Table of Contents
The world is fast moving into the adoption of new technologies into businesses. New technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), mixed or augmented reality (AR), computer vision and drones have been embraced by many businesses for increased output and efficiency. However, these new technologies have impacted and challenged human resource management (HRM) in several ways. The impact has been positive where the introduction of new technology into business has resulted in smart recruiting, improved service delivery, quick solutions, and the estimation of workplace morale. However, the new technologies have also posed some challenges to the HRM. Some challenges include training staff, legal and regulatory challenges, change management, security issues, poor, on-job training, general HRM acceptance and ethical concerns. Some of the effective strategies that could be used in introducing the new technology include education, training and mentoring. Also, effective communication and breaking the implementation processes into phases could be effective in managing the change of introducing the new technology. Continuous feedback and improvement loop could also be one of the effective strategies that HRM could employ in introducing a new technology in business. Therefore, this study recommends that HRM should be facilitators of change through ensuring that they train their employees and constantly communicate the change to them for the effective introduction and implementation of new technology.
The business world is rapidly employing the use of new technology in most business processes. New technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), mixed or augmented reality (AR), computer vision and drones have been implemented by many businesses for increased output and efficiency. Computerization has been used for many years in the manufacturing tasks. Also, the prices of computing have been falling over the years making the application of computerization in many business operations not only cheap but also efficient and productive (Timms, M. J. 2016, 702). According to Calitz, Poisat & Cullen (2017, 2), the introduction of new technology such as robots, AR and AI have altered some of the traditional operations of human resource management (HRM).
Automation has greatly influenced the business world. According to Frey and Osborne (2013: 38), nearly half of jobs (47%) in the United States will be completely automated in the next two decades. Also, the same study estimates that by 2025, about a third of global jobs will be lost to robots. This means that many of the workplaces will have adopted the use of new technology such as robots, Ai, AR and computer vision.
Even though robots have the ability to improve productivity and reducing costs, they also bring with them human costs. It is the work of HRM to ensure that human costs brought about by the introduction of new technology is kept to its possible minimum levels. The introduction of new technology does not only have huge implication to the practice of human resource management, but also present serious challenges to the management of human resource in business operations. This paper will analyze the implications and challenges of introducing new technology for the management of human resource as well as providing a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of HRM in the introduction of such a new technology. Lastly, based on the critical evaluation, the study will provide recommendations that will guide HRM going into the future with consideration of feasibility and acceptability of key stakeholders.
New technologies include AI, AR, computer vision, robots and drones among others. These technologies are finding their ways from science to lives and workplaces very rapidly. For instance, according to Owen-Hill (2016, 1), in 2014 alone, there were about 1.5 million robots that were working in industries around the world and this number is projected to rise over the next few years. According to the same study, robots sector will command about $ 67 billion by the year 2025. Robots perform complex and hazardous duties which could be dangerous for the human worker. For instance, robots could be used in setting such as where nuclear dumping has occurred or where there are great hazards that could affect human life.
Impact of New Technology on HRM
Towards Smart Recruiting
Many businesses are moving towards reducing the cost of hiring employees. This is a key objective of every HRM personnel. The introduction of new technology such as robots and AI have enabled the HRM to adopt a smart recruitment process. According to Owen-Hill (2016, 1), about 40% of the global companies apply some form of AI in HRM and especially during the recruitment process. For instance, companies such as GE, IBM, and Facebook use AI. This new technology not only simplifies the operations within the company but also ensures that there is a gradual development of recruitment processes which ensures that human element is maintained in the recruitment processes. The process of recruitment has been very tedious in the past where many human resource practitioners were involved in time-consuming tasks of going through a manual screening of the information of the prospective employees. They were also supposed to make many correspondences which included making many phone calls and returning emails to successful candidates.
However, due to the cost and a vast amount of information that is involved in the recruitment process, many potential employees had a negative perspective about the business that did not respond to all potential employees who participated in the recruitment process irrespective of whether they were successful or not. The introduction of new technologies in the recruitment process have enabled HRM to respond to all applicants as these technologies have changed the way HRM reaches out to recruits through phone calls, emails, and phone messages. For instance, the use of applicant tracking software (ATS) could be used to track every potential applicant with high precision which reduces errors and ambiguity in recruitment processes. Other recruiting technologies include Arya, Mya, and Olivia (Balfe, N., Sharples, S., & Wilson, J. R. 2015, 52). These artificial recruiting technologies have resulted in a more productive, fair and better business.
