepared for the introduction.

There are two main areas where AI will have a significant impact on what a HR department does. The first is the technology’s overall impact across a whole organisation, the second relates to the specific use of tools by HR professionals. This blog will focus on the former.

AI and business transformation

AI’s impact on businesses conjures scare stories in the media. There are predictions that the rise of the machines will disrupt every single sector, creating mass redundancies and wiping out entire professions. This vision sees lawyers, accountants and many other white-collar workers being replaced by machines.

This conjecture is overblown. While there will be some changes with the introduction of AI, what the technology will do is automate low-level, routine tasks which machines can accomplish more efficiently. This will free up humans to do more meaningful, higher level tasks.

Given its place in an organisation, HR departments must take the lead when firms introduce new technology. A survey by Microsoft found that only 8% of HR professionals in the UK believe their organisation has an AI strategy in place. This presents human resources leaders with an opportunity to help guide companies through the changes associated with using AI.

HR building the foundations for AI

Managing redundancies and organisational change is stereotyped as HR’s key role when businesses implement AI, but this is another misconception. HR professionals will play a far greater role in upskilling existing staff.

The key to maximising the potential of artificial intelligence is ensuring that humans and technology work together. It will be critical for HR departments to work closely with other departments to produce L&D programmes which enable employees to work harmoniously with machines.

There may even be certain occasions where career development opportunities could be linked with the introduction of new technology. For example, a top-performing employee who excels at the tasks AI is being brought in to introduce does not have to leave the business. Instead, training the worker to supervise the incoming technology means you have not only kept a top-performing member of the team, you are utilising their existing skills in a more valuable role.

With automation often replacing lower skilled roles with higher skilled positions, taking the opportunity to upskill workers not only improves morale, but also creates a stream of employees ready to make full use of new technology.

Artificial intelligence aids job creation and job satisfaction

New technology has the ability to create jobs – one of the major aspects of the introduction of AI which gets lost among the hysteria surrounding the introduction of new technology. While there may be some job losses in certain sectors, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) study found that 43% of employers who have introduced AI and automation over the past five years have reported overall job creation.

The study also found that the jobs created by AI have a positive impact on employee morale. Of employees surveyed, 43% said that they spend time on learning new things, while half said that the number of monotonous tasks had decreased.

Combine this with the opportunities new technology provides to work more flexibly, and the introduction of AI and automation can actually lead to a happier, more productive workforce.

The negative connotations which surround AI may lead to human resources teams approaching the technology with trepidation. However, HR professionals play a fundamental role in the success of the introduction of AI into an organisation. Get it right, embrace the technology with open arms, and HR teams will find their jobs made a lot easier by this exciting innovation.

Seeking talented HR professionals who can manage technological change? Or looking for your next role in human resources? Contact your local Reed HR branch.

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