HR is pivotal to the collaborative, networked workplace of the future

From reports that millions of UK workers are at risk of being replaced by robots, to Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk’s view that humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), there’s no doubt that the exponential speed at which new technologies are developing is causing concern across the globe.

In the past decade, there has been a huge step forward in terms of the development of such technology, with faster and lower-cost computers, new algorithms, the ability to access vast amounts of data and the insight this provides, the ubiquity of social platforms and lots of capital swishing around to fund it. We are in what Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where new technologies such as AI and machine-learning fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds.

But rather than taking the dystopian view so loved by the media, we at SD Worx see the outcome as a more connected and collaborative working world; one that helps employers increase productivity through the use of automation to remove mundane, repetitive operational tasks, thus enabling employees to focus on the areas that add real value to business, such as quality customer relationship and experience, personalisation and innovation.

At the centre of this is the networked organisation – a dynamic structure underpinned by a strong culture and leadership, and designed around groups and teams to be more responsive to customers. As University of Michigan professor of business Dave Ulrich says, human resources shifts from a focus on being the employer of choice to becoming the choice of employees the customer would choose.

Cross-functional teams, innovation hubs comprising people inside and outside the organisation, and customer-centric approaches to product and service development are the norm.

Talent, not capital, is the building block of economic growth and this puts HR directors firmly centre stage of the organisation

In this world, talent, not capital, is the building block of economic growth and this puts HR directors firmly centre stage of the organisation. Create a climate where people can work together to improve performance, where they are unafraid to speak up and offer ideas, and where they can provide and receive constructive feedback, and you have a competitive advantage.

The move to networks requires workers to have relational skills such as emotional intelligence and the ability to connect and “co-ordinate with others”, as the WEF puts it. They also need skills such as adaptability, ability to learn fast, decision-making, critical thinking, and data and analytics know-how. HR personnel have an important role to play in embedding these skills in their people and in fostering the right culture of collaboration for their business, between employee and customer, between employee and employer, and between human and machine intelligence.

The changing nature of work offers an unprecedented opportunity for HR to create a more engaged, learning-oriented and empowered workforce, helping individuals and groups understand how their role aligns to the business in a fast-changing environment, and articulating to the business and investors how people are making a tangible contribution to growth in the digital age.

As the longest serving payroll provider in the UK and Ireland, and a trusted partner to more than 2,400 customers, we at SD Worx look forward to helping them to do this. With more than 50 years’ experience, we know how to use technology to take the pain out of compliance, reduce costs and increase profitability, enabling HR people to do what they do best – attracting, engaging and retaining the right people through meaningful conversations.

One of our core values is smart co-operation, sharing knowledge to generate added value. In the spirit of this, we will be discussing how collaboration can help people leaders capitalise on future opportunities at our annual conference in March 2018. We invite you to take part in this discussion by attending our conference or sharing your thoughts on our social platforms. For, as we believe, you just can’t take the human out of human resources.

For more information on how SD Worx can help you please visit