This article was updated on Aug. 30, 2018.
Advancements in technology have the potential to alter mainstream management practices significantly. In recent years, the increasing use of mobile technologies and improvements to automated systems has led to a significant transformation in many industries. CHROs have observed the shift from paper-based, brick-and-mortar work environments to today's organizations, which are far more digital, nimble and global than their antecedents.
Research by McKinsey indicates that few occupations or industries will be lost to automation. Instead, their analysts believe that artificial intelligence, sensors and algorithms will transform "activities." Additionally, 48 percent of modern employees feel positively about the replacement of repetitive work with "automation, smart machines, and [artificial intelligence]," according to ADP's study The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workforce.
How Technology Will Impact Management Practices
The cutting edge of innovation involves replacing human services with technologies that can take over positions traditionally reserved for "middle management," such as the distribution of tasks. Many CHROs have already benefited from similar software layers as consumers, for example, the apps used by Uber and Lyft.
While algorithms and software won't replace all leadership, they have the potential to create shifts in position descriptions over the next decade. As automation replaces tasks that have traditionally been reserved for management, the work performed by department heads will change as a result. CHROs should be aware of how this upcoming change could impact their workforce.
Here are three common management duties that could change in the future:
1. Data-Driven Decision Making
One traditional duty of department heads and other management is measuring human performance. It is, however, inherently data-driven, and the use of algorithms for recruitment, promotion and productivity measurement is already a significant part of management and HR technology.
Very few managers have the data analysis skill set necessary to replicate the work of a well-designed application for managerial decision-making. In fact, it's arguable that the use of algorithms for data-driven decision-making can introduce important objectivity into employee performance measurement and other managerial activities.
While technology could eliminate the need for data-driven decisions by management, it will most likely not negate the importance of leadership's intervention in the decision-making process. Ultimately, data is just one factor to take into consideration when making decisions about personnel, clients or processes. Department heads will be responsible for filtering algorithmic outputs to ensure suggested decisions are sound. Perhaps more importantly, management will be responsible for providing unbiased feedback on data and applications to verify that algorithms are reflective of cultural values and priorities.
2. Project Design and Tasking
A key responsibility of department heads and team leads is project conceptualization. Management is responsible for taking project scope documentation and breaking it into tasks and metrics, which are distributed among team members. Existing technologies have already begun to replicate this process on a minor scale.
3. Strategy Discovery
Automated reporting technologies have already been adopted by many enterprises. The job of the data scientist presents a powerful combination when coupled with the management suite. When department heads and executives provide guidance on theories to talented big data analysts, there is a wealth of potential to gain competitive advantage.
As data analysis tools become more and more sophisticated, the need for management's input on data will diminish. Algorithms and applications will become more adept at providing "auto-suggestions" on product development and other strategic actions, based on user-generated social media content, mobile devices and sensors.
The role of management in shaping big data analysis will shift significantly, but won't disappear. Instead, management will be responsible for working closely with applications designed for strategy discovery to provide feedback and "training" filtered through knowledge.
Large organizations stand to benefit from the automation of tasks because of the projected cost savings and the potential for technology to introduce objectivity into business processes. Although the role of middle management is likely to shift significantly in the years to come, it's unlikely to disappear.
Either way, CHROs need to prepare for this upcoming seismic shift accordingly.