Serious Overhaul to HRM Service Delivery
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is bringing a serious overhaul to the HRM service delivery. Many businesses have adopted automation in their HRM services. HRM are faced with constant pressure performing more with fewer resources. HRM is required to operate within a limited budget but expectation on their performance is high. The HRM through the application of robots has changed service delivery. Many businesses have found out that robots have been cost-effective because they are capable of increasing more capacity in the service delivery while at the same time do not compromise on the quality and scope of the services delivered (Balfe, N., Sharples, S., & Wilson, J. R. 2015, 59). HRM could use the new technology such as robots in automating repetitive manual tasks to ensure that resources that are allocated for such tasks are minimized. With the low cost of licensing, the use of robots could have a higher return on investment within a short time while at the same time increasing human resource capacity.
Also, RPA has the ability to learn how an employee performs a repetitive task such as data processing, copying data, running reports among other monotonous tasks (Owen-Hill, C. 2016, 2). Because these processes require a lot of data processing, robots are suited for processing large data sets replacing workers with relatively limited ability to process large datasets. This results in the more flexible workforce as well as boosting the morale and satisfaction of employees and customers, respectively.
Enhancing Quick Solution
Introduction of new technologies such as AI has enabled many businesses to have quick solutions that are demanded of them. Workplace learning that is as a result of AI ensures that employees collaborate and work closely together with high proficiency which results in a work environment that highly streamlined. This contributes to the overall learning and development of employees’ skills that enhance their productivity as well as customers’ satisfaction (Autor, D. H. 2015, 7). It also ensures that work-related stress is managed at low levels while employees’ progress is monitored regularly. The workplace learning that is guided by AI ensures that better methods of improving employees’ skills are recommended so as to promote growth and improvement of every employee.
Moreover, HRM is faced with the demand for delivering quick solutions that could bring about operational improvements within a short record time. Implementation of robots and AI could be done within few weeks which could help businesses in increasing capacity within the shortest time. The new technology such as AI, robots, and AR could scale rapidly. This means that the technology could be deployed around the clock to offer services that are language specific and share the data within a short span of time across systems without having to incur relatively higher expenses.
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Meeting the Demand for Improved Service Delivery
Introduction of new technology has improved the service delivery by increasing efficiency, credibility and reliability. HRM is a profession with increasing demand for credibility as small hiccups could lead to business disruptions as well as lack of trust in the services being offered by the business. Where accuracy and speed are required, HRM could choose to engage with the new technology such as robots which have relatively high accuracy and speed compared to the human workforce (Calitz, A. P., Poisat, P., & Cullen, M. 2017, 6). The machines have high precision and accuracy in processing transactions and going through a myriad of information. As HRM is tasked with managing huge employee data, going through all these data will require many workers who may work longer hours with associated high costs. Deployment of robots and AI could improve the accuracy while at the same time reducing the backlog as well as processing errors. This application of new technology ensures that human resource performance is improved as well as enhancing customer satisfaction.
As the demand for efficiency, credibility, and reliability continues to command many business strategies, many businesses through applying AI have ensured that the new technologies work in providing the business with a competitive advantage that will ensure that survives and grows in the face of ever-increasing competition (Calitz, A. P., Poisat, P., & Cullen, M. 2017, 3). This is where AI is tailored to meet the business objectives as well as transforming the way the business manages its workforce.
Estimation of Workplace Morale
The introduction of new technology has also impacted the way the HRM estimates workplace morale. AI could be used in identifying patterns of performance over a given period of time. Even though some people contest to the legality of this application, AI could be used together with face-recognition technology in gender identification as well as assessing psycho-emotional traits of employees which could be gauged on a scale that ranges between euphoric to very sad. According to Balfe, Sharples, and Wilson (2015, 60), these data when collated could be used by the HRM to cement a strong bond with the employees so that their morale is boosted to ensure that each employee achieves his/her full potential for the benefit of the business.
Challenges of Introducing New Technology in HRM
There are several challenges that HRM faces in the introduction of new technology such as IA, robots, AR and computer vision. In order to introduce the new technology effectively, HRM has to overcome some of the following challenges which may complicate the introduction of these new technologies.
