Profound advances in software and automation may not have robots grocery shopping for us, or flipping our burgers yet. But they certainly influence how organizations hire — and whom they keep on the payroll.

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“It’s not a doomsday scenario for HR people — it’s going to be much more compelling, much more interactive, much more strategic,” HR applications analyst Holger Mueller said at SuccessConnect 2015.

“As the quality of software improves and the automation of traditional HR tasks increase, we all must ask this basic question,” Talent Management warned its readers. “Am I, as a talent manager, truly adding value by leveraging new technologies — or am I increasingly obsolete?”

Human Resources professionals and the technology they use are due for a big transformation, according to Holger Mueller, who covers the future of work and HR applications as a principal analyst for Constellation Research. Much of that transformation depends on HR software vendors keeping promises they made long ago.

The Changing Roles of HR and Software

“The whole idea of employee self-service and manager self-service was that transactional things will not be done by an HR person anymore,” Mueller said at SuccessConnect 2015. “But the HR person in many organizations is still around helping with transactional things; that should be solved and addressed in the software.”

Far from Talent Management’s thought that HR professionals might be obsolete, they’re still stuck performing tasks that software should have taken over. Software that can save employees’ time — freeing them up for other work — will be the solutions most coveted by business users.

“If I’m a manager, and I find the solution to solve the performance management problem … I’m going to use it,” Mueller said. “Who wants to sit there at 9 p.m. and figure out how compensation for a team works?”

The HR function will be less about compliance and transactions, and more about being a change agent within the organization, Mueller stated. So look for HR to do more training — and even coaching — of employees.

“It’s not a doomsday scenario for HR people,” Mueller said. “It’s going to be much more compelling, much more interactive, much more strategic function for HR than what we see today.”

New Opportunities Among Automation

Wage workers are another group fearing that technology may drive them from the workforce, especially as the $15 minimum wage spreads across the U.S. But Mueller sees business prospects here too.

“All of a sudden machines are getting more efficient from a cost perspective than human labor — and how much can we automate by making a burger?” Mueller said. “But that opens up new opportunities because you might have the handmade burger, and you might pay $2 or $3 more.”

That makes this a very exciting time for both go-to-market and HR perspectives, Mueller stated, especially in terms of the changing ratio of manual-to-automated work.

“And the doomsday scenario, of course, is that we’ll all be out of work,” Mueller said. “I’m personally more of an optimist, and I think machines and automation will increase our humanity, and we’ll have less time, in general, at work … and robots will help us.

“Who doesn’t want to have a robot that would do the groceries?”

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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