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HR as a profession: to be or not to be

Ольга Банцекина (Глава Представительства, Coleman Services)

My mother was born in the 30ies. Till the age of 80 she had never used a smart phone.  But as soon as I have presented one to her, she started enthusiastically investigating its options and has now become an active user of messengers (too active, I would say), internet news resources and is asking for a smart watch for her next birthday.
Digitalization… It is everywhere. Even five years ago I would not have imagined my mother browsing through internet pages on a smart device.

I do not think a question if HR profession is going to further transform into the digital sphere in the times of drastic automation and artificial intelligence development does exist anymore. For myself the question is how fast we’ll get to the point of no return and how far do we want and need to go.

During my younger years HR has been a profession based on HUMAN attitude towards people. Human Resources Manager – a person who is the one to offer you a job, who takes care of you further on as of an employee, who helps you to improve and develop your professional skills, a person to talk to, to share everything connected to your job issues and sometimes even more. The reason why I have chosen HR field to become my profession was its human concern.

I am neither negative nor too enthusiastic about digitalization and robotizing of HR. I have a practical attitude.
According to The Grand View Research agency the global market of technical innovations in HR field achieved $14 bln. They predict its growth up to $30 bln by 2025.

Russia as always, unfortunately, is not a leader in this field. We are lagging at least 4-5 years behind. Still, Coleman Services’ survey showed that 82% of their respondents declared a visible growth of HR digitalization during the past several years, 76% planning to invest more in automation processes in the nearest and mid-term future.
Big part of those innovations lie in the field of HR administration and document flow management (39%), compensation and benefits management (17%) and recruitment processes (12%).

60% of the companies confirm the overall development of quality of their HR projects in line with the digitalization processes: optimization of recruitment, compensation and benefits administration, automation of data collection. 26% stated cost reduction.
This evidence and our own experience tells us clearly that we are on the right path. Digitalization is necessary, helps us to optimize many of HR processes and work faster in our ever-changing speedy era.

Companies are looking forward to the widening possibilities of HR predictive analytics. They say, very soon it will be possible to predict, for instance, the approximate date of an employee’s decision to leave the job four months in advance with the probability of 70%. The systems are going to notice the changes in the employee’s behavior, analyzing the semantics of his business mails and even will be able to make conclusions on the changes in his emotional state. From the HR point of view it is all directed at the improvement of engagement and involvement, as well as at more thorough selection of training and career development programs with the view of retention of a valuable employee.

No doubt it is quite convenient to press a button for a payroll calculation, to start search and selection process with a slight movement of a finger, to launch a robotized assessment and easily transform its results into learning and development and remuneration. HR is undoubtedly heading in this direction.

Bots helping a candidate to comply a CV, to apply for a vacancy, artificial intelligence analyzing the data of thousands of candidates, tracking them in the social networks, connecting the identified potential candidates and even conducting the video interviews – it is our reality today, HR profession is under a deep transformation.

I do like many of these developments and am applying some of those in our company in order to stay competitive on the market and provide better and more digitalized service to our clients. Being the leader of a big service provider, I have to look forward and remain up-to-date, replacing boring paperwork and calculations with programs, applications and automation.
Still, I believe it is important from time to time to look back and take moment to analyze your previous experience and make your own findings and conclusions for the future.

Practicing this, I often feel sad and sorry remembering the interviews with the candidates I have conducted myself ages ago. We considered it non-ethical to finish an interview in less than 45 minutes and never followed gadgets (since there were none of them available) while talking to the people and looking into their eyes. We knew the best candidates on the market well, called them in person to congratulate on the main life occasions and established long-lasting contacts with them. We knew our clients for decades.

It is hard to describe the feeling of joy, happiness and pride when one of your candidates, thoroughly screened, checked and sophisticatedly interviewed by you in person meets the requirements of your Client, when he accepts the company’s offer with eagerness and a deep internal desire to make a great movement into the future of his career, which you had opened in front of him. When both of them – your Client and your candidate - are happy with each other and your professionalism and grateful to you, you feel yourself in the sky of your respected HR Profession!

What if a bot will do it instead, what will remain for you? Big data, numbers, tables, analysis, forecasts?
I am already missing HUMAN in the Human Resources profession, the further, the more… Even individuals working in this field have already changed dramatically.
Not sure that anyone can sufficiently influence the process of this deep change, but still hoping that this overall digitalization will reserve  some tiny space for the internal ME for each of us.

"Moscow Times", november 2018

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