PHILIP PILETIC His primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business and marketing. Freelancer and writer, in love with startups, traveling and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Unwinds with a glass of scotch and some indie rock on vinyl. I'd like to thank Praktika for their help with this article.


Is the Matrix Upon Us?

Hashtag-HR---AI-2

With Microsoft, Google and IBM racing to create the first human-like robots fired by artificial intelligence, we could be forgiven for thinking that The Matrix might be upon us!

So are robots really going to take over the world? And are we in the business world ready for it?

We’re told that Artificial Intelligence will supersede cognitive reasoning and that we should prepare for a hostile takeover of jobs, as robots are brought in to replace real people. It sounds over the top - but one look back at even the most recent of history books and it’s clear we’ve been here before!  

Robotics have been highly instrumental in the record high number of redundancies made within the manufacturing industry.  In the United States alone, an astounding five million manufacturing jobs have been lost this millennium, despite the steady increase in production by 2.2% each year since 2006.

In a recent Australian article by Business Insider, technology is predicted to be the key to 40% percent of job losses by the year 2030. The roles identified as the highest risk are accommodation and food services (86.7%), transportation and warehousing (75%), retail trade (66,6%) and administration and support services (62.2%).

Technology experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have even said that some transport companies won't need to hire humans to drive 18-wheelers - they'll be driving themselves by 2032. Sounds far-fetched, right?

Many believe that these statistics will have more impact in industrialised countries, that they will open the door for more manufacturing and production off-shore where labour hire and overheads are less costly, with high cost back home in terms of the labour force headcount.

Whatever, the future brings for the living, breathing workforce of today, robotics are on their way and as business owners and employers, we’d be smart to start thinking about the ways Artificial Intelligence will infiltrate our industry.


ARE YOU READY?

When HR and business leaders in the Principality of Luxembourg were polled on their readiness to handle technologies to support digital innovation, only 35% could say they were capable enough to switch. 70% agreed that it was important and 33% had already taken on some innovation already.

Being ready to join the cohort in the business world who will take the lead requires a sophisticated strategy. Researching workforce trends and industry innovations, and keeping your management and workforce informed is only the beginning.  Transforming our business model to maintain cohesiveness and productivity while we invest in and implement this new technology are first steps to look at.

While we jest about The Matrix, we know that today’s machines aren’t the Hal 9000 that Kubrick created in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Robotics and automation remain subordinate - to the people like us, who program them.

Let’s take one of HR’s most significant tasks as an example: recruitment. It’s forecasted that scanning resumes will become automated. But the programming of automated services that do this task will still need to be written, coded and put in place - by us.  Determining the right skill set, experiences, education of the potential recruit, and writing the algorithms to calculate their potential, will remain a human element.  

Where the technology will be transformative, however, is in its potential to transform our discussions. Rather than sifting through the overwhelming load of administrative tasks involved in recruitment, we will outsource this to automation and spend our human time instead conducting meaningful discussions about the true attributes required for the job.  Time and resources can then be invested into creative recruitment and recruiting on merit - considering candidates who may have otherwise been dismissed because of bias or stereotypes.

As a result the collective, not the machine, will have the capacity to better direct our human resources, making the right choices thoughtfully, carefully and thoroughly.


WHAT THE FUTURISTS SAY

Royal astronomer Sir Martin Rees believes that we’re rapidly heading toward a ‘post-human future’, and that ‘the period of time occupied by organic intelligence is just a thin sliver between early life and the long era of the machines.’

Perhaps a slightly more balanced and less extreme view is provided by the McKinsey & Company report , which says ‘While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail.’

What we know for sure is that Artificial Intelligence is on its way, in every industry.  It is part of our future economic growth and the development of every business, big and small.  Now is the time to begin our thinking and strategy transformation, considering how innovation may help your business, but most importantly how will it change the way you do business.   From the people you employ, to the jobs that they do! 

 

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Get Aggro in the Workplace - Over Health and Safety

Get-aggro

If you said, ‘human resources’ and I blurted out ‘workplace health and safety’ would that be a non-sequitur? Or is there a connection?

Let’s drop by Canada for a moment, where the WHS protocols lay out the direct line between the two with complete clarity. ‘Human resource professionals play an important role in ensuring health and safety, as they know the workplace, the employees and their job demands.’

Can’t say it straighter than that. Here’s what you, your HR expert or your team can do to meet those expectations - because a safe, healthy work environment is worth getting aggro about.

 

HIRE WISELY

‘Safety First’ is a useful mantra in industrial settings where it can be used to drive home the habitual use of proper safety measures. It’s equally relevant as the foundational principle for the hiring and orientation of new employees.

  • Give strong preference to applicants with a track record of responsible work practices - because their habits have consequences that go to the safety and wellbeing of all your employees.
  • Consider drug testing for those that will operate equipment or engage in overtly physical activities.
  • Use high quality, comprehensive materials for orientation, and don’t put new employees to work until they’ve mastered them.

 

TRAIN, AND MAKE IT FUN

What do training days and hernia operations have in common? They elicit the same level of enthusiasm from your employees.

Ironically, training might just save them from a hernia. Remind them of that! Queensland metal manufacturer Bremco cites lack of training as the top cause of workplace injury, and maintains that professional, relevant and regular safety training is essential for all. So get your team engaged - and here’s how:

  • Spark their imagination with safety training word games and other strategies that bring training to life.
  • Engage the mind and the body - get them moving
  • Bring in an element of friendly competition
  • Praise their efforts vociferously, and give them a reward at the end of the day

 

GIVE PEOPLE A VOICE

How’s your workplace culture? Is there open communication between team members? What about between the workforce and management?

A culture of open communication fosters a proactive approach when it comes to identifying threats to health and safety. This means that accidents ‘waiting to happen’ are more likely to be pointed out - and avoided.

Take your team’s concerns seriously. Quashing them with excuses about cost, loss of productivity or the hassle of installing safer equipment or adopting healthier workplace practice is counterproductive, not to mention dangerous and unethical. Injury, loss of life and the company’s liability when preventable accidents happen is a far greater cost.

Direct your managers and team leaders to encourage employees to be open about their workplace health and safety concerns. Want to go further and really change the game? Give permission for any employee to bypass their supervisor and speak to HR direct, anonymously and without repercussions. Those two steps will go a long way in promoting the open communication that boosts safety, employee morale and your bottom line through cutting losses.

 

GET CLEAR ABOUT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

It’s your job to be a stickler. A slack approach is an invitation for someone to get hurt.

Being lax about health and safety doesn’t make you a cool and laid back boss, it makes you negligent. And that’s what you’ll be labelled in the event of an accident. Rules aren’t always there to be broken - they’re there to be enforced, and it pays. Set rules clearly, and penalise for violations. Suspension or dismissal is totally acceptable for both ongoing minor offenses and grievous first offenses.

A word to the wise: injured employees and their lawyers can be quick to turn on employers. Having clear policies, expecting adherence and enforcing accountability for failure are necessary and protect you from this. Ignore it at your peril.

 

YOU NEED HELP - PROFESSIONAL HELP

If you’re a startup, or an established business playing with fire by neglecting workplace health and safety, it pays to consult with professionals about developing and implementing a comprehensive plan.

The peace of mind it brings - and the tangible protection - is invaluable. That gnawing anxiety about ‘what if something bad happens’ becomes a sense of having things properly under control. So be rigorous: smart hiring, thorough training, good communication and workplace accountability. You’ll thank yourself in the long term and the short, and be glad you’re aggro about something that reduces both injuries and costs.

 

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