Hays UK jobs and employment blog


How to help HR professionals navigate the automation journey

By Yvonne Smyth, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Hays

With the evolution of new technologies continuing to rapidly transform our day to day lives, organisations are under pressure to provide a working environment that is conducive to digital transformation. Happily, according to our latest research in the Hays What Workers Want 2019 report, 72% of HR employers are currently investing in automation and professionals within the HR industry are very optimistic about technological change, with 92% embracing automation in the workplace.

There are numerous challenges involved in integrating new technology into everyday working tasks, but in order to keep HR professionals engaged and equip them with the required mindset and skills to make automation a success, what should employers do?

1. Don’t lose momentum to slow processes

HR professionals are already feeling the benefits of automated workplaces, with 30% of employees saying their administrative tasks have fallen in number in the wake of automation, higher than the 23% UK average. However, this momentum is at risk of being curbed by slow processes, as more than a third (34%) of HR respondents say the pace of technological change within their organisation is slow. The most commonly cited barriers to automation implementation by employers are a lack of skills from current staff (59%) and a lack of support (41%). However, despite acknowledging these obstacles, only 28% have hired a change manager, team or agency to help overcome them, and 65% have not made, nor intend to make, any changes to their recruitment strategy as part of their organisation’s automation investment.

To make sure momentum towards automation is maintained within organisations, both HR employers and employees need to be aware of both the benefits it provides and the skills needed to get the most out of new technologies. This awareness will help to improve engagement with training and facilitate support amongst existing staff.

2. Help employees to upskill

40% of HR employers are currently missing the skills they need to make the best of automation technology, and when these were asked where their skills gaps are most keenly felt, 54% say they have shortages of both soft and technical skills. For the 61% of HR employees who are developing their technical skills to better work with automation, almost two thirds (63%) are doing so through their own training, and only 37% are undertaking training funded by their employer.

Employees are evidently keen to develop their skills in order to enable the success of digital transformation but do not feel adequately supported in doing so, with 53% saying that the responsibility for upskilling in order to better work with automation lies with their employer. More formal training should be made available by employers in order to better address the skills gap, and employees should be made aware of the skills that are most important to the success of automation so that they can develop the right expertise for their specific role.

3. Develop a culture that’s open to change

Most HR respondents (80%) believe a positive attitude to change is the most important quality for employees to have in order to ensure the success of workplace digital transformation. Unsurprisingly, therefore, when respondents were asked about what their organisation should focus on to make sure digital transformation is a success, developing a culture that is open to change (28%) was ranked most highly.

Employers should respond to this prioritisation by openly discussing the benefits and offering support to staff in order to build an inclusive culture around automation. Promoting this openness to change and transformation would also help secure top talent, with 51% of employees saying they would be attracted to work for an organisation that is investing in automation or plans to.

To discover further insights into how automation is impacting jobs and the steps you can take to prepare, get your copy of the Hays What Workers Want Report 2019.

About this author

Yvonne is Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Hays, working with our clients to ensure their recruitment strategies are aligned with the latest equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) policies and initiatives. She is responsible for creating and implementing diverse recruitment strategies that effectively support the representation of more diverse staff profiles within their business.


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