How technology will change the HR profession

After attending a talk this month on the mind-bending world of Virtual Reality (VR) by one of the founders of VR Jaron Lanier, it got me thinking about how his ideas apply to the world of work.

So, how will technology change the world of work, and in turn the HR profession of the future?

  1. It already has – after attending the Annual CIPD Conference a few weeks ago there was a whole arena dedicated to the future of work. Only a brief walk around the exhibitors showed that the majority of exhibitors were selling technology – platforms for HR software, engagement and employee benefits to name a few.
  2. VR – In Lanier’s talk he describes VR as a complex set of gadgets which simulate the human sensory system. The idea being you feel you’re in a virtual world even though you remain in the same physical spot. If it can be used to help people overcome PTSD, it’s only a short step to being used to simulate unconscious bias or to simulate stress to train line managers.
  3. AI and automation – The extent to which AI will change the world of work is hotly debated. To an extent this is already happening, with most jobs replaced being monotonous and repetitive in low paid industries. Soon though, one argument goes that AI will replace the professional jobs of today – from accountants to lawyers and yes, even HR people.
  4. Changing types of jobs – With changes brought about by technology already happening, the real question is what are the limits of AI and technology? Jobs which will remain ‘future proof’, include those which rely on uniquely human skills. These include jobs which rely on creativity, empathy, and problem solving which in the near future will be skills which cannot be done by AI.
  5. Industries and their ecosystems will change – Changes to industries will not just come from technology, but also wider issues like growing environmental concerns and the impact of an ageing population. This in turn will be joined by changes in the type of company we work for, with increases in the number of smaller niche companies and self-employment helped by technology platforms like Upwork.

Whilst these changes can seem inevitable, it will ultimately be us as the users of this technology who decides when, how and to what purpose it is used. In this, HR as the gatekeeper for people management in business has a big role to play. As Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD recently said ‘After all, it’s people who’ll ultimately decide whether or not to automate roles, not the technology itself.’


Lanier, Jaron (2017), Dawn of the new everything: A journey through Virtual Reality. London.

Gratton, Lynda and Scott, Andrew (2016), The 100 year life: Living and working in an age of longevity, London.


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