Could Your HR Job Be Automated in the Next 10 Years?

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Could Your HR Job Be Automated in the Next 10 Years?

What does the future hold for HR jobs?

Rapid adoption of tech is redefining the workplace and HRs role within it. This is further accelerated by implementation of remote work models across organizations, which has pushed HR to the forefront of the tech revolution

As automation becomes ubiquitous and companies continue to face market uncertainties and cost pressures, a new question emerges: 

Are HR jobs at risk of becoming automated? And, if so, what does that mean for yours?

Contents
The state of automation in HR
Automated HR jobs: Which are safe and which are at risk? 
1. HR roles at high risk of automation 
2. HR roles at moderate risk of automation 
3. HR roles at low risk of automation 
How the research was conducted

The state of automation in HR

AI taking over job roles may sound a little far-fetched, but data points to a staggering 270% growth in AI use across industries. In the US alone, organizations are implementing a record number of AI robots in a bid to reduce unfilled vacancies. Similarly, in Europe, 34% of jobs could be severely impacted by automation, with 12 million jobs lost altogether by 2040. 

The field of Human Resources will not be immune to these developments. Various HR tasks previously performed by humans are becoming automated. For example, recruitment technology such as asynchronous video interviews (AVIs) and automated resume screeners help businesses significantly reduce time-to-hire. Beyond recruitment, businesses also utilize HR technology to help with employee onboarding, leave and expense management, payroll, benefits administration, employee performance tracking, and other processes.

As HR technology continues to expand, companies will continue to automate more HR tasks. However, which roles will be impacted the most will be determined by the type of position, complexity, and seniority level. 

Change brings opportunity

If history has taught us anything, it is that there is always an opportunity presented with technological advancements. In the 18th century, the industrial revolution resulted in an economic transformation that altered the way people worked. As factories grew, new roles became available, and factory workers were trained in specializations that hadn’t existed before. 

This rapid scaling of automation opens up a window of opportunity for HR professionals to evaluate which roles could fall away in the next 10 years and where the opportunity lies to pivot your role and quickly upskill in key specialized areas. 

Our research will help you consider which HR roles will likely be automated, where the potential lies to future-proof your HR career and help you to gain the skills required to be future-fit.

Automated HR jobs: Which are safe and which are at risk? 

It’s no surprise that more repetitive and less complex jobs are vulnerable to automation, while more complex and creative roles that require problem-solving are less likely to be automated. However, all HR roles entail a mix of these elements, which makes assessing the automaton risk for a specific HR job a little less straightforward. 

To understand which roles are at risk, we have analyzed 55 of the most common HR roles that cover all aspects of the HR profession. These have been divided into three groups based on their risk of being automated:

  • High risk: HR roles that are repetitive and with low levels of complexity 
  • Moderate risk: HR roles that are repetitive and complex, or non-repetitive and less complex
  • Low risk: HR roles that are non-repetitive and complex

These categories will be discussed further in the sections below and present ways that you can future-proof your HR career. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology, refer to the end of the article. 

Scatter Plot Indicating Risk of HR Jobs Becoming Automated

1. HR roles at high risk of automation 

Almost a third of the HR roles analyzed are at high risk of automation. HR Helpdesk and HR Administrator roles are potentially at risk as many of the job tasks can be (and in some cases are already) automated. Surprisingly though, DEIB Consultant and Officer, HR Scrum Master, as well as Payroll Team Lead roles also fall into the high-risk category. 

HR roles at high risk of automation
Administrative & process supportProcess execution
HR Helpdesk Compensation & Benefits Specialist 
HR Scrum ManagerCompensation & Benefits Manager
System TesterDEIB Consultant
Talent ResearcherPayroll Team Lead
HR OfficerFacilitator
Learning & Development (L&D) /
Organizational Development (OD)/
Organizational Effectiveness (OE) Administrator
DEIB Officer
Data AdministratorPayroll Team Lead
Benefits AdministratorProcess Engineer 
HR Administrator
Business Analyst
Payroll Administrator

Our research divided these roles into two groups based on their area of expertise and responsibilities. Let’s take a closer look at these two groups to see exactly what they entail and why they are considered to be repetitive and not complex in nature.

HR administrative and process support roles

The HR roles classified under this group include HR Helpdesk, System Tester, Scrum Manager, Talent Researcher, HR Officer, Business Analyst, Payroll Administrator.

Generally, these roles involve repetitive and process-oriented tasks that are at high-risk for automation. This includes activities such as:

  • record-keeping,
  • documentation management,
  • workflow management,
  • data capturing and processing,
  • and administrative functions that support other practices. 

