My friend, Steve Boese, has a healthy (I think) fascination with robots. Steve’s prolific writing on the topic has two of his posts showing up on page one of Google search results for robot. He is clearly the FOT robot expert, but I am going to try out the topic today.
I always assumed I was safe from being replaced by technology. I work in a high touch, highly personal job. Human interaction is at the core of what I do. I always pictured the guy in the auto plant pulling a lever getting replaced by a robot pulling a lever. Not an HR guy.
That was a narrow and micro level look. At the macro level, BusinessWeek recently looked at technology’s impact on high touch jobs. Check the whole article, but here’s a taste:
The U.S. produces almost one-quarter more goods and services today than it did in 1999, while using almost precisely the same number of workers. It’s as if $2.5 trillion worth of stuff—the equivalent of the entire U.S. economy circa 1958—materialized out of thin air.
So are robots getting all the good jobs? …technology inevitably destroys some jobs even as it ultimately creates new ones….(and) technology is not just revolutionizing the assembly line. Paralegals can’t match software in accurately searching thousands of documents for specific words or patterns. New software apps easily best journeyman sportswriters at penning routine game wrap-ups. “The era we’re in is one in which the scope of tasks that can be automated is increasing rapidly, and in areas where we used to think those were our best skills, things that require thinking,” says David Autor, a labor economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I am not a predictions guy, and I do not claim to be a prognosticator, but it’s easy to see the bottom line is that most occupations today, even HR, will need fewer people in the future. So what HR jobs are potentially so enhanced by technology that some of them will go on the chopping block? Here’s a starter list:
- Talent acquisition—as now, “looking for people” will be automated more and valued less. Goodbye people who source and screen, and stick around, people who can be relationship managers.
- Benefits—meaningful self-service for companies of all sizes is coming. Goodbye first level transaction processors, admins and coders. More safe will be folks who effectively manage and resolve negotiations and conflicts.
- Compensation—technology will make comp data easier to get, review, protect and share. Goodbye techs, formula fanatics and process purveyors. The most valuable people will solve talent acquisition and retention issues with creative compensation solutions.
As Steve wrote in one of his robot posts, it’s all about invention:
Specialization, even high-touch, highly complex, valuable specialization that requires spending years training, developing, and perfecting, still is no guarantee or security against a robot that can do it better, cheaper, and faster. Even if those skills are ones that society needs and highly values, that’s no protection in the long term.
The message? Invent something new, stay one step ahead of the robot masters. You’d better be prepared to keep inventing.
My man Steve knows his robots for a reason. In an automotive plant, doctor’s office, or the HR world, you better know how to invent solutions. Process specialization is not your friend.