Opinion: HR managers needed to manage digital disruption

Technological disruption is forcing huge workplace change and HR is not immune, writes Dr Alan Montague

Opinion: HR managers needed to manage digital disruption

Technological disruption is forcing huge workplace change and HR is not immune, writes Dr Alan Montague

Technological disruption is forcing huge workplace change, with many tasks becoming automated and artificial intelligence potentially disrupting even advanced cognitive roles. HR professionals will be needed to manage this change, as well as accommodate a greater need for companies and their employees to act ethically and responsibly.

Previous research has found that around 40 per cent of current Australian jobs have a high probability of being automated in the next 10 to 15 years (Durrant-Whyte et al., 2015). Technologies such as are advancing at such a pace professional roles are beginning to change such as accounting, law, and medicine professions. AI is permeating all public and private industries and all jobs. In some fields, it may not be so obvious. It may seem slow, but remember the internet has only been on the scene with influence form around 1995 – a mere 23 years ago. This is the era of accelerated mass reorganisation.

A new report from Deloitte Access Economics found that human resources professionals will play an important function in helping businesses to restructure to accommodate new roles as old ones disappear.

The Deloitte Access Economics report, The future of work: Occupational and education trends in human resource in Australia, forecasts the HR workforce will increase to 245,000 persons in 2021-22, up from 218,000 persons in 2016-17. The average annual growth rate of 2.3 per cent is well above the 1.5 per cent per annum growth forecast for the entire Australian labour force. This a not unusual. HRM professions are becoming more important given the need to redevelop people to perform new functions and recruit people who have the potential to learn continually.

Demand for HR managers to rise
There are two key drivers of increasing demand for HR managers. First, the significant technological change that is arising from developments such as artificial intelligence and machine learning means that businesses across all industries will need enhanced change management. HR managers will be needed to help manage this disruption and retrain employees to facilitate successful transitions, particularly given the potential magnitude of future workplace disruption.

Second, there is an increasing focus on ethical approaches to conducting business across many sectors of the Australian corporate and government landscape. With many highly publicised recent examples of corporate misconduct from household brands, companies are increasingly expected to implement and report on ethical and responsible approaches to doing business, both externally about customer engagement and conduct, as well as internally concerning employment law and organisational practice.

HR professionals must perform a more prominent role as the ethical centre of organisations by developing and implementing the necessary internal and external organisation policies, the Deloitte Access Economics report found.
Postgraduate study can deliver necessary HR skills
A postgraduate qualification in human resources management will provide managers with an advanced understanding of concepts and frameworks which can be used as a lever to enter the human resources area within their sector of expertise or be promoted.
Indeed, postgraduate study in management and commerce will enable human resources employees to take on more complex responsibilities and manage the mass technological disruption we all face. Importantly, it will also enable human resources workers to progress their careers more quickly and reap higher salaries.

The report predicts that human resource managers who have completed postgraduate study in management and commerce will have an average income of $160,132 in 2021-22, well up from $137,324 in 2016-17. That represents a significant return on a post-graduate study which will extend across a person’s lifetime. The anecdotal information from many of graduates suggests that promotions are increasingly dependent on postgraduate qualifications.


About the author

Dr Alan Montague is the Program Director of Human Resources Management at RMIT University


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