Technology is the most powerful driver of change and presents HR with both threats and opportunities, according to a new report by Henley Business School and Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC).

HR with Purpose: Future Models of HR examines the likely changes and challenges in the socio-economic and business environment over the next five to 10 years and how they might impact on the capabilities of the HR function. Areas of technology that are likely to become more prevalent include: people data management systems, social mobile applications, online opinion gathering and feedback, and artificial intelligence and robotics. The key challenge is to exploit these trends proactively, but changes in technology and the way people engage with companies also present major opportunities for the HR function to demonstrate real strategic value, says the report.

“HR will be increasingly impacted by technology, and its own future will depend on its response,” says Gavin Walford-Wright, senior director of talent acquisition and international mobility at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “The basic work that HR does, and is mostly valued for – such as recruitment and administration – will be primarily carried out through AI and other smart technologies. As noted in the report, the strategic capabilities the organisation needs will have to be built and acquired through an interchangeable mix of human and technological resources.”

Walford-Wright believes that if HR wants to remain strategically relevant in the future, “it must understand and embrace the use of advanced technology in HR delivery and take a strategic role in building capabilities by developing in-depth expertise in people and technology”.

HR either needs to reskill or transform the function, but, with the pace of change and the onset of technology taking place arguably even faster than in other economies, the need to be proactive in adding real strategic value to the business will apply in the GCC even more than other parts of the world, says Professor William Scott-Jackson, chairman of OSC.

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