The roles in this group might not be fully automated. However, with the right technology in place, a large portion of the job will likely be replaced by automation. The benefit of automating more admin-intensive duties will result in the role shifting to encompass more complex tasks.

One example of this is within the Talent Researcher role, which has seen rapid adoption of sourcing tools and technologies. Machine learning and AI have streamlined sourcing efforts by searching for specific experience and skills at scale. This has enabled Talent Researchers to spend less time on more arduous tasks and more time mapping out the talent landscape and creating different talent pipeline strategies.

Process execution roles

Although the Payroll Team Lead, Compensation & Benefits Specialist, C&B Manager, DEIB Officer, DEIB Consultant, Process Engineer, and Facilitator are highly specialized roles, these are still at risk of becoming automated. Tasks within these jobs can be automated and augmented by technology over time. 

For example, certain C&B Specialist or C&B Manager activities can be automated, like conducting salary survey data analysis or benchmarking. Some of the latest ERP systems already have this functionality built-in, and these tech capabilities will continue to be improved upon and available across the board. 

On the surface, the Facilitator or DEIB Consultant roles do not appear to be at risk of automation. However, when further analyzed, various tasks within these roles are at risk of being replaced by e-learning platforms or online learning. 

Additionally, a large portion of tasks performed within a junior DEIB officer role include DEIB reporting and DEIB training or education, which can be completed using technology.

Of course, it is unlikely that all of these roles will disappear entirely in the future. However, we do foresee that their scope will change significantly and may be incorporated into more advanced roles. 

What you can do

Change brings opportunity. Understanding what areas of your current HR role will be impacted by automation in the near future, will help you determine the skills you will need to develop.

Consider whether you will need to upskill yourself within your current domain of expertise, or broaden your skill set to be able to operate across multiple areas of HR. 

For example, if you’re a C&B Specialist, you can broaden your scope into people analytics or employee value proposition design. This enables you to apply your core knowledge to other HR practices. 

Consider moving to roles that require more critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These are the skills that face a lower risk of becoming automated. 

For example, as a Benefits Administrator, you could work on your management, analytical, and HR practice implementation skills to move into a Benefits Manager role, and then on to a Rewards Executive role in the longer term.

To help you identify where the skill gaps may be, consider the following:

  • What transferable skills can you use to move into a new role less at risk of automation?
    • Consider transferable skills such as:
      • Communication skills 
      • Interpersonal skills 
      • Problem-solving skills
      • Analytical reasoning 
      • Project management
  • How can you upskill to future-proof your HR career? 

2. HR roles at moderate risk of automation 

Our research reveals that an additional 30% of HR roles will be reshaped by automation. Although the majority of day-to-day tasks will be automated, the complexity of the role will make it impossible to fully remove the human element. Tasks within these roles generally require skills such as critical thinking, strategic insight, or business acumen.

However, as automation increases efficiencies, the likelihood of roles within this category becoming obsolete increases unless HR professionals pivot to more specialized functions within these positions. These include assuming an advisory role to the business leadership and stakeholder management. 

HR roles at moderate risk of automation
Process implementationFunction management Generalist advisory
Talent Acquisition Specialist,
Headhunter
HR Ops ManagerHR Business Partner
Learning & Development Specialist, Organizational Development Specialist,
Organizational Effectiveness Specialist
Talent ManagerHR Project Manager
Employee Relations SpecialistBenefits ManagerHR Consultant
HRIS AnalystPayroll ManagerHR Manager
Recruitment Consultant 
L&D Consultant, OD Consultant,
and OE Consultant

Process implementation roles

HR roles in this group include Talent Acquisition Specialist, Learning & Development Specialist, Organizational Development Specialist, Organizational Effectiveness Specialist, Employee Relations Specialist, Headhunter, HRIS Analyst, Recruitment Consultant, L&D Consultant, OD Consultant, and OE Consultant

Implementing HR practices can be fairly complex, and these roles will still require a high level of human intervention. However, not all tasks involve the same level of complexity, which means that a significant number of tasks are still at risk of automation. 

For example, talent acquisition practices will likely be replaced by fully automated capabilities such as asynchronous interviewing, automated screening, or AI-driven interviewing. However, there is still a need for the Talent Acquisition Specialist’s skills when it comes to designing and managing talent pools and processes. Similarly, roles such as HRIS analyst will likely evolve to focus more on business engagement and advising of stakeholders, as opposed to only building data models and managing datasets. 

Function management roles

HR Ops Manager, Talent Manager, Benefits Manager, Payroll Manager, and Shared Services Manager are roles responsible for the tactical execution of HR practices and services. They advise and guide the business on how these practices need to be designed. 

