Artificial Intelligence May ‘Take Your Job,’ But It’s a Good Thing

For the past decade, enterprise technology vendors have been in a bit of a race to deliver machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions that help organizations to be more effective. The race is over; these tools are here.

But knowing exactly how, when and why to incorporate these capabilities into your company’s strategy and operations is rarely a straightforward journey. And when it’s your workforce that is ultimately impacted by machine learning innovations, you may face some unanticipated communication challenges. Here is a very common reaction among today’s employees: Intelligent tools are cool and all, but are robots going to take our jobs?

Human capital management software is a key area being revolutionized by machine learning. With intelligent tools finding patterns in enormous amounts of data, we are now aided in making better, more accurate workforce decisions. We can learn about the individuals within our companies rather than the workforce as a whole, delivering personalized experiences through technology. We can take some of the workload from HR services, using bots and conversational interfaces to answer routine questions and enable employees and managers to take action without needing the intervention of a human being.

And there’s the problem from an HR perspective: We are paid to make workforce decisions. And analyze employee data. And answer those administrative questions. So, what’s going to happen to our jobs?

HR organizations everywhere are trying to better understand the journey to AI. Here’s what we can expect:

Our jobs will fundamentally change

Put very simply, AI-enabled tools will take our jobs as we know them. Consider the role of an HR services professional. Today, this person spends a lot of time responding to requests and facilitating people processes that are repetitive. In just a few years, those human-driven activities will be obsolete. But HR services will not be. The role will evolve to focus on more strategic elements of getting people ramped up, engaged and supported in their jobs. As the nature of work evolves and the pace of work, innovation and change accelerate, companies shouldn’t want to maintain processes and workflows that could potentially be made more efficient through automation, but they do want to make room for more valuable, human-led contributions from teams like HR.

We will adapt

A common misconception is that these bots and tools come out of the box perfect, with all the knowledge in the world that will help them easily displace people. But the reason we refer to machines as “learning” is because they do, in a sense, need to learn over time in order to add value. Human resources professionals are skilled in understanding the needs of the individuals these tools will impact, from how to best attract and most effectively hire, to how to manage, develop, train and reward people. Because of this they are well positioned to lead the way these tools are “taught,” determining what data is most important and what actions and end results the bots need to effectively drive business processes. The HR professional’s role will adapt in the coming years, with an increasing focus on training and managing these types of tools, as well as advising business leaders and the broader workforce on what role the tool should play in engaging the company’s people.

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We will add value to the bottom line like never before

In just the past decade HR has made a fundamental leap from being a back-office, administrative function to becoming a strategic partner enabling business success through a company’s people. Workforce analytics and data were an enormous step forward for getting HR a seat at the executive table. The rise of AI and bots will not reverse this trend, but accelerate it. Through intelligent tools HR will be able to engage the total workforce like never before, delivering personalized experiences through technology that drive engagement and enhance the elusive but critical employee experience. We will be freed to spend more time developing strategic initiatives around how best to engage and manage an increasingly diverse and mobile workforce. We will be at the forefront of moving our companies into the future not just because of the innovative technology supporting our role, but because of the culture and mindset we will shape by adopting these tools.

So, is artificial intelligence poised to take over our jobs? Absolutely! Handing over the most menial, administrative aspects of our work and allowing powerful, intelligent tools to aid our decision-making is the future. This enhanced understanding of our business’s workforce needs will soon give way to extra time, knowledge and capabilities that will contribute to the organization, and shape the workforce of the future — skills we’ve long been ready to use, and that organizations will continue to need.

Gabby Burlacu

SAP's Dr. Gabriela (Gabby) Burlacu is a Human Capital Management Researcher at SAP, conducting research to better understand, identify and communicate how companies can leverage HCM technology to drive real business change in an ever-changing world.

She received her doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Portland State University, where she studied the motivational, attitudinal, and behavioral impacts of performance feedback. Although Gabby’s role at SAP involves engaging with companies broadly on issues and challenges related to managing their workforces, often this involves directly addressing the design and implementation of performance management systems that meet the needs of employees and managers. When Gabby is not on the frontline of strategic talent management, she can be found boating, kayaking, and hiking in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.