Technology has been replacing humans in the back office functions of HR for many years. Thankfully today IT systems like K3 Equator not only look after administrative tasks but can update information on the latest legislation to help HR departments keep companies on the right side of the law.
The role of the office clerk has effectively been taken over by machines. The same applies to manufacturing jobs. Where once there would be men and women working on the production tracks of car factories, now there are robots. Or more often nowadays – cobots – robots working collaboratively with human beings.
Man will always lose to machines when it comes to repetitive tasks. We expect the robot takeover of everything from low-skilled industrial jobs to supermarket checkouts and banks. But are the “safe” jobs of the middle income white collar earners now at risk?
At K3 Equator our team recently read an article in the Sunday Times which suggests not. It quotes jobs in danger as being those mainly in the finance and insurance sector e.g. from underwriters to credit analysts. The danger to your position depends on how technologically feasible it is for the work to be automated.
The question, of course, is how far do we trust automation? A McKinsey report in 2016 looked at where machines could replace humans – and also those which can’t http://bit.ly/2eVBgsQ. The view backs up the Sunday Times report. Automation is going beyond routine manufacturing activities and into other areas.
But do we really want to talk to a robot when discussing house insurance options? It is frustrating enough when you feel you are talking to someone reading from a sales script, let alone a machine which can’t process the nuances of the human voice.
How about a robotic healthcare worker? The advances in technology in health mean many conditions can be managed remotely. Blood pressure, insulin levels and other diagnostic tests can be carried out and monitored using WiFi now. But few of us would want to replace facetime with doctors and nurses. That may be a step too far.
For HR departments it makes sense to have much of the work automated. K3 Equator’s products http://www.equatorhr.com/ look after payroll, personnel, time and attendance and provide real time data collection. With the back office functions taken care of through technology, it frees up HR teams to concentrate on human resources. How best to make use of the skills of staff working for the company. The K3 Equator system also provides for automatically updating changes in legislation so again freeing up HR directors and senior teams.
Even when some human activities in a job are taken over that doesn’t mean the end of the road for that line of work. The introduction of barcode scanners may have unnerved shop assistants back in the day as self-service checkouts do now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer staff. It may simply mean they have a different role within the business e.g. working on the online offering rather than the supermarket till.
But what about those middle income workers? We’ve already mentioned finance and insurance. After all the calculations are done by computer. It is only the initial interaction where humans meet. Does anyone truly enjoy a visit to their accountant? In theory surely the number crunching could be done by a robot.
We already have driverless computerised trains on the Docklands Light Railway. With the average earnings around £45k plus pa for a Tube driver would this be the next type of role to be taken over by a robot rather than a real rail worker?
But before the Tube drivers’ union get in touch let me say this is not what I am advocating. It is simply asking the question about which jobs, currently with a decent wage, could be done by robots.
The McKinsey report suggests jobs which are safest are those where unpredictability is a major factor. It quotes a factory worker carrying out a repetitive task versus forestry or animal handling. The same applies to train drivers where the condition of the track, the weather, the unpredictable passenger all have to be factored in.
Meanwhile if you are involved in creative work from writing promotional materials, creating menus or simply checking for common sense solutions are the hardest jobs to be filled by a machine. The other hard to fill by a robot involves managing people. Good news for those of us in the HR department. Now if only I had a robot who could fetch me a cup of tea…….