Automation has become an increasing concern for many in various industries and occupations. Although it is mostly acknowledged that manual labour and customer service roles are some of the most vulnerable, roles in HR are not immune to the impacts of automation.
Back in 2019, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported their analysis of the risks of automation for occupations. The findings show that around 1.5 million jobs in England are at high risk due to automation in the future. This analysis which was done in 2017 shows that 7.4% of people are at high risk of automation.
In their publication, the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) stated that technology continues to expand for occupations – including those in HR. It is shown that organisations will continue to automate HR duties and tasks – with various levels of impact depending on the type of role, complexity and seniority level.
Automation for Occupations
The constant expansion and development of automation technologies continue to prompt discussions and studies on how they will affect employment and demand for skills. A report by PwC for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2021 concluded that ultimately automation technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other related technologies, should have a significantly positive impact on productivity and income. However, exact estimates on how automation will affect employment are still unclear – with many assumptions able to be drawn.
Nevertheless, it is widely agreed that automation will bring significant structural transformations in employment patterns in the UK. They have also found positive and negative effects vary between occupations. Managerial and professional occupations will have more positive effects, while routine manual and clerical roles will have negative effects. Jobs will experience losses and gains throughout, with considerable variations.
Automation in HR
HR like any other field will be affected by automation. Various tasks that are currently done by HR workers can easily be automated – such as video interviews, resume screening, employee onboarding, leave and expense management, payroll, benefits tracking and employee performance monitoring. Although things will change, it is best to view the change as an opportunity. HR professionals are now urged to evaluate roles and strategize how to upskill and transform roles.
AIHR has broken down HR roles based on the risks of automation. The categories are:
- High Risk: roles that include admin and process support and execution. These include HR Officers, Data Administrators, Facilitators, Payroll Team Lead
- Moderate Risk: roles that include process implementation, function management and generalist advisory. These include Head-hunters, Talent Managers and HR Consultants
- Low Risk: roles that include HR leadership and organisational excellence roles. These include Employee Relations Executives, Chief Learning Officers, Data Scientists and HR Systems Architects
The transformations brought by technology for HR roles are inevitable. In the next 10 years, it is expected for various HR roles to become significantly changed or obsolete. Roles that remain will also experience constant change as technologies continue to evolve and develop. HR leaders and professionals should start strategizing on how to adapt to technologies and prepare to embrace change to ensure employment for existing HR workers.