Challenge of Training Staff
Introduction of new technology should be accompanied by respective skills that will enable implementation of the new technology. Because these are new technology, there is always lack of skills to go with these new technologies as recruitment did not factor in the needed skills that could help employees to work side by side with the machines. This is where instance-based learning is required. Those businesses without strategies for instance-based learning will require to hire experts who will be tasked with ensuring that employees integrate with the new technology. HRM is tasked with hiring employees from diverse professional and raining backgrounds. They will find a challenge in ensuring that all their new hires have some skills on how to integrate with robots, AI, and computer vision.
According to Owen-Hill (2016, 1), many businesses outsource their robotic integration because they lack in-house robotic expertise. This is not only a technical challenge but also a financial one because of the costs attached to the process of outsourcing and integration. Every business introducing AI, AR, robotics as well as computer vision should ensure that its staff is properly trained to ensure smooth integration. Where there is no expertise, introduced technology may be rejected as many employees will find difficulty working with the technology.
Legal and Regulatory Challenge
Policymakers who are tasked with coming up with policies to guide AI and other forms of new technology have failed to provide a comprehensive legal framework of how these new technologies should be used. This failure is associated with the fact that policymakers are “outsiders” who do not have much idea on how the technology works. They also rely majorly on the traditional regulatory models which are not sufficient for technology such as AI. According to Timms (2016, 708), it could be difficult to ascertain who is liable wherever something goes wrong with the technology. This ambiguity in legal aspects of the technology has posed a great challenge to HRM because they fear getting into unchartered legal territory that could not only hurt business but also their employees.
Also, organizational regulations do not apply to these new technologies. Comparing the new technology to human employees, many HRM officials find it difficult to apply the organizational regulations and rules to the machines. When human employees are inducted into the business, they are taken through the organizational regulations and rules. These regulations and rules help the business to have a common standard of operation and behavior that are in line with the organizational goal and mission. Rules and code of conduct are in every business and it is the duty of HRM to ensure that these codes of conduct are adhered to by all employees of the business. The challenge that is posed to HRM is that robots and other new technology come to the business as manufactured products that are not bound by organizational regulation or laws, therefore, it is difficult for HRM to ascertain how to deal with these new technologies when it comes to enforcing laws or regulations. This has led many businesses to be skeptical about these new technologies and hence low integration rate.
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Many HRM has shifted from enforcing physical labor and bureaucracy on employees to accept whatever is adopted by the company. Making employees be aware that change such as adopting new technology is beneficial to all stakeholders is difficult without a proper strategy on how to inform them on ways in which such change will affect them. New technology such as robots have been at been at the receiving end of job loss accusation were human employees feel threatened by their presence. In order to adopt them, change management strategy should be well formulated and enacted so that employees should accept them.
AI and other new technologies such as robots depend on computer programmes and systems that could be threatened by hackers and cyber risks. The threat that has been experienced in these technologies are real and could have an enormous impact on the business survival. When attacked, these new technology systems could compromise the relatively large amount of data and business information that could hurt the entire business (Johnson D. G. 2015, 708). The challenge exists for HRM on how to ensure that the system is secure from the cyber threats and risks. Many HRM personnel are not conversant on how to ensure that the security is guaranteed in such systems. With higher risk, many HRM will be shy to adopt the new technology.
The use of new technology such as robots and AI in some tasks raises a lot of ethical issues that could not be effectively handled by HRM. New technology such as robot has been listed for some unethical operations. For instance, screening job applicants before interviewing them raises a lot of issues with this new technology (Johnson D. G. 2015, 708). Also, robots and other forms of new technology go against fellow workers’ and customers’ privacy. Many opponents of these new technologies have argued that introducing them to workplaces will bring ethical dilemma and will revolutionize workplace ethics.
Poor On-Job Training
Being that new technology such as AI and robots are perceived as products or machines, many employees working alongside will find it difficult to benefit from on-job training and learning. The reason is that they will have low morale in working with or learning from the machines (Johnson D. G. 2015, 708). Many employees will consider these technologies as inferior to them and will not be interested in learning from them. This will generally lead to low adaptability and hands-on experience from employees.
This is another challenge that HRM could face when introducing new technology. When the new technology is coming to the business with the possibility of causing some employees to lose their jobs, many will be skeptical about their implementation. They will resist any attempt that will seek to introduce such technology because they will feel insecure and lack trust in technology. This could arise as a result of fear of losing jobs to the new technology. A technology such as robots have been associated with some job losses in the past and therefore, introducing them to any other workplace may face strong resistance.
