Technology – Friend or Foe?

Posted: October 25, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in Change, Human Resources, OD, Technology, Uncategorized


Blog Post by:  Carole Grimwood

A few months ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the HR Tech World Spring Conference in London with my colleague Ian Gee. It was a great event and if any readers are not familiar, take look and maybe go along next time. It turned out to be a couple of the most thought provoking days I’ve had in a while and I wanted to share some of my observations.

First, there was great energy. There were over 2000, much younger than your average, HR conference delegates from across the world with a passion for technology and a future focus. And the big question for them – how can technology shape not just HR but the world of work in general?

Second, there were innovations from wearable technologies of the FitBit/Smart Watch type for 2-way communication with staff, Mobile Apps for learning and employee engagement, video recruitment where the interviewer and assessor is the computer, systems for handling and exploiting big data, and robots with learning capability to automate jobs.

Third, there was much talk about the potential of data as a tool to help us shape our thinking and shape not just our workforce strategies but also the world of work itself.

(It wasn’t all exciting by the way. Maybe it’s just me but the pedestrian world of Learning Management Systems hardly seems to have moved on in the last 10 years!)

Two statistics that were quoted are of particular significance:

  • 35% of today’s jobs in the UK will disappear in the next 20 years
  • There will be a 37% reduction in the number of people employed in HR in the next 5 years

It could be that these projections are optimistic. According to research by Deloitte and Oxford University, as 47% of current jobs could be automated by 2020.

The hypothesis is that this won’t happen because of a failing economy and endless austerity measures – it will happen in spite of it. This is about growth and investment in technology and the exponential rise in the power and sophistication of robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. Since the conference, I’ve read and posted a good deal about driverless vehicles, self-service bars, room service robots, automated journalism, and the 3D printing of houses. The list goes on.

It was disappointing to find that at the conference very little attention was being given to the OD implications of all of this. There is the potential for an unprecedented shift in the world of work and the need for experts to support the change. OD colleagues didn’t seem to be at the party.

So the question is what does all this mean for the future of work and by implication for the future of HR and OD? Over the next couple of months, we will publish a series of blogs about the impact of technology on the world of OD, HR and the future world of work. Let us know if you have particular views or if there are questions you’d like us to think about?


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