The Evolving Workplace In AI-Enabled World

It is no longer enough to have a “gut feel” about how things are going – just like other parts of the organization, HR needs to be data-led. In short, the skills an HR director needs are changing, and they do not understand data, then they are in the wrong job.


We live in times where more attention is paid than ever before on how an organization treats its employees. This is what leads to the acute need for HR leaders to be more actively involved at the highest levels of the enterprise. HR professionals can bring enormous value to an organization, from preventing that loss of reputation to boosting worker engagement and productivity, to being the moral compass of an organization.

To do that successfully, HR executives will need to develop a deep understanding of technology, both in terms of how it is changing the workplace, and in how it is changing the nature of the HR function itself.

Technology as a Workplace Driver

Technology is all pervasive and that leads to employee expectations that they will have the same convenience and flexibility with technology at their workplace as well. This arises not just from ease of use and comfort but is now an integral part of the personality of today’s day to day life. Much of the time, though, the technology in the workplace fails to measure up to what employees own and use themselves. When people find themselves using technology they find limiting, it can lead to frustration and demands for companies to rethink their strategies for HR technology.

For retention and productivity as well as for winning the war the best talent, it is important for executives to listen to these demands. New-age technologies are challenging our established norms of engagement and are the key to making a workplace less hierarchical, more open, and thus more likely to be innovative. HR is the medium for that message to reach executives, along with strong counsel on how to meet those demands (and the consequences for not doing so).

At the same time, it is important to remember that some of these stake-of-the-art technologies that are becoming a part of the workplace also create uncertainty and stress for employees. With the ongoing conversations about artificial intelligence, robotics, and how those will change the workplace and people’s jobs, it is clear why employees would be concerned. They are asking themselves if there will be a place for them in that workplace and how they should prepare for those changes.

Again, employees (and their managers) will expect HR to provide those answers. That means having a solid understanding of the implications of this technology and provide information and guidance to employees.

Technology as a Value Tool

It’s just as important for HR to have the technology it needs to provide the data and insights that will help leaders understand what is happening with the workforce and how to increase performance.

It is no longer enough to have a “gut feel” about how things are going – just like other parts of the organization, HR needs to be data led. There are opportunities to gain insights from internal company data as well as by mining things like social media posts.

Because HR is becoming a data-driven function, HR directors need to build great relationships with people who know technology in their organizations, and with experts outside as well. They need to have conversations with their peers in IT and operations, so that decisions about technology across the organization are made in ways that ensure HR’s needs are included. In short, the skills an HR director needs are changing, and they do not understand data, then they are in the wrong job.

It is the Marketing function’s job to listen to customers and use data to perform this effectively. HR likewise needs to be in the business of listening to employees and learn how to use data for the purpose – and be as innovative and challenging in what they offer to employees as marketing is for customers.

Maintaining the Moral Compass

Beyond its role in recruitment, retention, and engagement – or, perhaps more accurately, because of this role - HR is the natural provider of the moral compass at the board level. HR leaders are in a position to speak the truth to power, and always to be conscious of, consider, and raise issues of ethical behavior. Again, this requires a deep understanding of and ability to articulate the impact of technology on an organization and particularly its people – and asking hard questions about what data we are capturing and how we use it.

Technology can assist companies to monitor productivity with incredible precision, tracking activities to the second. Just because that is possible, though, does not mean that it is either desirable or humane.

Considering the importance of HR to keep the organization running efficiently and effectively – and with the tools and data to make the right decisions and demonstrate value -- HR leaders are now some of the most vital people in the C-suite. With a deeper understanding of data, they can make huge contributions to creating and maintaining a productive and ethical workplace.

(The given article is authored by Chandan Chattaraj – President – Human Resources (India & Global) Uflex & Shailesh Singhla, Country Head & Senior Director, HCM Cloud, Oracle India)


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