Modern HR in the Cloud Blog

Robots are Coming to Work as your Colleagues

April 4, 2014 By: Sunita Khatri

By Affif Siddique

Is your HR ready to handle this kind of workforce?

What we have seen in the SciFi movies is no longer a work of fiction, it has become a reality. With the rise of machines and proliferation of connected machines, the question is no longer if, but when, we see the Robots working side by side in our daily lives. We may soon see them working at home, jobs, shops or events. This transformation will bring disruptive changes required to manage a man-machine workforce which no one knows how? At least not yet!

Recently, a Google announcement about building robots to replace humans in the workforce made the rounds and we need to start thinking what will happen when it becomes reality.

Some of the questions will include:

  • How will the HR department handle a Robot worker?
  • Will they be called workers and given an employee status?
  • If not, how would you handle or qualify their answers they provide on behalf of an employee, as part of a contract negotiation, or responding to a RFP for a company?
  • What will be the consequences of those actions and responses?
  • Will they be working side by side and if yes, how will their performance be measured against a human coworker?
  • How will HR rules and regulations be applied to them?
  • Will there be new book of HR rules and guidance for the Robot workers category or they will be given the free rein to roam around?
  • How will your HCM software track their work?
  • Will they be considered employees, contingent workers, dumb assets or Robot workers?
  • What sort of benefits will they have?
  • How will their downtime be tracked, as vacations, sick, or other?
  • How EOE law will play into effect?
  • Will they be connected to your entire IT infrastructure and how will their connectivity threaten your information security and physical security?
  • What if someone hacked into them to do irreparable damage to your organization? Whose responsibility would it be, HR or IT?
  • Will you limit their smart capabilities or let them contribute using all the processing powers to increase productivity?
  • Who will be their Boss in the organization ? another smarter Robot? Etc…

These are just a few of the top of the mind questions, but you can see that a new Pandora's box is ready to open and I don't think there is any organization which is ready to adopt these workers and there is no HR software out there to manage this class of man-machine workforce. There are several companies developing these Robot workers seeing a futuristic demand for various different job functions. We cannot just simply shy away from these questions by classifying Robot workers as dumb machines. It has been scientifically proven that these machines use smart algorithms to learn on their own. They use behavioral analytics and other cognitive learning programs and one day we may find them competing against human workers and actively participate in an organization.

As the most recent DARPA robotic challenge revealed, much of this technology has evolved and is ready for mainstream adoption. Recently, Google launched a buying spree and upped its robot building operation giving a clear indication that we will see more and more Robots in our lives in the near future

I would like to hear from other thought leaders and people working on projects involving the state of the futuristic workforce to contribute on what they think of their Robotic counterparts and what would be appropriate solutions to handle Robot workers in the mainstream workforce.

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