Future of Employment: It is time for HR to step in?

Since the publication of a book The Future of Employment by Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne from Oxford University in 2013, the issue has been debated at different platforms, especially by management consultants and economists but it seems infrequently by HR Professionals. 

Frey and Osman predicted that 47% of jobs will disappear by 2030. These jobs either will be extinct or will be performed by robots. A more recent study from PwC makes a prediction that the nature of some occupations will change rather than the jobs disappear. Whether some jobs will disappear or not, one thing is for sure that we as humans will need to share our jobs with robots or in some cases lose them

Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Robots (automation) are the answer to productivity issues that have been on the table since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Automation is the cheapest way to improve productivity which is highly valued by shareholders and the capitalist system. Technology (automation) reduces accidents, saves time, maybe results in less mistakes and of course helps to maximize the profit! It will have a huge impact on our current systems around employment, retirement, tax and social care, more than we can imagine! 

Due to the increasing amount of automation, indisputably unemployment will increase. As the journalist and author of PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Paul Mason stated the future of work will soon become “the survival of the most adaptable”. Those who can adapt to the new ways of doing work due to automation will be able to survive. People will need to learn additional skills and use them simultaneously within different roles. This will require more training programs from the companies. Universities will need to review the content of their courses to givea wider range of skills to the future employees. Meanwhile companies will think about what kind of a skill they need rather than a specific role and where and how they can find that skill and for how long? As you can see, the whole structure of employment as we know, as of today, will change.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be employable despite the efforts. Therefore, society will face unprecedented unemployment rates. Our society, one that is already aging and already struggling with changing dynamics of aging, such as high life expectancy, will need to rethink how to support pensioners and unemployed as well as younger generations. How is our precious NHS going to be supported with loss of tax revenue due to employment of robots?

As HR professionals, it is our job and ethical responsibility to help our employers and fellow colleagues to draw a road map on how to cope with all these changes almost on our doorsteps. We need to put automation at the top of the HR agenda not for productivity purposes but for the future of employment. We all know that that there is no job for life any more but with automation the life span of that job is going to reduce drastically.

We, as HR professionals, need to work with governments to create different skilled jobs and champion different remuneration structures for multi-skilled employees working on different time schedules and periods. We also need to drive the discussion of the loss of tax revenue due to “robot employees” and how to support governments to earn tax revenue on robots so that the social welfare system could be sustained to a certain level.  I think it is time for HR professionals to step into this unknown area of future employment and drive the agenda at the macro level.

Despite the challenges, there are many reasons to be optimistic and one of them is that we make and program the robots! And that means we can control and manage the change that will happen!  

I would like to hear your views on how HR should drive the agenda on the future of employment and the co-existence of human employees and Artificial Intelligence.