By Darren H. Burton
As a business executive and HR leader, it’s hard to keep track of all the predictions associated with the future of intelligent automation. For example, a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute identified that 60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent work activities that could be automated, and that three to fourteen percent of the global workforce will need to switch occupational categories. These studies make a series of assumptions regarding the types of jobs that will be automated, the pace at which automation will occur, and the various governmental policies that will help or hinder the adoption of these types of technologies.
Regardless of exact magnitude of the change, it’s pretty clear that intelligent automation is going to directly impact HR in a variety of ways—from the role it needs to play within an organization, to the services it needs to provide, to the way HR-related work actually gets accomplished. Within KPMG, as we continue to work with clients in this space and look to transform our own internal HR capability, it is safe to say that HR will play a central role in helping the organization do a few key things:
- Dig deeper into how to best enable employee performance. As much of our early experience has demonstrated, automation can eliminate repetitive tasks and potentially free up a portion of a worker’s overall day. This, of course, raises a whole range of potential questions: What should employees do with the remainder of their time? How do we provide them with the skills needed to handle different tasks? Should their performance be assessed differently? How do they “learn the basics” when basic-level tasks are now handled by an intelligent system? These are precisely the types of questions that the HR professional of the future must be able to help business leaders answer so that they can design jobs and shift roles to make the most of employees’ skills and capabilities.
- Plan for a future dependent on IA skills. In today’s market, intelligent automation skills are at a premium. As one New York Times article joked, “Salaries are spiraling so fast that some joke the tech industry needs a National Football League-style salary cap on A.I. specialists.” Figuring out the skills that are needed to develop, train, and maintain intelligent automation systems and then determining the best way to either build, buy, or borrow those skills can make the difference between spending too much or too little in this marketplace. It will also help in building a value proposition that can attract the right talent to meet a company’s current and future needs.
- Prepare leaders to manage the transformation. The opportunities offered by intelligent automation are equaled by the potential magnitude of change executives will face as they come to terms with significant shifts in their industries and business models. In addition to balancing marketplace shifts with delivery on short-term expectations, they will need to provide guidance to team members who may be going through their own personal and professional transformations. The need to set realistic expectations, involve people in the change process, and help individuals adjust to a world of digital and human labor will test the capabilities of even seasoned change leaders.
Interested in learning more about people challenges associated with intelligent automation? KPMG partners Mark Spears, Robert Bolton, and David Brown have authored two important perspectives, “Rise of the Humans” and “Rise of the Humans 2,” that provide useful insights into the topic.
Darren H. Burton is Vice Chair of Human Resources for KPMG LLP.