HR Not Immune From Changes Automation Will Bring

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

HR professionals can benefit from automating certain functions instead of fearing new technology will replace them, consultants said.

Two tech-based methods, “natural language processing and machine learning are going to play significant roles in HR for years to come,” Kevin Oakes, CEO of Seattle and St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), told Bloomberg BNA in a March 1 email. “Combined, they have the ability to revolutionize what I think is one of the biggest dinosaurs in human capital: the employee engagement survey.”

The problem until now, he explained, is that employers are unable to make use of potentially the most valuable part of employee engagement surveys, where employees type in free-form comments rather than just selecting numbers on a numerical scale, he said. It is too time consuming and labor intensive to go through these textual responses, he said.

Computers, using these methods, can analyze the responses and the “impact will be so profound that I can easily envision a day when we don’t even bother” with numerical scales, he said.

More broadly, 56 percent of companies in a large international survey are redesigning their HR programs to make better use of digital and mobile tools, 33 percent of HR teams “are using some form of artificial intelligence” for specific functions and “41 percent are actively building mobile apps to deliver HR services.” The figures come from a survey of 10,447 “business and HR leaders” from 140 countries, 10.7 percent from the U.S., that Deloitte released Feb. 28.

Even more strikingly, although the sample size was smaller, a separate survey by Chicago-based CareerBuilder found that “72 percent of employers expect that some roles within talent acquisition and human capital management will become completely automated within the next 10 years,” the company said Feb. 21. The figures are based on an online, U.S.-only survey that ran from Nov. 16 to Dec. 1 and included 719 HR managers and recruiters at companies with more than 250 employees.

The CareerBuilder survey also found significant room for further HR automation, in that 34 percent of employers “don’t use technology automation for recruiting candidates, 44 percent don’t automate onboarding and 60 percent don’t automate human capital management activities for employees.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

For More Information

The Deloitte report, "Rewriting the rules for the digital age," is available at

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