A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at Digi_HR in Athens. While listening to the other keynote speakers, I had ample time to make some notes. Here is Andy Spence’s presentation about AI, Blockchain and the cloud in blog-form. His jokes were fantastic, I have included them in quotations!
New technologies are starting to make a splash in HR. Three of the most impactful will be AI, the blockchain, and the Cloud. Which one do you think will make the biggest impact on HR? Let’s start with AI.
AI and HR
“Jo, a government contract worker, is being taken to the office in her BUG: a BeemerGoogleUber driverless car.
She is discussing her day with her automated coaching partner, Sirius.
“I notice that you had less alpha-rhythm sleep last night.”, Sirius says, “I suggest you have some breakfast, to increase your energy levels.
At 11am you have a meeting with the Jane from the Climate Sceptic Group. She is usually quite reserved initially. Remember to ask an open question, and smile to help her feel at ease. Maybe you’ll warm her up!”
Does this sound like the future of HR? Meet HARRI, a Human Advisory Resource: Robotic Interface. HARRI also has a twitter account – so watch out! Maybe he is the future.
Let’s hope not. Andy continues: “I studied AI in the mid-90s if you can believe that. This was a long time before Watson and Siri. HR has changed tremendously in the meantime.”
A traditional coach will cost you around 100 USD an hour. For the same money, you have a coaching app with AI for a year. This will potentially give billions of workers access to at least some of the benefits of coaching!
Does this mean that our HR manager will be a robot in a few years? No, AI will make a much larger impact in subtler ways through integration in daily processes. In your Google search for example, or through AIs like Alexa. These day-to-day applications feel natural – but they are the areas where the real impact of AI will be most visible.
So, Robots are a bit overrated. “But”, Andy warned, “Don’t tell them that”. He concludes: “We shouldn’t anthropomorphize robots. They really don’t like it”.
So, what’s all the fuss around Blockchain and HR about?
Blockchain seems less exciting than AI, but might be more transformative. Andy: “Blockchain doesn’t print a 3D house – and the underlying technology is as exciting as double entry accounting”. However, its potential could very well match that of AI.
An example is a digital smart contract between 2 people. When the contract is agreed upon by both parties, the contract is immediately confirmed and enforced.
For example, when you buy a house or an office building, you need to transfer the money to a notary who holds the deposit until the house has been transferred. They will then register you as the new house owner.
With a blockchain, you can put the money on the blockchain. This money will be yours as long as it is on the blockchain. The current owner can then give you the (digital) key with one press on the button. The exact moment when you get the key, the previous owner gets your funds. If one or the other are missing or invalid, the transaction will never take place.
This can also be applied to hiring, payroll, and qualification checks. Imagine you’re asked to do a job for a few hundred Dollars. As soon as the job has been completed to both parties’ satisfaction, the money is yours. This means that you get paid at the exact moment your job is done. No long waits for companies who are slow to pay! This can all be done using the blockchain.
The blockchain is unhackable and cuts out the middleman like the recruiter, lawyer or agency. To read more about other possibilities of the blockchain and HR, check Andy’s article on glassbeadconsulting.com.
HR in the Cloud
The third technology trend is the cloud. The cloud usually refers to storing data outside of the company’s internal data-premise. This has a few effects:
- Connectedness. The cloud enables you to connect to, access and process this data very quickly from anywhere in the world.
- Lower costs. Eliminating on-premise server capacity and maintenance lowers costs.
- Easier to scale. Cloud-based solutions are hosted on large and highly protected servers. It is very easy to buy extra server space or speed with the click of a button.
- Innovativeness. Software in the cloud can be automatically updated by the software vendor, without having to be cleared and checked extensively. This leads to more innovation in the software. Examples include the analytical functionalities that a lot of vendors incrementally add to their software.
The best example of cloud-based software are plug-and-play software-as-a-service (SAAS) solutions. These are designed for the cloud and don’t require IT to implement the software on-premise. All these solutions leverage the cloud for data access and storage. When Andy asked the audience how many were using the cloud, only a few hands went up.
The main impact for HR for moving to the cloud has been to force standardization of processes as there is less room for customization.
A lot of HR apps and systems have moved to the cloud in the last few years. It is unlikely that there are HR departments that are NOT using cloud-based solutions. However, not everyone is aware of this yet!
All these technologies offer new possibilities. How do you know what the best next step is? The only correct answer is: “it depends on the situation”.
Every time we face the decision to buy new technology or implement new tools, we need to critically assess what does and what doesn’t work. This is the essence of evidence-based management.
Only when we’re solving real problems with solutions that truly solve these problems are we actually advancing. Let’s focus on the critical processes and automate those. They are important.
Or, to put it in the words of Peter Drucker: “There’s nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”.
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