Is AI about to replace HR?

Since the influx of TV dramas like Black Mirror and Humans and launch of Amazon Echo, I’ve noticed that AI has been cropping up in almost every HR blog I follow—Robots vs humans? AI and the future of the workplace is a good read.

When I think of AI in the workplace, I imagine the voice recognition system when you have to go through when you call HRMC to ask them why they’ve still not managed to fix your tax code. But hearing the team talk about it has made me realise it’s much bigger than that—almost $1 billion bigger, in fact! One recent study predicted that 62% of large enterprises will be using AI-technologies by 2018.

Looking at how Mitsukoshi Nihombashi’s robot receptionist answers shoppers questions, it’s easy to see how onboarding could be transformed. Imagine if you had an endlessly patient virtual HR person to answer all those niggly first week questions. And it could answer dozens, even thousands, at the same time; 24 hours a day; and probably in various languages. Who would need real HR people?

It’s easy to see data entry and processes like onboarding being replaced by AI, but what about providing encouragement and guidance? The clue’s in the name, human resources! Employees will still need a friendly face to go to with their questions. We’re still a few years away from a robot having the emotional depth needed to promote employee wellbeing and deal with individual grievances.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no need to worry about being replaced by a robot double just yet. We’re some way off from being replaced by synths, but our workload and team structures will change considerably over the coming years, and it’s important to embrace that.

AI promises great things: reducing errors and helping to modernise outdated processes. The end of repetitive filing, sorting through endless CVs and updating employee records could be getting nearer. Instead, sophisticated machines, with the ability to understand natural language and learn will perform many HR processes.

But the spread of AI is going to cause a lot of upheaval, and helping people adapt to change is what us HR people do best.