Before the Robots Arrive, Prepare Your Workers

What will be the role of HR when robots sit next to humans in the workplace?

We’re not at that point yet, but, as  Natasha Egre says in her DisruptHR presentation, it will happen. And sooner than many might think or like.

Artificial intelligence is predicted to replace millions of jobs in the next few years, Egre says. She ticks off a few: receptionists, paralegals, data entry. That’s just a sample: the World Economic Forum estimated that a third of the skill sets required for jobs will be completely new in the coming years. A Forrester prediction estimates automation will eliminate almost 20 million cubicle jobs by the end of this decade.

Speaking in St. Helier, Jersey in the Channel Islands, Egre says AI will also bring benefits like eliminating tedious repetitive tasks, handling routine jobs saving time and money. “A four day week in the future is very, very real,” she says.

It’s essential for HR to begin addressing the changes automation will make, says Egre, who heads client and product development at Marbral Advisory. Reskilling workers for the new jobs that AI will bring is where HR must begin. “You are going to be absolutely integral in upskilling your teams and taking them through this period of change.”

Laws will change. HR will have to incorporate them into handbooks and policies. How workers are trained is already changing, with virtual reality implemented in new programs. Tracking for performance will also be mediated by artificial intelligence.

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The changes AI is already making and the dramatic ones that are just on the horizon can be almost frightening, Egre acknowledges. “It’s OK to be a bit afraid of this. Because with fear we also get courage. So be courageous,” she encourages her audience. “Embrace AI and automation and make it work for yourselves, your businesses but most importantly, all your people.”

In partnership with DisruptHR, TLNT presents some of the best Disrupt presentations from events across North America and now the world. Disrupt talks are modeled on the TEDx concept: Short, to the point talks on all things HR — talent, culture and technology.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.