Some HR jobs at risk of being replaced by robots in next 5 years: Study

The study highlights the need for HR to reinvent itself by driving business transformation.
The study highlights the need for HR to reinvent itself by driving business transformation.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Some roles performed by human resource (HR) managers are at risk of being taken over by robots in near future, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower and the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) has found.

Of the 27 HR roles that were analysed, 24 will be impacted by technology at varying degrees in the next three to five years, according to the study conducted by advisory, broking and solutions firm Willis Towers Watson released on Thursday (Dec 10).

Eight of these roles will be most severely affected and are at risk of being replaced. They are lower level positions in areas such as talent management, performance and rewards, as well as organisation development.

This is because the tasks in these roles are administrative in nature and can be automated with advances in robotic process automation, machine learning and social robotics.

The remaining 16 jobs, which are at the manager and head levels, will be augmented by technology and require skills in areas such as data analytics.

Only three jobs will see minimal impact from automation: head of talent management, HR business partner and manager of organisation development.

Meanwhile, technological advancements will lead to the creation of new roles in HR that are highly specialised, such as a HR data analyst, the study found.

"In the long term, people analytics will be a key skill required by all roles in HR rather than being a dedicated role," said Willis Towers Watson in its report.

There are about 48,000 HR professionals in Singapore, with more than 90 per cent in professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) roles.

The firm noted that the study highlights the need for HR to reinvent itself by driving business transformation.

Leaders in the field also need to recognise the need for new capabilities in HR, such as the use of predictive analytics, the firm added.

Investing in and adopting technology in HR will increase efficiency and allow HR to deliver "seamless and cutting-edge" services and experiences more effectively, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Thursday.

"This will enable HR to pursue more strategic high-value activities and unlock value creation for the business," added Mr Zaqy, who was speaking at the People Behind People Forum where he announced the study's findings.

He added that MOM will continue to support businesses in strengthening their HR capabilities and helping HR professionals gain new skills to remain relevant.

IHRP is also developing training courses for HR professionals to pick up skills to prepare for the digital transformation of the industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who also spoke at the forum, said HR professionals have been the unseen heroes in keeping workers safe and organisations going during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added that HR professionals will have an even more important role to play, as Covid-19 has accelerated business transformation.

In his speech, Mr Zaqy urged businesses and HR leaders to invest in improving HR productivity by adopting technology and supporting skills development.

"HR professionals, too, need to step up and take ownership of their own skills development and adopt a growth mindset in embracing digitalisation," he said.