Thu | Sep 24, 2020

ADVERTORIAL | Technology will be the backbone of HR, says IT expert

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2020 | 12:22 AM
Tamique Hines, senior manager for software engineering at MC Systems.
Tamique Hines, senior manager for software engineering at MC Systems.

Tamique Hines, senior manager, software engineering at MC Systems, a member company of The Jamaica National Group, says the future of work will have technology at its core.

“With the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies, such as robotics process automation (RPA), trying to figure out the future of work has been a source of anxiety for many,” she pointed out.

“Truth is, we can’t know for sure what will happen. However, as Australian futurist Ross Dawson advises, we should focus less on whether the predicted future will happen as imagined, and instead, plan for what is predicted. We can apply that thinking to the human resource function in the future of work,” she added.

Hines said that digitalisation, AI robotics and RPA are three technologies which are having a tremendous effect on how businesses operate and are, in fact, a signal of what the future of work could look like.

She explained that digitalisation, as distinct from digitisation, is the conversion of information from a physical format into a digital one and uses digital technologies and information to change business processes.

“To illustrate: Scanning a physical application form which a prospective employee completed and submitted, would be an example of digitisation. However, having the application process exclusively online – including an option to upload degrees and certifications – would be an example of digitalisation,” she said.

AI, robotics and RPA explained

Meanwhile, the senior manager of software engineering explained that AI is the science of making intelligent machines and involves the development of computer systems that are able to mimic human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and language translation.

AI in human resource, on the other hand, she said, includes chatbots – computer programmes designed to stimulate human conversations, which help with prescreening/preselecting applicants, or reaching out to a recruit as soon as an offer is made.

“Robotics is the discipline of designing, constructing and using robots; while RPA is a platform service, which includes software robots that mimic a human worker in performing, especially high-volume, repeatable business tasks,” she added.

Making reference to American behemoth Walgreens, Mrs Hines said the company increased its human resource shared service efficiency by 73 per cent through RPA. The company also automated many labour-intensive, transactional tasks that were being performed by team members, which freed up the employee’s time and bandwidth to offer more value-added services.

Locally, she noted, Guardian Group partnered with Sutherland Global Services in an RPA initiative which facilitates interaction between both companies. The RPA platform can access, calculate, copy, paste, and use embedded business rules to interpret, validate and transfer data between the core enterprise applications.

“True, the future of work will have technology at its core. But the future of human resource is less about technology and more about a change in current thinking, so that organisations are prepared for what the future will ask of them,” she said.

New thinking will drive the development of technology solutions

The senior manager informed that many thought leaders on the subject posit that right now, human resource leads are being asked to think like a data analyst, where they are using payroll data, such as overtime payments, to help business leaders figure out how to staff a particular department; or reassess the productivity tools and conditions that may be impacting overtime payments in the organisation.

“They are also being asked to think like marketers and brand builders to come up with different ways to describe the job function, so that the job posting that goes out can attract the right talent, because the talent expectations have changed. Companies are no longer just hiring an accounting clerk, they are also hiring a brand ambassador,” she said.

She suggested that technology will help to deliver the solutions that will come from the new thinking. She also noted that it is the new thinking that will lead to the change. This is one of the reasons we will still need humans in human resource, she argued.

“There is machine learning; and yes, the AI can learn to operate outside of what it is commanded to do. But, with the human condition, there are always [elements] that only another human can do,” she said.

Hines projected that in the future, human resource managers and machines may be engaged in ‘co-botting', which means “humans working alongside collaborative robot”. She disclosed that this was already happening in the automotive industry. In such scenarios, she revealed, there are some parts of the work that machines/robots will do and some parts that humans will do.

“Some experts have said that this scenario is paving the way for Industry 5.0. Yet the irony of Industry 5.0, which is fuelled by automation, is that it is intended to put the 'human touch' into work,” she informed.

“This is not a case of technology versus human resource professionals; but rather, a case of exploring and defining how human resource professionals can work with and leverage technology to their advantage in preparation for the future of work,” Hines said.

“The future of work starts with a change in thinking. And maybe when the technology has taken care of all the non-human elements, we really get to be more compassionate, more creative, more communicative, better critical thinkers and more collaborative,” she affirmed.

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