Introduction & concept of ‘employees’
The nature of cognitive technologies
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and HR strategic Contribution to AI
People Analytics & The Importance to adopting an ethical approach.
HRM & Long-term outcomes
“Many new forms of organisations have emerged in response to new technologies and access to global markets where alliances and partnerships have led to complex networks of intercommunications and cross boundary relationship” (Garrow & Varney, 2015). In recent times we begin to see organisations translating innovation into a successful structure and undergoing a process through balancing creativity with risk and remain competitive within a business environment. It is this where paying attention to involving people is critical to organisational success and delivering outcome to organisational objectives. According to Boxall and Purcell (2011) Human Resources Management (HRM) is “the management of work and the maintenance of people to do the work”. For the purpose of this essay I will begin to address how the nature of digital technology impacts the role of HRM through its current developments and future outcomes for organisations by critically engaging in related concepts, theory and perspectives surrounding HR strategic contributions to AI, people analytics and the importance to adopting an ethical approach around this.
The concept surrounding ‘employees’ is something we would view as a long-term resource/investment crucial for guiding organisational success. It is this where such importance has led to contemporary HRM models focusing on strategic and structural alignment to achieving organisational goals/ control objectives (Pinnington et. al., 2007). Despite early models emphasising a workplace orientated towards social values and promoting welfare- such traits continue to shape HR managers practices and decision-making (Greenwood, 2013; Simoes et al., 2019). Yet in recent times digital technologies have enabled a technology revolution or in other words a “digital age”/ “industry 4.0” age generating a situation exceeding organisational/ people's ability to adapt (Deloitte, 2017). It has now reached a point where the skills needed for the current popular roles in industry 4.0 do not exist yet as such roles didn’t exist a decade ago with current research noting the boundaries between personal lives and work being blurred through advanced/digital technology (Strohmeier, 2009, Parry and Tyson, 2011, CIPD, 2017, IEEE, 2018, Gikopoulos, J., 2019). For instance, most employees can now use work devices (phones/laptops) to check their emails outside of working hours thus helping them work flexibly, enable empowerment and productivity to control their workload (CIPD, 2017). Thus, applying new technological changes in the external environment poses challenges for HR and wider organisation especially to internally adapt and “align the culture, talent, structure, and processes to balance efficiency and innovation needed to sustain a measurable impact on the greater organization as it continuously transforms.” (Deloitte,2017)
Furthermore, over the past few decades we have seen high quality human resources responsible for driving the competitive advantage in organisations. It is this where focusing on human capital as a source for competitive advantage has enabled organisations engaging a ‘talent war’ and allowing people to be strategically managed/mainly defined as people-based/resource-led (Noe et al. 2006). From this they form as a non-substitutable asset and one that is potentially rare, valuable and intangible. With the specialised and tacit knowledge that adds on to this generates the sustainability of competitive advantage for organisations. Essentially people’s value in organisations has not been subject to recent discovery and we see this where the Human Relations School was initiated by Elton Mayo (1949) through his investigations on Hawthorne Plant at the Western Electric Company. It was discovered from this that investment into the affective and cognitive resources of people’s work and a parallel engagement with the formal & informal relations are key to shaping their professional experience. Such investigations opened surrounding debate into the wider relations between people and working context aswell as the conflicted scientific view of organisations at the time of people being viewed as mere container and physical contexts where they go to work and accomplish tasks. Mayo’s work offers a renewed vision to a working organisation and the subjectiveness added and implied in the working experience.
Essentially the use of cognitive technologies potentially offers a strategic ally adding organisational value to the organisation and empowering people at work through shifting the psycho-social drivers to organisational behaviour as opposed to just performance. With this in line with organisational mission and vision cognitive technologies can potentially contribute to redefining HRM practices through assisting managers to manage their objectives and people. When parallel to automation of procedures and tasks organisations are currently aware of the “essentially human” parts of work being more important to remain competitive (Manuti and de Palma, 2016). For instance, the use of communication, persuasion, personal service and empathy are skills that are more valuable than ever. Nevertheless Knowles-Cutler and Lewis (2016) note cognitive technology can speed the completion of routine work allowing workers to focus on human aspects of work. Such evidence-based practice presents the challenges faced in the digital age with organisations urged to expand workforce vision through reflecting on the jobs/tasks that can be automated whilst adding new opportunities to human skills and remaining heavily focused on employment value proposition for people and employee/consumer experience. Such a critical challenge reinforces the need for HR leaders and business leaders alike to incorporate and enable a robust understanding to identify the essential human skills needed to ‘design, source, and manage the future of work, workforces, and workplaces’. Fundamentally HR leaders should focus and identify the differences between essential human skills and non-essential tasks managed by automation whereby doing so can reframe careers and new ways of working for people and organisations alike.
