The Advent of the Human-Bot Resources Practice


The Human Resources (HR) department has played a critical role in the success of every organization since the Industrial Age. After all, you cannot manufacture products or provide services without people.

However, as we transition into the Digital Age, or what many has termed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there will be a gradual, but inevitable breakdown of the venerable HR department. And in its place will stand the new Human-Bot Resources (HBR) Practice.

Why Human-Bot Resources? This is an explicit acknowledgement that the workforce of the future will consist of both humans and bots working hand-in-hand. This is underpinned by the following assumptions regarding the Future of Work:

  1. Deconstruction of ‘job’ into discrete activities

  2. The concomitant commoditization of mundane, repetitive work

  3. Shifts in business models from being labour-intensive to technology-centric

  4. Technology arbitrage supported by rapidly maturing technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

By the way, the above is not an academic exercise in crystal gazing. This is already happening in many organizations all over the world.

The point here is that work, as we knew them, has fundamentally changed. What has not, unfortunately, is how organizations are structured to strive and thrive amid these changes.

Consider for example the increasing deployment of bots in place of humans in a variety of tasks: chatbots in customer service or RPA bots in mortgage processing.

Who manages these bots? Is it HR, IT or perhaps Operations? And who is responsible for change management, including the redeployment and retraining of the displaced employees?

The truth is that the lines in the sand are increasingly blurred. Whereas previously you could generalize that HR dealt with people, IT with technology and Operations with products/services, this no longer holds true.

Accordingly, HR needs to shed its restrictive moniker of ‘human’ resources and adapt to this tsunami of robotisation. More specifically, HR urgently needs to evolve and add a ‘technology’ element to its repertoire. This is by no means a small task given the reputation of HR practitioners as a generally conservative bunch.

But make no mistake about this. The price to pay for the failure to transform is irrelevance. If HR is unwilling or incapable of taking on this new mantle, you can bet your last dollar that some other departments would.

The window for HR to stake their claims to this emerging trend is fast closing.

Beware.

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