Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organisations’

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Future Of People Analytics: What Lies Ahead For Data-Driven HR?

2 July 2021

In the last few years, we’ve seen incredible advances in data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). While there is understandable concern about what this means for human jobs, I still believe this is an exciting time for businesses – and the people who work in them. 

Intelligent, data-driven HR is transforming many aspects of how HR teams serve the people in their organisations. The technology is changing fast, too – faster than even I would have anticipated five years ago. That means how HR teams function in just a few years’ time will probably be very different again. But, even amidst this uncertainty, some things are crystal clear about the future of data-driven HR. Here are my top three predictions:

HR will have a unique role to play in this data- and AI-driven world

The proliferation of data analytics, IoT-enabled devices, and AI tools is only going to continue, and this will carry on impacting the way HR works, just like every other area of the business. 

In this changing environment, the challenge for HR teams is to find a balance between technology (particularly automation) and the human role in the organisations of the future. I believe the biggest challenge facing HR teams going forward is not keeping up with technology and learning new skills like data analysis, it’s finding the uniquely human place in the organisation – and within the HR team itself.

Therefore, the HR teams of today need to be thinking about what HR will look like in the future, and this includes what exactly can be automated, and what can’t. They need to figure out HR’s contribution to the workplace of the future. 

Personally, I don’t believe we’ll ever reach a point where the HR function is entirely redundant. But the role of HR will undoubtedly shift away from the more administrative tasks around people management (which can be easily automated in the future) to activities that help the organisation meet its goals. It’s vital that HR delivers real value and unique benefits that cannot be delivered by any other function in the organisation.

When it comes to coping with automation, HR must lead the way

There’s no escaping automation. It’s therefore important for everyone, in every job and every industry, to consider the implications of our increasingly automated world, and how automation might affect their job and employment prospects over the coming years.

For HR teams, this is particularly pertinent. Not only are HR professionals finding their own way in this new world, but they also have to equip the people in their organisation with the essential skills for helping the business succeed in the future. So if you’re an HR professional wondering how on earth to navigate these changes, don’t panic. These three steps will help you figure out your unique role in the organisation and boost your personal development.

  • Consider the future of your job: Think hard about how much of what you do every day is repetitive and could potentially be done by intelligent algorithms or robots. It’s now possible to completely or partially automate many HR tasks. But the areas that computers still struggle with include creativity, problem-solving and connecting with people on a human level – all of which are vital skills in HR. These are the areas where HR can add real value to the organisation, so it makes sense to develop your skills in these areas and reshape your job to do more of the things that robots or algorithms can’t.
  • Become data-savvy: You don’t have to become a data scientist, but it’s important to have a good understanding of the possibilities of data and how it can help you solve problems, be more efficient and make your employees happier. Demonstrating that you can use data in original ways to solve key problems is a sure-fire path to success in the information age.
  • Make friends with your AI colleagues: AI is being adopted at an incredible rate. We can see that with the huge popularity of AI assistants like Alexa and Siri. This type of technology is fast becoming commonplace in our workplaces, too, which understandably makes people nervous. HR teams should be leading the way in embracing AI technology and showing how collaborating with AI systems can drive efficiencies and help the business succeed.

The future is bright for intelligent, data-driven HR

I’ve worked with so many different HR teams over the years, and, in my experience, the world of data and numbers isn’t exactly what gets the average HR professional’s heart racing. Most HR professionals go into the job because they’re intrinsically people focused – they’re interested in human interaction, not analysing datasets. So, if you’re concerned, you need to become a data scientist to keep your job, you can relax. I believe the opposite is true.

The great news is that a lot of the AI and machine learning tools coming onto the market will allow us to automatically analyse HR data and generate valuable insights. With the machines taking care of the data analysis and insight generation, HR professionals can focus on what they do best: working with people.

Read more about how data and analytics are transforming every aspect of HR, and what this means for the future, in my book Data-Driven HR. It’s packed with real-life examples and practical ways HR teams can deliver maximum value in our increasingly data-driven world.


Data Strategy Book | Bernard Marr

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