Will the Internet of Things Displace HR?

Alexandra Levit, People Results
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The latest tech trend is the Internet of Things (IoT), and if you’re like me, you didn’t know what it meant until you were reading a blog post one day (possibly this one).

The IoT is what will happen when any device with an off/on switch can be connected to the Internet and to other devices. Technology analyst firm Gartner has predicted that in the very near future, there will be nearly 30 billion connected devices, forging complex relationships between people and things.

In his article for Forbes, Jacob Morgan says that IoT is becoming more of a thing (forgive the pun) now due to a confluence of factors including widely available broadband, decreasing connection and technology costs, smart phone penetration, and the creation of devices with built-in wi-fi censors.

Connected devices will be smarter devices because they will no longer operate in silos. Instead, a device will be able to communicate its activities to other devices and to the people who manage those devices. For instance, based on your daily routine, your smartphone will talk to your office printer, your home alarm system, and your favorite coffee shop about what you need and when you need it.

Is there room for HR in the IoT?

The short answer is yes. Even as machines become more intelligent and capable, there are some essential business qualities, including contextual problem-solving, relationship-building, and innovation, that are uniquely human. At least at the beginning, devices in the IoT will need human managers if they are to be truly effective. Humans will also be needed to take full advantage of the new IoT businesses springing up all the time. Human resources is essentially about developing a workforce’s capabilities, and that will be more important than ever as the IoT takes us where no one has gone before.

In his recent article for Harvard Business Review, Joey Fitts cites iRobot’s Roomba vacuum as a terrific example of why the IoT won’t displace human involvement. Rodney Brooks, a former director of the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab and the co-founder of iRobot, told Fitts that the company initially believed that robotics specialists could best explain its offerings to the market. However, it discovered that the folks who could best distribute the offerings were vacuum industry veterans who knew the industry lingo, had existing relationships, and understood and managed the channels of distribution.

The Roomba example illustrates that humans will continue to be critical to processes and products developed by and for other humans. And as long as humans are around, HR will need to be safeguarding their welfare and nurturing their talent.

Learn more about the State of Talent Management in 2015 by looking at this infographic and by downloading “Powering Up Talent Management for Business Performance.”  

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