“The robots are coming! They will disrupt our systems and take our jobs!” You may have picked up on fatalistic messages like these. However, there’s no need to worry. In fact, robotics will only add efficiency to your HR activities and free up your time and energy for more complex tasks that only humans are capable of.
Robots, robotics or AI?
Let’s first get the lingo straight: ‘robotics’ and ‘robots’ are two different things. Physically existing constructs like car assembly line arms or social bots in retirement homes are robots. They are visible, some have eyes and can have conversations, others can even be petted.
Robotics, on the other hand, is less visible: it constitutes the software behind automated processes. Less sci-fi, but just as valuable. RPA automates simple, manual activities, such as duplicating input between different systems, sending e-mails or calculating invoice data .
Another important note: in contrast to AI, RPA doesn’t replicate human interpretations or make judgments. While AI tools like Siri use voice recognition, machine learning, deep analysis etc. to ‘think’ for themselves, RPA merely executes what it’s programmed to do: interact with systems to perform repetitive tasks that humans aren’t optimized or happy to perform. However, AI and robotics can work together. RPA can, for example, process transactions that were initiated in a conversation between an AI chatbot and an employee.
How RPA can enhance HR
There are numerous tasks RPA could take on in HR departments. These include:
- transferring employee data from one system to another (e.g. for compliance or reporting reasons) without manual intervention or complex interfaces;
- creating employee contracts or policy documents based on data from your recruitment system and e-mailing these documents to newly hired people in minutes;
- fetching data from various systems requested by employees in the context of the GDPR.
As robotics handles more of these administrative formalities, it frees up time for HR departments to focus on more value-adding tasks. HR officers can connect with job candidates, deliver complex advice and serve clients in ways machines just can’t.
Putting the right person or robot in the right place
Some predictions state that administrative jobs will disappear by 2030. While digitization and robotics will certainly play their roles, these developments don’t necessarily mean bidding farewell to administrative workers.
Instead, the future will be about putting the right person or robot in the right place. Organizations will have to rethink job descriptions, move profiles and tasks around, and imagine solutions in which robotics and humans can complement each other. And who’s best equipped to do all this while keeping costs and workforce sustainability in mind? That’s right: HR departments.