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Predict and Prepare sponsored by Workday 12/16

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Adventures of Bloom & Wallace

a work in progress

Smart Machines/Robotics — Implications For HRM/HRTech — Where Do I Begin?

Hi, I'm Naomi, Your HR Tech SmartyPants Robot

Hi, I’m Naomi, Your HR Tech SmartyPants Robot

Last week I was privileged to deliver a presentation to the top women execs at ADP about the future of HR and HR technology.  Sounds straightforward enough, but it wasn’t.  My presentation wrote itself, and it demanded that I title it: ” A Tale of Two Futures.”

One of those futures I described as extrapolative, and one I described as discontinuous, all of which I’ll describe in a later post.  But the place to start this discussion and series of posts on the impact I believe smart machines and robotics will have on the world of work and on the workforce, not to mention on the HR profession and HR departments, is with the highest level business planning HRM considerations that I’ve been writing/speaking/consulting about since the mid-1980’s.  [Note: For those of you who have worked with the IP I’ve licensed across our industry, the next section should be familiar.]

Until recently, one major thread running through within this business planning process, which connects HRM planning to organization planning, went something like this (clearly this is a massive over-simplification, and my HRM object model notes here go on for many, many pages):

  1. What is the nature of the work that must be done to create our products/services?
  2. What are the KSAOCs (knowledge, skill, ability and other deployment-related characteristics — my very own term — which humans may possess and which are) needed to do this work?
  3. Would we be better off (in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) doing this work within our organization or buying the results of this work from a 3rd party?
  4. For that work which we think is best done by a 3rd party and purchased as results, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for purchasing this work as results?
  5. For that work which we think is best done within our organization, will we be better off (again, in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) using legal employees (legal here isn’t referring to the specific legal requirements of any particular country — that comes later — but rather the broader definition of employee, which is always defined at the country level) versus contingent workers?
  6. For that work which is best done in-house but via contingent workers, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for contracting with and onboarding effectively(yup! the old days of leaving all of this to procurement are long gone, and we know now that HR must be involved deeply in the whole life cycle of these workers) the necessary contingent workers?
  7. For that work which is best done in-house via legal employees, what are the best sources/terms and conditions/etc. for hiring and onboarding effectively the necessary legal employees?
  8. …. tons more but that’s enough for now.

Now this same business planning process looks different in some very important ways (again, a massive over-simplification):

  1. What is the nature of the work that must be done to create our products/services?
  2. What are the KSAOCs (knowledge, skill, ability and other deployment-related characteristics — my very own term — but with a definitional change to make clear that these KSAOCs are independent of their delivery mechanism, which could be human or not) needed to do this work?
  3. Would we be better off (in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) doing this work within our organization or buying the results of this work from a 3rd party?
  4. For that work which we think is best done by a 3rd party and purchased as results, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for purchasing this work as results?
  5. For that work which we think is best done within our organization, will we be better off (again, in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) using legal employees (legal here isn’t referring to the specific legal requirements of any particular country — that comes later — but rather the broader definition of employee, which is always defined at the country level) versus contingent workers versus smart machines versus humanoid robots?
  6. For that work which is best done in-house but via contingent workers, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for contracting with and onboarding effectively(yup! the old days of leaving all of this to procurement are long gone, and we know now that HR must be involved deeply in the whole life cycle of these workers) the necessary contingent workers?
  7. For that work which is best done in-house via legal employees, what are the best sources/terms and conditions/etc. for hiring and onboarding the necessary legal employees?
  8. For that work which is best done in-house via smart machines, what are the best sources, terms and conditions/etc. for acquiring and onboarding (yes, there are some very minimal onboarding steps needed, e.g. human involvement in “feeding the beast” in the way that IBM’s Watson requires knowledge owners to educate it, but more about that in a later post in this series) the necessary smart machines, most of which effort is best left to procurement because these smart machines are mostly categorized as “plant & equipment?”
  9. For that work which is best done in-house via humanoid robots, what are the best sources, terms and conditions/etc. for acquiring and onboarding (and here there’s much more of an onboarding story than with merely smart machines, e.g. showing our new best friend around the facility, assigning it to a team and to specific tasks, ensuring it has the necessary security to access facilities as it moves around doing those tasks, etc.) the necessary humanoid robots?
  10. …. tons more but that’s enough for now.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot, and from as many angles as my Talmudic training suggests, and I’ll be writing a lot more in this series.  But for now, this is probably enough to send jolts through every HR professional and HRM object modeler among the mishpocheh.  Indeed, the robots are coming, and HR had better think about what role the want/need to take where R2D2 is concerned.

 

2 comments to Smart Machines/Robotics — Implications For HRM/HRTech — Where Do I Begin?

  • […] of HRM with the most expansive and contemporary perspective on work and workers (so here I include humanoid robots as workers but clearly not persons), I see the need and market for three very different types of […]

  • Naomi, so great to see a really directed discussion on this subject. I’ve done an update on Peak Jobs and added some thoughts but thought it fair if I also copied those thoughts to your site for discussion. Cheers. Shane

    Here are my thoughts.

    Point 2: Probably should now be thought more of in project management terms or split to differentiate those human capabilities required (Naomi uses an excellent methodology titled KSAOC’s) and those that require algorithmic or robotic inputs. The former will require KSAOC’s (i.e. PMO) but the latter just requires a business requirement and a business solution design;

    Point 5: It’s a nice point but if your asking an organisation that question the answer is already in play. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee recently stated in The Second Machine Age (2014) “…offshoring is often only a way station on the road to automation” thus we are already in the transition phase to Smart Machines and Robotics. Perhaps the question should simply state which phase the company or organisation is in terms of the transition from FTE working environment to a hybrid working environment (one that takes in all of the components mentioned by Naomi adding augmented humans and robots but minus the humanoid robots);

    Point 6: I disagree with this point. Future workforces with high concentrations of contingent workers will either be run internally (by a HR or like department) or, the more likely scenario run externally through procurement or if ‘in-country’ a PEO. A lot of this really depends on how legislation adapts to the changing work environment but Naomi is trying to save the (HR) furniture here, rather than trying to guess the future of HR. For me, I see a lot of downside risk in being in a generalist HR position in the future;

    Point 8: Good point but nothing to do with HR. Having worked on my first automation project back in 2008 I see no reason why we need to radically rethink the strategy of leaving these type of projects with a specialised PMO;

    Point 9: I’m not so sure about humanoid robots and I rather prefer terms such as augmented systems, automation and robots as a better guide to future workforce integration. Guess what, even if we get humanoid robots deploying in our workplaces tomorrow, they certainly won’t be managed by HR.

    Just some thoughts. Always happy to discuss, problem solve and refine.

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