A Dystopian Future: The Influence of Technology on Strategic HR

Livingston James Group Founder and CEO Jamie Livingston looks at the potential implications of the exponential growth of technology in the strategic HR function.

It was said of the first world war that we had mediaeval strategy coupled with modern weapons, which led to disastrous results.

With the exponential development of technology pertaining to HR and a more linear learning curve on the side of humans utilising the tech, could we be in danger of having a similar gap developing with potentially disastrous consequences?

Below, the pros and cons of technology on key areas of strategic HR are examined as we look at the potential impacts.

Sourcing

Pros

Technology provides organisations the opportunity to reach larger audiences and improve their ‘employer of choice’ brand management and awareness.  It also provides a ready-made solution for accessing potential candidates, and once selected, can shorten the screening process by using CV screening/parsing bots, reducing the human tendency to bias.

Once initial selections have been made, the opportunity to use technology for video interviews, online assessments, psychometric testing is huge.  It can increase accessibility to wider audiences and geographies.

Cons

Whilst technology can be credited with increasing accessibility, it is important to remember that this increase is only possible for those with access to the appropriate technology, which may disadvantage older people or those from a lower socio-economic background.  There is also considerable evidence to suggest that machine learning can also develop bias, often based on biased algorithms.

It is also important to remember that the lack of human contact can turn off key talent, and can disadvantage those who don’t interview well ‘on video’.  Again this lack of interpersonal contact can impact the ability of both hiring employer and prospective employee to access culture fit.

 

Planning/Predicting

Pros

With integrated ERP, companies can better manage some of the admin-heavy aspects of the function such as payroll, as well as keeping track of workforce planning, recruitment, and appraisal systems.

Cons

Technology won’t always get it right, which raises the issue of where accountability lies for any mistakes that may occur.  In addition, whilst technology brings many things, it can’t replace the importance of intuition and ‘gut feel’ in decision making, which can be critical when building teams and culture.  The use of technology also opens up the risk of cyber-attack and the resulting impact on business continuity that this could have.

 

Management

Pros

The huge pros of technology in enabling the management of people became clear during the mass migration to WFH that occurred during the pandemic.  Remote access to networks, digital appraisal systems, virtual meetings, online learning and much more all came into mass use virtually overnight.

As we progressed from the initial stages, yet more technology came to the fore, from tools to manage efficient workflow and workloads, to predictive tech anticipating mental health challenges.  Add to this the opportunity for anonymous feedback or even whistleblowing within organisations, and the automation of mundane or dangerous tasks and the workplace was transformed.

Cons

What the pandemic also taught us was the danger of ‘depersonalisation’ and the impact of reduced human touch.  Many organisations saw a marked reduction in employee engagement and loyalty, much of which led to ‘the Great Resignation’.

In addition, the wider issue of inappropriate access to personal information’ through predictive AI, the human jobs lost to technology, and the potential mass-unemployment that will occur at least until skills and education catch up and more value and increased remuneration is provided for less tech-focused roles will have a significantly negative impact on our workforce.

 

Looking to the Future

As discussed, there are a multitude of pros and cons as to how tech shapes strategic HR. The key to success is the human decision making and ethics behind the tech.  Machine learning, however, starts to take those decisions outside human hands and passes them to the algorithms, which we know can become flawed and biased with a ‘life of their own’.

With a number of multinational corporations wielding more power than many governments, what might it mean for society if the algorithms are in charge of setting global strategic HR policy?

To discuss any of the issues raised in this piece, or for a broader discussion around your executive search requirements, contact [email protected]

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