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HR and business leaders not ready to manage robots

Deloitte's latest Human Capital Trends report finds many leaders are unprepared to deal with the future of work

The UK’s HR and business leaders are not prepared to manage a digitised workforce, according to research from Deloitte.

The firm’s latest Global Human Capital Trends report revealed that just 16% of leaders feel ready to manage a workforce consisting of both people and artificial intelligence (AI).

This is despite the implementation of robotics and AI in many of the businesses surveyed. Of the leaders that responded, 42% said robotics, cognitive and AI technologies were already in operation in their workplaces.

Anne-Marie Malley, UK human capital leader at Deloitte, said organisations needed to prepare themselves for the workplace of the future. “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate and is rewriting the rules of work,” she added.

The report comes as more companies move to digitise their workforces. According to a report in The Sunday Times, Aviva is planning to survey its 16,000 workers on whether their jobs could be done better by robots. Those that answer ‘yes’ will be retrained for other roles within the business.

In December Capita, which counts the NHS and DVLA as clients, announced plans to replace 2,000 jobs with robotic processes. And supermarket delivery service Ocado recently revealed that it uses more than a thousand robots in its warehouse to pick stock for customer deliveries. Its robots are designed with a ‘soft hand’ to prevent them from bruising produce.

The Deloitte report also revealed that business leaders feel incapable of managing their employees’ digital learning.

Of the businesses that were surveyed, 74% said they considered themselves weak in the area of advanced digital learning including video and simulation. More than half (59%) of businesses said they were failing to provide mobile learning to employees that suited their lifestyles.

The research also showed that recruitment remains a top concern for 87% of UK business leaders, with 45% planning to include AI in their recruitment process over the next five years.

Malley said: “Technology will increasingly disrupt the world of work and companies need to be ready for it. For HR specifically, this presents an enormous opportunity for the function to show leadership.”