The Coming Age of MR Professionals

It’s no secret that the world of work is changing. Artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, big data, automation, and predictive analytics threaten millions of jobs worldwide. Do you support any of these jobs? Loan Officer, Cashier, Receptionist, Telephone Operator, Reporter, Telemarketer, Title Examiner, Underwriter, Pharmacist, Lawyer, Paralegal, Driver, Store Clerk, Soldier, Rescuer, Freight Agent, Clerk, Broker, and many more. These are all jobs that will disappear in the next few years. When was the last time you talked to a bank teller?

What is the impact on a human resource professional in a world of work where there are no humans?

The transition phase is first. There will be many years of human resources work discussing with displaced workers how their work has been replaced by machine intelligence. This involves discussing retraining options, career changes, and coaching. It’s best to be prepared for that ahead of time, as those days are already here in many industries.

Second, in a more existential framing, what is the role of a “human” resources professional in the coming age of intelligent machines? – Is there such thing as a MR department? – or are HR professionals on the list of humans replaced by algorithms? Do “resource professionals’ become data center operations? It’s worth planning ahead….

To avoid the dystopian vision of the future, it’s important to understand the changing role of HR and ask the following questions:

  • What are the current and near term technological capabilities?
  • What jobs are at immediate risk of being displaced?
  • What are the skills that can never be done by machine?
  • What retraining options are there for displaced workers in various fields?
  • What skills are transferrable to new fields?
  • What trends are obvious, can we give an early heads up? (e.g.: autonomous cars / taxi drivers)
  • What are ethical best practices from companies as workers are displaced?

Human history is filled with examples of human capabilities being replaced by technological advances. Looking ahead, this coming age of machine superintelligence feels different, but none of us were there for the invention of paper - or the printing press – and I suspect it felt similar. The role of the HR professional will change as machines take over human tasks. It’s an exciting and sobering time…

Additional Reading

Nick Bostrom







The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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