Furthermore, one important area adopted to shaping digital technology is artificial Intelligence (AI) whereby intelligent computerised systems are developed and adopted to enable scalability and raise quality when matching candidates skills, knowledge and experience with job requirements. For instance, Bob Myhal (CBC automotive marketing director) notes that cloud-based hiring tools “allow recruiters and hiring managers to easily and affordably find, evaluate and organize top job candidates, while innovative assessment and filtering techniques will help provide a 360-degree holistic view of top applicants. Through biometric data, companies like Next Hire will better predict which candidates are most likely to be a good fit for a position, and which are not”. However, the issue surrounding AI tools is that they can only be as objective as the people programming them whereby the consequences of human bias posed enables issues of discrimination with ethical problems also heightened by the scale at which AI tools operate (Charles, 2019). From this the challenges that lie in the HR profession is its ability to identify and develop potential benefits behind digitalisation whilst mitigating the limitations such as hiring bias. Fundamentally apart from leadership and technology organisational success lies in human capital determining the way HR is managed. Having a varied digitised HR activity are crucial to enabling any organisation to effectively implement strategy and achieve objectives. In today’s environment this would mean a redefinition to the HR managers role to one that is predictive/strategic and technologically- oriented whether it would be recruitment practices targeted towards tech savvy people to retaining employees and filling the skills gap. We see this emphasised by Nico Orie (vice president of HR strategy and operations at Coca-Cola European Partners) highlighting that “HR teams need to come up with a convincing business case for tech adoption and “carefully consider what is needed when adopting new ways of working so people are effective in their jobs," Therefore considerations should be made whether it is controlling the in-depth workforce analysis to developing the skills and knowledge capability or being aided with the capacity by the company to exploit available digital technologies for HR functions.
The downsides to AI impacts on HR's strategic contribution is the inability for computers and robots to conduct the complex and strategic work by HR business partners. Instead HR’s contribution can be improved and unaffected when new opportunities are redirected through new tools, analysis and information available to machines. Yet some authors such as Poole (2018) notes the lack of ‘elastic thinking’ it brings where despite the added benefit of machines enabling analytical tasks, he believes that “If you want to create a general problem-solving brain the best way is still to find a mate and create a new human being”. Some HR leaders nonetheless consider that AI marks a critical cross for HR to explore such oppurtunity and push boundaries for organisations to prepare and embrace new technology (Wood, 2017). Such a ‘change-ready’ workforce in place would enable organisational structures being reconsidered with the skills and knowledge being shared and developed around the organisation with ‘no place for silos and turf wars’ and power being flowed differently. It is this where developing a culture of innovation and enquiry through an ‘open-minded learning community’ would be made necessary. In this context we would need to adjust the way in which people are hired and developed whereby talent management would be important yet conducted differently. The challenge posed for HR is to keeping employees engaged where they can identify and contribute to the comparisons between the cost of AI and humans, the training costs of both robots and humans aswell as the cost to replace employees (Schwab, 2016). HR can also widely explore the human-AI relationship and balance between enabling human progress whilst exploiting highly-intelligent machines to sustaining a competitive advantage.
Furthermore, HR is encouraged to lead such digital changes and support organisations to driving a “digital DNA” through a collaborative and innovative culture (Duncan and Stuart 2014). For instance, HR can support new media communication tools through promoting motivation and engagement whereby together with people analytics the term ‘big data’ adds to digital transformation in the HR function (Davenport 2014). Through large quantities of semi structured, structured and unstructured data information- many formal and informal communication patterns can be predicted and beneficial for organisations enabling real-time links between engagement and coaching. For instance, patterns of overtime and/or of absenteeism are identified as useful for managing work labour in a workforce management that is aware. Cognitive technology also helps supporting recruitment practices by analysing candidate personality & honesty through a software designed for video interviews.
Many organisations have responded by rethinking their management of human resources if the oppurtunities and challenges are linked to the digital revolution (Bondarouk and Ruel 2009; Manuti and de Palma 2016). One indicator of digital changes is cloud HR systems widely implemented and designed to transform HR into “intelligent platforms' (Collins et al ,2017). For instance, people analytics is one that is designed to manage various organisational challenges such as recruitment, retention, workforce planning, compensation and performance measurement. Organisations are currently increasingly investing into data programmes such as interaction analytics and organisational network analysis (ONA) designed to analyse employee behaviours with the oppurtunities to understand and improve the organisation. This method has increasingly become a mainstream HR practice enabling executives and managers to pass judgment on their employees. Through the technology existing statistics and expertise applied to large data sets people analytics enables better organisational and management decisions being made within an organisation (Manuti and de Palma, 2016). It is this where organisations seeking investment returns in people through redesigning technical analytics and later enabling a digital-based analytics solution means they can now perform real-time analytics when needed in the business process. Doing so offers clarity to issues encountered and actionable insights. Essentially people analytics has grown to a point where it is not limited to HR and is now a core business function where stakeholders needs must be met in the organisation. We can now analyse large data sets and develop tools helping employees and managers alike to view real time relevant data (Bersin et al. 2017). Such a digital revolution pushes HR to play a bigger role and enabling organisations to be digital, not just do digital” (Volini et al. 2017, 87).
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- Akram Alsafi (Autor:in), 2020, The Role of the Human Resources Management in Today's Business Environment, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/988881