Keeping the "H" in HR

Why Your Job Won't Be - and Shouldn't Be - Replaced by Robots Any Time Soon

Today's professionals live in a strange world in which technological advancements are both simultaneously revered and feared. While the latest-and-greatest SaaS solutions improve efficiency in various industries, they also beg the question:

"Will my job ever be replaced by a computer... or robot?"

Human resources personnel are on the forefront of technological change, benefiting from solutions ranging from Vendor Management Systems (VMS) to candidate search engines and automated social media job postings. Despite this ever-changing landscape, HR professionals need not fear being replaced by their "Robo-Doppelganger." Instead, they should remember to exercise their special human attributes that technology simply cannot replicate:


People often view the word, "judgment," negatively. However, that's not exactly fair. Although it can sometimes mean biased discrimination, it also describes a uniquely human trait used with good intentions. When an HR professional considers a job applicant or reviews the work performance of an employee, she is serving as a "judge" with tremendous power over another person's career and life.

This critical task is too important to be left to the whims of computerized algorithms.

A resume, for example, may paint a mediocre picture of one candidate who otherwise is very impressive during the interview process. The human interaction of discussion, asking questions, learning one's history and such may enlighten a prospective employer far more than a simple work history. If HR professionals only rely on computer-generated recommendations and filtering, many great candidates may fall through the cracks. It's always a shame to lose out on a quality prospect, but it's even more detrimental in today's hot job market.

Similarly, a current employee with a troubled work performance on paper may have a very good defense worthy of consideration. Perhaps his tardiness is the result of a temporary personal crisis and can be easily resolved. Maybe his completed projects are subpar due to unfamiliarity with spreadsheets or computer applications. This too may be a fairly easy fix once diagnosed. If HR professionals rely entirely on technology rather than "judgment," job candidates and current employees aren't getting a fair shake.

Human Investment

It's hard to overstate the importance of relationship building in the workplace. People often view it as a one-way street directed from employee toward manager. However, the inverse is equally significant. Studies repeatedly show that employees who feel invested in their boss's or company's success are much less likely to leave in pursuit of new opportunity.

This feeling of investment is heavily based in the personal relationships established between management and staff. It seems the old saying rings true, "Easy come, easy go." If workers feel their HR colleagues are too distant, or lack investment, they are far less likely to stay loyal.

Although technology is great for improving efficiency, HR professionals must resist the temptation of relying on it as a substitute for personal communication. Perhaps new-hire training is administered remotely through a slick, cloud-based solution. That's great! There's nothing wrong with remote training. However, maybe that training can be paired with an introductory "welcome" meeting, complete with bagels and coffee. That way the new hire knows they're truly appreciated - and not just a cog in the machine. By letting them know they really matter, the employee is far more likely to reciprocate with a show of loyalty the next time a job offer comes their way.

Employee/Candidate Feedback

In an age of social media, email and various other forms of digital communication, it's sometimes easy to forget the importance of face-to-face interaction. Although all these technologies are terrific and help improve efficiency, they're not a complete substitute for old fashioned talking.

Scientific studies show that new, digital mediums often eliminate subtle cues of communication that run deep in human evolution and psychology. These range from nonverbal expressions to messaging and emotions that "get lost in translation." This is especially true in the volatile world of HR, in which many conversations are extremely sensitive and personal.

Moreover, candid employee and candidate feedback pays in spades and can usually only be gained with in-person dialogue. Consider a job applicant who's interviewing with multiple companies, including competitors within the same industry. Although the HR professional is interviewing them, they're also interviewing the company. Sometimes the candidate may actually have their own feedback in terms of competing salaries and benefits. Or, maybe a current employee opens up about a troubling culture of harassment during an exit interview - one that was previously unknown and potentially devastating to the company. Both of these scenarios may never come to light if HR professionals stay too distant and rely only on electronic applications, surveys and such.

In the end, it's critical for human resources departments to remember the importance of living up to their title. While technology should be embraced and is proven to increase productivity in the workplace, HR is a very sensitive world in which the "human touch" will always remain front and center.

Qualified staffing and recruitment agencies also help benefit HR departments and hiring managers by assisting with recruitment and early candidate screening. By outsourcing these time-consuming tasks, HR teams can prioritize the "human" side of their business.