Management roles are not immune to automation. Tasks performed by managers that involve decision-making accountability can be automated or, at the very least, augmented by technology. For example, organizations might utilize algorithms that automatically recommend training and development programs to employees based on their competency and performance scores, instead of relying on a Talent Manager for recommendations.

Additionally, we anticipate that certain roles will be merged. For example, the roles of HR Ops Manager, Benefits Manager, and Payroll Manager can be combined into one role, with operational tasks handled via technology. 

Generalist advisory roles

HR Business Partner, HR Project Manager, HR Consultant, and HR Manager are roles where frequent interaction with stakeholders is required. These roles tend to deal with ambiguity as expectations for HR service delivery frequently change. 

While professionals in these roles will always need to take an active role in steering their activities, technology can help enhance their knowledge, reduce risks, and expand their overall impact on the business. 

What you can do

Should your current or future roles be at risk of automation, it is crucial that you develop digital agility now. Prioritize learning skills that enable you to utilize technology to the benefit of your work and increase your impact on the organization. 

Focus on learning how to: 

  • Apply your skills in different contexts to tackle new tasks and challenges. For example, instead of collecting and presenting data on employee turnover, develop a 5-point action plan to reduce it.
  • Use digital tools to focus on your core priorities and extend your reach
  • Develop your critical thinking and stakeholder management skills. These skills are essential for driving broader business impact and showcasing the value that HR practices bring to the business.

3. HR roles at low risk of automation 

Leadership and highly specialized roles remain relatively safe from the impacts of automation. Rather, technology will serve as a springboard to enhance the impact of these roles and create new opportunities. 

Roles in this category can be divided into two smaller groups: 

  • HR leadership roles; and, 
  • Organizational excellence roles. 

These are roles that often have strategic or problem-solving responsibility that depends mostly on their HR expertise. 

HR roles at low risk of automation
HR leadership rolesOrganizational excellence roles
Employee Relations ExecutiveHR Specialist 
Head of Organizational Development/Organizational EffectivenessData Scientist
Rewards ExecutiveDEIB Specialist
Global Services ExecutiveHR Systems Architect
Chief Learning OfficerIndustrial-Organizational Psychologist
Chief Diversity OfficerShared Services Manager
People Analytics Head
Head of DEIB
Head of Talent, Talent Director, HR Director
CHRO, SVP, CPO
Senior HR Business Partner
Global HR Business Partner
Divisional/Regional HR Manager

HR leadership roles

To remain relevant in the future, professionals in these roles will need to become more strategic. As the business and stakeholder landscapes continue to become more complex, technology will play a role in augmenting the daily activities and collaboration within these roles. 

However, technology will not replace or reduce the role HR leaders will continue to play in resolving pressing people challenges. 

As HR plays a more crucial and important part in the success of the business, HR leaders will increasingly be the driver for significant changes. To be successful, HR leaders must focus on developing business acumen, scenario planning, and critical thinking skills. Additionally, prioritizing leadership competencies, particularly in building followership, engaging with employees, and leading organizational culture, will be required. 

Organizational excellence roles

HR roles in this group include HR Specialist, Data Scientist, DEIB Specialist, Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Shared Services Manager, and HR Systems Architect. These roles focus on problem-solving through the application of HR expertise, and they will continue to grow in scope. 

Professionals within these roles will need to learn how to manage greater complexity and responsibilities, particularly as technology becomes crucial to work execution. 

Given the problem-solving nature required of these roles, our research indicates it is unlikely that they will become automated. However, we expect new HR roles will emerge in this category as a byproduct of the changing working environment.

What you can do: A look to the future

We foresee that businesses will be facing new people-related challenges. Some of these include: 

  • Talent shortages
  • The effects of the Great Resignation
  • Increased employee expectations
  • Workforce and succession planning
  • Skills gaps
  • Downsizing due to economic uncertainties. 

This will require HR leadership to both adapt and evolve their roles to be able to successfully lead and respond to these challenges. This is already evidenced in the evolving role of the CHRO. In times of crisis, as was seen during the pandemic, the CHRO plays an instrumental role in leading board discussions on policies, business continuity, employee safety and productivity. 

These roles will continue to expand in their scope and responsibility. Emerging trends such as remote work, skill-based economies, talent shortages, rightsizing, and digitalization, will result in greater responsibility for HR professionals to guide the organization in making agile, more employee-centric business decisions. 

Technology will continue to play an important role in bridging skills gaps and enhancing employee experience and motivation. Prioritizing digital agility, strategic thinking, business acumen, crisis management, and leadership skills is essential. While your role might not be replaced by technology, you will still need a strong understanding of automation to oversee the incorporation of automation functions across the various HR roles.

Additionally, focus on extending your subject matter expertise beyond the scope of traditional HR. This also requires a proactive approach to consistently develop the skills required to succeed.

