Ways the fourth industrial revolution will change HR in E.A

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BY NIKKI SUMMERS

The pace of technology change is accelerating, creating exciting new opportunities for human resources (HR) leaders and departments in East Africa. I recently attended the Talent Agenda Series East Africa Conference in Nairobi, where I moderated a discussion focused on the fourth industrial revolution and how it influences African talent.

One of the key insights is that HR is still largely rooted in the third industrial revolution, but now needs to get ready for the fourth industrial revolution. Here are some of the key trends we see unfolding in HR in the era of big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

HR will become more data-driven

Following the lead of the marketing department, the HR function is also becoming increasingly data-driven. HR departments have more workforce data than ever – data that they can use to drive better decision-making and to shape superior employee experiences. They can use HR analytics to help managers and senior leaders make better decisions for the business. HR can use analytics to answer business questions like:

Where did we find the best hires for our business, i.e. top performers, who have we retained for a good while?

How many people will we need in our service department to support our forecasted revenue growth of 10% for the next financial year?

What are the possible reasons for high staff turnover in the call centre?

What skills gaps do we have in our organisation?

The digital natives are taking over

Around 75% of Kenya’s population is younger than 39 years old. This generation has grown up with M-Pesa, smartphones and the Internet, and enters the workplace with different expectations of the experience they will get from their employer.

HR needs to look at how it can support technology-enabled ways of working to get the best from this culture -and how it can harness their curiosity, innovation and love of technology. For the sake of economic growth and stability, HR should also lead the organisation in seeing how it can absorb young people into the labour market. Kenya’s youth unemployment rate, at 22%  is one of the highest in the region, according to the United Nations Human Development report.

Emphasis must shift from compliance to strategic enablement

HR leaders and teams traditionally focus heavily on compliance and administration. These functions are essential, but today’s employee self-service tools and business management solutions enable us to automate much of the red-tape as well as many basic employee interactions such as leave applications or capturing personal details.

HR should thus use automation to free up its time and focus on where it can add value: creating a differentiated employee proposition and experience, acquiring and developing talent, and driving better productivity, performance and employee satisfaction.

HR must help drive technology change

East Africa has changed dramatically, thanks to the introduction of technologies such as fibre Internet and mobile money. But the next wave of technology change is upon us with the Internet of Things, wearable computers, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other tools promising to change how we live and work.

HR has a valuable role to play in supporting the rollout and adoption of such technologies, which will bring disruption to the workplace. Many employees will need to be reskilled as their traditional roles become more automated. Plus, the skills and talent the organisation will need will evolve – it will need more digital and customer experience skills.

Continuous learning will become a must for every worker and organisition. HR needs to look at how it acquires and builds skills for the future, while providing change management support to employees.

Writer is regional director for Sage, East Africa