3. Artificial Intelligence
The development of artificial intelligence is rapidly gathering momentum, increasing in sophistication every year. Like automation, AI has the potential to strip away many of the elements that take up considerable time and effort in Human Resources roles. At the same time though, it raises ethical questions about the role of workers in a future workplace and how employers balance profit-maximising technology with the responsibility to support their employees.
And rather than something that’s in the distant future, artificial intelligence is being widely used in our current workplaces, across the economy. Research by Oracle and Future Workplace found that right now 50% of workers are currently using AI at work. To put this in perspective, in 2018, this figure was only 32%.
Much like automation, artificial intelligence presents the opportunity to remove most of the mundane, repetitive tasks from human resources roles, freeing professionals up to focus on the more interaction-based elements of their HR practice.
In terms of how it could be used, that’s up for debate. It depends in large part upon the priorities of employers going forward. As other industries and sectors show us, the use of artificial intelligence will be related to the types of skills that employers will need in the future and the availability of workers with those skills (check out our blog on the coming 2030 Skills Gap to find out more about this!)
report outlines a number of areas where it predicts that artificial intelligence could have the most impact. It cites areas like talent acquisition, talent management and succession planning as three key areas where artificial intelligence could take over, or assist many human resources functions.
4. Blockchain: does it have a place in HR?
Unless you’ve not had internet for the past three years, you’ll probably have seen increasingly ludicrous claims from tech commentators about how the blockchain – an emerging decentralised system of recording cryptocurrency transactions across computers linked in a peer-to-peer network – has the potential to transform everything about our lives: from buying dog food through to brushing our teeth.
To put it politely, some of these arguments can seem overwrought. But, surprisingly, blockchain has some relevance to one of the key features of Human Resources: managing data securely and confidentially.
In fact, some people are adamant that the blockchain can be applied to HR departments and roles, having a positive benefit on the way that professionals work.
In this article, Morgan Phillips argues that blockchain can be applied to HR roles in a number of different ways including improving general data security and making recruitment and retention more efficient. It also allows employees to be paid in cryptocurrency if they want. Some of the keys features that the company says blockchain can bring to HR include:
- Being able to exchange digital assets without the need for a 3rd party
- Being able to implement smart contracts in the employment space
- Providing a secure ledger to store digital records that’s distributed across several stakeholders
- Offering an indelible record of all previous transactions
Whether or not blockchain is widely adopted by employers going forward is up for debate – particularly given the ongoing crisis and instability in cryptocurrency, the main area where blockchain is currently used. Either way, it’s clear that the debate the blockchain has created is encouraging us to think about new ways of enhancing security and transparency when it comes to HR. And that’s welcome.
5. Bitcoin as an employee benefit?
You can’t have an article that discusses the blockchain without mentioning Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, and probably the most famous one at that. A cryptocurrency is a digital currency created through encryption algorithms. It works as both a virtual currency and also an anonymised accounting record.
A lot of people are attracted to Bitcoin because they like the secure, anonymised nature of transactions that cryptocurrency gives you. Critics point out though that something already exists, and has existed for thousands of years, that allows you the same anonymity when it comes to paying for goods and services – physical money.
Either way, the value of cryptocurrency has soared almost exponentially over the past few years and celebrities like Elon Musk, Gwyneth Paltrow and Snoop Dogg are all adopters, increasing the wider influence of an otherwise fairly obscure topic. That said, by their nature, cryptocurrencies are incredibly volatile and their worth has fluctuated wildly over the last few years. At the moment, the crypto market is experiencing massive instability with investors having lost millions of dollars worth of investments.
Some commentators predict that bitcoin could soon form a part of the benefits packages of employers, with employers offering bonuses and profit-sharing plans though the medium of cryptocurrencies. They argue that it could be particularly useful in engaging with millennials and young workers, as these are the people that cryptocurrencies are currently most popular with.
There’s a darker side to cryptocurrency though. The production of Bitcoin in particular needs colossal amounts of energy from computers and, as demand for Bitcoin has risen, so has demand for electricity to be able to mine it. In the middle of a climate emergency and a fuel crisis, increasing demands for electricity generated mostly from fossil fuels doesn’t seem like a particularly wise decision to make. Particularly if we plan on having a habitable planet in 50 years time. Whether or not companies are prepared for the reputation risk of offering cryptocurrency to their staff is an open question.
Conclusion: HR – an unknowable future?
Whilst we can’t definitively say what the future holds, we know for sure that technology will transform the world of work as we know it. We also know that a gathering storm of the 2030 Skills Gap is going to have a big impact on the skills that employers have at their disposal. This will affect the decisions they can make, and their overall philosophy when it comes to effective people management.
Whatever happens, ongoing professional education and development will be key to the success of HR professionals.
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