The Willingness of Human Resource
Some human resource management team may not be willing to implement the new technology as they feel that it has come to take up their roles. The HRM may be ill-equipped to carry out the implementation of the new technology. This may be caused by inadequate training or lack of capacity to effectively carry out the piloting and implementation of the new technology. All these challenges require that HRM come up with effective strategies that will enable it to carry out the effective introduction of a new technology into business functions.
The effectiveness of Qatar Steel Company’s HRM in Introduction of New Technologies
My organization is Qatar Steel Company recently opened a new operation plant that is engaged in steel production. The continuous casting (CC) plant is a steel making plant that has cutting-edge technology that produces a high-quality steel product. Qatar Steel Company branch has been using a traditional industrial robot which has been used in the company for many decades. However, the head of HRM had proposed the introduction of collaborative robots (known henceforth as cobots) which is a new technology in this new steel manufacturing facility. They proposed this technology because cobots have become increasingly affordable and are highly adaptable (Calitz, A. P., Poisat, P., & Cullen, M. 2017, 2). The cobots are also known to be very easy to train as well as deploy. The cobots have also been associated with cost and time saving as well as their ability to work in association with human employees.
Issues in the Introduction of Cobots
To begin with, many employees feared redundancy as well as a loss of jobs. This meant that many employees lost their sense of security and preferred status quo. They reacted indifferently to the introduction of cobots and they openly resisted change. The change that the HRM announced created anxiety and uncertainty among the workers.
Secondly, there was no staff that had prior knowledge of how to work with these new technologies which were introduced to work in collaboration with human employees. Some employees have heard about cobots while most of the employees were familiar with traditional industrial robots in the organization. Many employees lacked technical training on how to work in collaboration with the cobots. Also, many did not trust the cobots while others did not feel safe working close to the cobots.
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Effective Strategies that HRM Applied
In the light of the above challenges, HRM initiated several strategies in introducing the new technology. The following are some of the specific strategies that the HRM used in the introduction of cobots in the assembly branch.
Education, Training, and Mentoring
HRM embarked in educating and training the staff so as to meet the requirements for introduction of cobots. HRM came up with short courses on technical training that imparted the employees with the knowledge on how cobots function as well as what their role will be in the company. The HRM was able to allocate time and resources that were used to train all the employees which ensured that every employee was involved in the training process. Through training, all employees were introduced to the functionality of the robots.
The HRM tied the training to the new job requirement and promised those who have attained the necessary skills either promotion or pay increment. This was effective as it acted as an incentive for the adoption of new technology. After training, the management continued with mentorship where the more experienced employees were used to provide mentorship for the less experienced employees. This strategy was effective because it enabled the employees to collaborate among themselves as well as being engaged throughout the entire implementation process. According to Calitz, Poisat, and Cullen (2017, 8), engaging the employees makes them own the change. This was important because they were also responsible for the implementation of the change.
The HRM was involved earlier in the planning process of communicating the change that they were planning to introduce. They communicated clearly and consistently about the introduction of the cobots well in advance even before the beginning implementation of the new technology. The management was able to help the employees who did not understand the new change to better understand why the HRM and the company decided to introduce this new technology. This was effective because the widespread communication enabled the HRM to spread the belief that the change is needed. Employees were told about the benefits of working alongside cobots and they shared this information among themselves. The employees were also provided with an explanation of how the introduction of cobots will affect them personally.
The HRM also involved change champions who were involved in passing around the good information about the proposed change of introducing the cobots in the manufacturing assembly. This strategy according to Calitz, Poisat & Cullen (2017, 9), is effective in ensuring that the resistant by employees is reduced and that strong support is provided for the employees who may not be willing to adapt to the changing environment. Clear communication with the employees ensured that HRM won not only their hearts but also their minds for the implementation of cobots to the manufacturing assembly. The employees were able to see the value of the cobots not only to themselves but also to the company. Also, through effective communication, employees will feel that the company valued them as well as their contribution to the implementation of the new technology.
Breaking the Implementation into Smaller Bits
Another strategy that the HRM used in carrying out the implementation of the new technology. The HRM began by introducing pilot implementation with only a few areas in the assembly plant. The implementation was conducted gradually while at the same time the HRM were engaged in extra training with all employees. This was necessary as implementation team realized that some employees were slow in understanding how the new technology worked. The study conducted by Sheridan (2016, 528), found out that new technology was more effective when introduced in bits rather than implementing the whole technology at once.
