beyond talent: artificial intelligence and robotics.

October 5, 2017 Jason Roberts

Disruptive technologies such as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives. Just think about how Amazon’s “top picks” make your shopping experience easier, how Netflix unfailingly recommends new shows in precisely the genres you love or how quickly Siri can find a restaurant you like in a city you’re visiting for the first time.

These technologies herald the dawn of what many experts call the New Machine Age or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Like the First Industrial Revolution, when mechanization first replaced physical labor, this new era will have an immense impact on the world of work. Thanks to machine learning, automation and robotics, machines are increasingly able to perform tasks that previously required the human thought process. Unsurprisingly, this has considerable implications for jobs, staffing companies, and HR and procurement professionals.

what it means for jobs

Many people are apprehensive of the rise of the machines; however, a 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute found that less than five percent of occupations are 100% automatable. At the same time, for approximately 60% of all occupations, at least 30% of their tasks can be automated. Machines are unbeatable when it comes to tasks that involve repetition and rules. Humans, on the other hand, are better at jobs that require emotion, empathy and the understanding of other humans.

Nevertheless, given automation increases productivity per worker and yields a higher ROI, it’s desirable from a business point of view. Consider the following example: When a grocery store purchases a self-service check-out system, the system is a one-time purchase, provides always-on services, and as a result is often faster than a human, providing a positive customer experience. This one-time capital expense, vs. an ongoing labor cost, may also be preferable to businesses.

Jobs and job requirements are going to change. As a result, both employers and talent will need guidance to help them determine the best strategy for navigating the intersection between machine-based and human work. At the same time, suppliers should leverage AI and automation to offer a broader, better range of talent acquisition services. Effective talent strategy involves both human and artificial intelligence.

what it means for the industry

At Randstad Sourceright, our Talent Innovation Center is dedicated to creating best-in-class talent strategy solutions. Technologies, including talent analytics, AI and robotics, are becoming increasingly important in this endeavor. Our TalentRadar, for example, combines data science and business process expertise from experts with a powerful analytics platform to deliver predictive intelligence across all facets of talent acquisition.

On a broader scale, Randstad has also established the Randstad Innovation Fund to partner with and invest in some of the most cutting-edge solutions created for talent acquisition and management.

It’s critical to understand that due to the growing role of machines for tasks such as standard screening, generating offer letters, onboarding paperwork management and interview scheduling, the value add of staffing firms is shifting. These firms will continually evolve to utilize the right technology for these types of tasks, while differentiating themselves with high-value-add activities such as requisition intake, behavioral interviewing, branding, creativity and interpersonal interactions.

what it means for HR and procurement

HR and procurement will have many questions and encounter many challenges resulting from the use of disruptive technologies. From a sourcing perspective, they’ll have to determine whether HR, procurement or IT will be responsible for sourcing non-human talent. There will also be numerous legal issues to consider, such as an enhanced focus on data protection and how to manage joblessness resulting from digitization. Governments may establish human worker quotas or tax incentives to retain human employees, while unions are likely to spearhead collective agreements on machine-worker interaction. And there are probably more, as yet unknown, issues that will arise.

To prepare for what’s coming, HR and procurement should stay informed. They need to assess the potential impact of AI and robotics on their industries and companies and start thinking about how departments and roles need to change to accommodate new demands. Human capital leaders should review their workforce configurations to see where their companies can benefit from integrating AI and robotics and update their strategic plans and policies accordingly. Working with an experienced talent strategy partner that is knowledgeable about the impact of disruptive technology can be a significant advantage in this endeavor.

leveraging the full potential of human and non-human assets

In the coming years, employers will need to stay abreast of the impact of technology on jobs, talent acquisition and overall operations. Considering the complexity and enormity of the shift the labor landscape is experiencing, it’s important to have access to the right expertise and support as you develop your strategy. With the right plan in place, your company can realize the full potential of both human and non-human assets to achieve both short- and long-term operational goals.

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