The robots are coming, are you ready

The robots are coming!! Are you ready!!

Amidst all the hype and hoopla surrounding the H-1B issue in the US and the clouds of protectionism looming large over the global horizon, there is one serious question that we have to ask, in every country and in every industry – where are the jobs?

I was going through Deloitte’s 2015 Global Shared Services Survey and the writing on the wall was clear. Increasing the level of automation has become a strategic priority for CEOs across the globe.

Today, automation and the advent of robots has completely changed the landscape. It is not just factory floors where robots and flexible manufacturing systems are making physical interventions of workmen irrelevant. Even in all knowledge processes, Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence are joining hands in order to make human knowledge workers diminished in importance, if not irrelevant.

Is the threat real?

Matching Data would be possible through cognitive automation where HR robotics would be matching data the way human eyes do. Deloitte estimates that HR tech is a $17 billion market, growing at a rate of around 30% annually. More importantly, world technological pioneers like Elon Musk have made AI the talk of the town

Professor Stephen Hawking has said that, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Likewise, the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, has claimed that “up to 15 million of current jobs in Britain”  could be replaced by robots over the coming years as livelihoods are “mercilessly destroyed” by the technological revolution.

Let us consider a situation where HR Operations is able to execute an end-to-end process with zero human involvement. Imagine pairing your HR team with a real-time analytics and modeling “bot” capable of providing the on-demand insights to address complex inquiries such as what talent is most vulnerable to poaching, given local economic development and the announced growth plans of our competitors?

This scenarios may sound like science fiction, but robotic and cognitive automation technologies are developing at an amazing rate, and HR should be taking notice.

What exactly is RPA?

Robotic process automation (RPA) works at the user interface level, bridges the gap between disparate technologies, and performs repetitive rules-based processes.

These robots aren’t physical machines; they’re software “bots” installed either on PCs or on the cloud that can be configured to automate increasingly complex tasks, such as moving, manipulating, and validating data.

A survey conducted by EY has indicated that 93% of HR employees’ time is spent on repetitive tasks and 65% of HR rules-based processes can be automated. As the HR function continues to move up the value chain, the pressure for it to perform efficiently and provide value for money will continue to intensify. Senior business decision makers looking to rid human capital functions – both in-house and outsourced – of repetitive manual tasks, should look to new technologies to transform the traditional HR delivery model.

Case in point #1 – Applicant sourcing

It takes 10 recruiters a week to just shortlist candidates for a position from a database of 2, 00,000 resumes. A contextual search and map system takes only 60 seconds to give you the names of five candidates with 95% probability that you will recruit one out of those five

Areas of use could be processing candidate notifications for interviews, rejection and feedback as well as Candidate reviews – screening of CV’s and online application forms

Today, bots are able to check mails, save the required CV, shortlist, schedule interview and multiple other activities. The basics of any robotics is to help imitate both mental and physical activities. When a “bot” has finished working on a CV, it could email it to a candidate with a note saying what further needs to be done and what follow up tasks are required. Bots, therefore become a part of the team.

Case in point #2 – Data Management

Here the utility is to automated management of business and people requests, be it data cleansing to ensure consistency across multiple systems in various formats, Validating internal data against external databases, running, formatting, and distributing reports or replacing manual and spreadsheet-based tasks

An example would be the creation of an advance level macro.  It will work at night when most employees are away. It will log into the HRMS by itself and it would identify the relevant salary computation for the month. It will fire print commands to dedicated printers loaded with letterheads. Next morning any person from office staff can come and pick those letters and put them in envelope and dispatch.

Case in point #3 – Onboarding/off boarding & Operations

Here RPAs can assess, prepare and create new joiner data, streamline information across disparate corporate systems for preparation on Day 1 and consolidate leaver input from business areas and feed to downstream systems.

Deterministic logic can be used to provide info to employees – for instance, if any female employee would like to know the amount of maternity leave she is eligible for. Then, highly sophisticated technology will tell whether she is eligible for leave or not. If eligible then for how many days

Final Thoughts

While many people understand the impact and the utility, the challenges often is in driving adoption. Many people have a sense of loss of power, domain recognition and even jobs.

There is something called as the ease of doing business and I sincerely believe there is something called ease of doing HR. The future of jobs and the future of our economies are linked to this and we need to address the re-skilling challenge with renewed vigor to build a better future!