Also, not all employees are quick learners. While some may be able to grasp the technical functionality of the new technology, some employees will still need additional training as well as sufficient time to adopt the new technology. This strategy is effective as it allows all employees to begin by understanding the basic unit of the new technology before learning the complex and technical functionality of the new technology. This way, they gain trust from understanding the new technology which reduces the level of resistance to the implementation process.
Creating Feedback and Improvement Loop
The last strategy that the HRM in this company setting used was to create feedback for the entire organization. This was done by ensuring that the communication lines were kept open and that all employees were allowed to air their views on the performance and the prospect of the new technology. By understanding how the change is received by all employees, the HRM was able to discern whether the new technology introduced was optimum or met the objectives that were set by the HRM. If the set objectives are not met, the HRM could come up with improvement loop that will ensure that necessary improvements are put in place.
According to the studies conducted by Autor (2015, 27), not all new technology adopted in businesses are always optimal for the functioning of the business. But with revisions to the implementation, the technology could fulfill the objectives of the business. The same study also pointed out to the fact that with continues feedback and improvement loop, a new technology could bring competitive advantage to the business. The same study advocates for planning, doing, studying and taking further action in introducing a new technology in a workplace environment.
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Going into the future, HRM should consider joining in the adoption of new technology instead of fighting the new technology. This study recommends the following:
- HRM should focus on being facilitators of change. They have to use the strengths presented by new technology such as robots and AI. For instance, HRM should use AI and machine learning in ensuring that the processes such as job application, screening and posting are completed without any recruitment bias. This will help HRM with obtaining new teams that will be required to deal with new job requirement. The HRM department requires to have diverse programming team that will come up with codes that will meet these recruitment process. This is important because, with the development of technology, many workers are more towards working part-time and therefore, the recruitment needs should focus on the technology that will come up with processes that will ensure the unbiased, fast and robust list of qualified candidates for the jobs. AI and machine learning have the ability to processes myriad of information about job applicants such that the best applicant is picked.
- The HRM should train their workforce to enable them to learn about the new technology and how it operates. This will ensure smooth interaction between the new technology and human working in these businesses. Training is necessary because it will help employees to view the new technology as their assistance rather than perceiving these new machines as their competitors. With training, employees will have the opportunity to learn how to work alongside the robots that are increasingly occupying the same space in businesses as human workers. HRM that trains its employees on how to integrate with the robots and new technology will have an upper hand in ensuring that there is a seamless integration of these new technologies in the workplace. Employees have to see the robots not as mere computers but as assistants that could help in guiding them through complex processes and assisting the human workers in concentrating on other key tasks.
- HRM should consistently communicate with all the employees affected by the introduction of new technology as well as reviewing feedback from the employees to incorporate their views into the implementation process. This will ensure that all employees are actively involved in the process which will make them own and implement the change. The HRM should view the process of introducing new technology such as AI, robots, and AR as a continuous process that requires continuous practice. This will enable the HRM to make an informed decision on which technology to implement and how to monitor the impact of the new technology. The new technology has to have a human face as much as possible so that it becomes accepted by all the stakeholders. When the HRM incorporates the data obtained from the feedback into the iteration processes, the new technology will be sensitive to the specific needs of the business and hence will achieve high acceptability and feasibility.
- Lastly, the HRM should ensure that the introduction of new technology such as Ai and robots occurs in phases so that slow learners could catch up with the process. No employees should be left behind during the implementation process.
New technology comes with implication for business. The introduction of new technology has impacted the HRM in many businesses. It has transformed the thinking of HRM from looking at employees in terms of months where they will be paid or in terms of years when the layoffs will be made to thinking in a matter of days where employees work as freelancers and in remote areas. This means that the role of HRM has changed drastically from managing employees to guiding employees through change. HRM has been a facilitator in many businesses and has helped in the effective adoption of new technology such as robots and AI in many businesses.
New technology such as AI, AR, Computer vision, and robots come with positive impacts on business. This paper looked at some of the possible implications of smart recruitment, service delivery improvement, quick solutions and workplace morale estimation among others. Also, the study looked at some of the challenges that face business when a new technology is introduced. However, some of the effective strategies that could be used in introducing such new technologies include: conducting education, training, and mentorship; effective communication; breaking the implementation into phases and; creating feedback & improvement loop. These strategies could be helpful in ensuring that new technologies are accepted in a business set up.
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