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Digital disruption – the case for humans

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If you haven’t yet, I suggest watching Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Each episode in the anthology is set in a dystopian future where technology has a pervasive and ubiquitous impact on our very existence. The show leaves no theme unexplored from social media to helicopter parenting, always pushing it to the hilt.

What makes the series so disconcerting is that while the genre is science fiction, its critiques are far more present than future, with much of the same technology already existing in our day-to-day lives. The leap between science fiction and reality is so small you could mistake the genre for satire.

This can leave one feeling both depressed and terrified. Tesla founder and billionaire Elon Musk has warned repeatedly of the dangers AI poses to humankind’s future. “Nothing will affect the future of humanity more than digital super-intelligence,” he wrote in a tweet.

Others such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates express optimism and a more pragmatic opinion. “AI is just the latest in technologies that allow us to produce a lot more goods and services with less labour. And overwhelmingly, over the last several hundred years, that has been great for society,” he said in a 2018 interview.

In this issue, I focused heavily on technology and its impact on the HR function. Asking you to consider if HR is obsolete.

If all this seems a bit dramatic that’s because, well, it is. While new technologies are equally exciting and terrifying, there is no replacement for humanity and this will be paramount in moving forward as a successful leader.

I’ve written before on it being imperative for HR to prepare for a digital future and to develop leadership and learning versatility. And while workplaces should focus on being ahead of the next great technological advancement, they often lose sight of human characteristics; something robots, AI or machine learning can never replace.

The context we’re operating in within digital transformation, and the pace and complexity we’re working in, often forgets the traits that make us human.

These include things such as engaging people with empathy, leading with emotional intelligence, using storytelling to make emotional connections and building relationships to create social capital.

Ethical decision making and problem-solving will be vital in an uncertain future. Not to forget more traditional skills when it comes to leadership and development such as having difficult conversations and cultural sensitivity.

As a leader, having a clear vision is one thing, but being able to bring people on the journey is another.

While technology may help simplify processes and solve problems based on predictable information, humans are unpredictable. Skills that require you to deal with people in a humanistic way are more important than ever.

Implementing technology is just a small part of the rapidly changing future. If you are dealing with digital transformation, then issues of culture, leadership, current and future strategy, talent governance models and motivation are just as important as the technology itself, if not more important to sustain its impact.

In a world where the only constant is change itself.



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