How to Stay Ahead in the HR Automation Game

In conclusion

It is undisputed. Technology is radically changing HR. 

Several HR roles will irrevocably be changed or become obsolete within the next 10 years. Other roles may remain but will continue to be rapidly augmented and changed by technology. 

Just as in the Industrial Revolution, changing and newly emerging roles are to be expected with technological advancements. These advancements bring the opportunity to improve what may not have worked as effectively before. 

As HR professionals are asked to manage one crisis after the next, it isn’t surprising that 98% of HR professionals report feeling burned out. As the HR role continues to expand exponentially, automation of administratively intensive roles will help free HR professionals to focus on the core issues. 

However, this also will require HR professionals to pivot and take on greater complexity within their roles. And this will mean that new skills and competencies are needed. 

Ultimately, HR must continuously develop, reskill, upskill and stay up to date with the latest developments. HR professionals will need to learn to collaborate with technology or oversee the implementation of automation. 

As we enter a decade of profound transformation, it will be essential for HR to play a leading, greater strategic role within the organization. This will require HR leadership to invest in the development of their teams, and for HR professionals to be prepared to embrace change and identify the necessary skills to future-proof their careers.


How the research was conducted

1. Data selection

The tool Will Robots Take My Job analyzes the automation risk of several HR-specific job titles such as Human Resources Managers and Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks. In order to gain an accurate understanding of the automation risk of the HR function, we expanded our analysis to a wider range of roles that reflect all aspects of the HR profession, both in terms of focus and seniority. 

We gathered the more frequently used HR job titles from HR role libraries and open-source libraries and included four different types of positions:

  1. Advisory: HR roles that focus on translating business needs into HR solutions and ensuring that the HR priorities are relevant, aligned, and create business impact
  2. Service providers: HR roles focused on creating an engaging and memorable employee experience
  3. Solution providers: HR professionals who are subject matter experts or specialists in (one or more) HR practices
  4. Strategic: HR roles that ensure HR priorities align with the business strategy and requirements

The roles were further categorized based on the level of seniority, from the lowest (entry-level ) to the highest (experienced). This selection process resulted in 55 HR roles that covered the entire HR spectrum.

2. Data analysis

To understand the extent to which automation will take over (parts of) your HR roles, we used two criteria for our evaluation: 

  • Repetitiveness to see how feasible the automation of tasks would be. The more repetitive tasks are, the more likely they are to be automated. We defined four levels of repetitiveness as Highly repetitive, Relatively repetitive, Somewhat repetitive, and Not repetitive
  • Complexity to see how desirable and value-adding automation would be. The more complex the tasks become, the less likely they are to be automated. We defined four levels of complexity as Highly complex, Relatively complex, Somewhat complex, and Not complex

We used a 10-point scale to grade the 55 HR roles that we selected, where 10 represented the highest level of repetitiveness and complexity. The higher the repetitiveness rating and the lower the complexity rating, the more likely it is that the role would be automated.

These ratings were used to sort the roles into four levels of repetitiveness and complexity. Here is a breakdown of our grading scale: 

Levels of repetitiveness/complexity Rating
Highly repetitive/complex8, 9, 10
Relatively repetitive/complex5, 6, 7
Somewhat repetitive/complex3, 4
Not repetitive/complex1, 2

Our rating was based on the job content and job description of each role. However, these two factors can also vary from company to company, which means that in some cases, the likelihood of automation will also depend on organizational context. 

3. Data categorization 

After analyzing and grading the selected roles, we used a categorization matrix to classify these roles. Our matrix was based on the four levels of repetitiveness and complexity as outlined above.

HR Job Automation Research Matrix

Based on this matrix, we sorted the 55 HR roles into four categories, which are: 

  • Routine & Complex: Roles that are unpredictable, non-repetitive and shows higher levels of complexity 
  • Routine & Simple: Roles that deal with predictable events, are repetitive in execution, and simple in terms of complexity
  • Non-routine & Complex: Roles that are non-repetitive, with some degree of unpredictability, but relatively simple in execution
  • Non-routine & Simple: Roles that are somewhat repetitive and shows some level of complexity

These categories form our Automation Framework. Using this Automation Framework, we sorted the selected HR roles into three groups to reflect the level of automation risk that they faced. These groups are: 

  • HR roles at high risk of automation: These are roles where automation of tasks is highly possible and will bring added value to the business. 
  • HR roles at low-to-moderate risk of automation: These are roles where automation is somewhat possible, but not very desirable as it will not bring much added value to the business. 
  • HR roles safe from automation: These are roles where automation is not possible and will not bring added value to the business. 
HR Job Automation Framework

The resulting role distribution can be seen in the article above. Find the full data set and methodology here:

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