Human Up

Automation.  Robots. Artificial intelligence.  Digital and social.

The future of work is [fill in the blanks].

We can’t accurately predict the future.  But we do know that it will involve all of this technology stuff.  More and more.  Faster and faster.

A few years ago talk of cognitive assistants meant asking Siri what the weather was going to be like.  Now we are seeing them in use in our own homes.

Last night I was at an event at Liverpool John Moores University, where we were talking about work, technology and HR.  For me, several ideas coming together at once.

There is much in HR work that can be automated.  The routine stuff in particular – and so much of what we do is just that.  This is both good… and bad.  Good in that we can get rid of the non-value add work and focus on what can really make a difference to work and working lives.

But it can lead to a dehumanized experience.  Take recruitment.  When you apply for a job, get all the way to interview, but never actually engage with a person, only an ATS.  It might be time efficient, but it certainly ain’t human.  It is cold.

Can more HR work be undertaken by robots?  Probably. Definitely.

It is all too easy to reject the notion.  Our perception is constrained by what we know and do now. Arthur Danto said that the future is a mirror in which we can only see ourselves.

But even within a future with more and more automated people stuff, or even a first line HR advice robot, this is when our most human side of human resources can come to the forefront.

The World Economic Forum said that in the machine age, only the human organization will survive.

There are some things that only a human can do.  Show real empathy.  Have emotional intelligence.  Listen, completely – not with the intention to respond with a programmed response but simply to be there for someone.  To live, work and act with values that we have determined for ourselves.

It has become something of a cliché to talk about putting the human back into human resources.  But in clichés there is often truth.  Perhaps it is time to embrace it.

The future of work will be more automated. More digital. Filled with more and more tech. More work will be lost to robots and algorithms.  This is inevitable.

But the future of work can also be more human.  If we let it.

2 thoughts on “Human Up

  1. It’s an optimistic position you take, Gemma, and I don’t blame you for that. However, history suggests that machines will ultimately win the battle for jobs. It’s not immigration that threatens people’s livlihoods, but the exponential growth of technology. Time perhaps for the New-Luddites.

  2. I think we have more to do with this line of thinking. I hear it a lot and I’m not sure it’s focused on the right things.

    Take online shopping. I can order from Amazon and get it delivered to my house the same day and the only human element to that is the delivery guy. Do I care? No, not really.

    But when something goes wrong, or I need to talk to someone, that’s when I care – if the system doesn’t know how to respond or resolve my need.

    So when basic tasks can be automated I’m all for that. But when people need to talk to a person, that’s where those things you mention are vital.

    I don’t think it’s that we need to bring back the human in human resources. I think that we’ve evolved our practice so much that along the way we’ve forgotten how much strength there is in having emotional intelligence, etc. We’ve let processes and policies rule for so long and in many cases absolutely, that we’ve forgotten the human touch is often the most powerful. So maybe that’s where the human part needs to come back.

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