What will HR systems be like in 100 years?

November 30, 2016

What will HR systems be like in 100 years?

Have you ever wondered what HR systems might be like 100 years from now? We’ve been reviewing some of the last decade’s hottest predictions and trends, and thinking about how they might apply to the world of human resources.

If our predictions are right, then by 2116, we might be managing an underwater workforce, controlling our HR systems with raw brainpower, and alerting commuters to traffic jams before they even happen.

Oh, and you might need to include robots in your performance reviews.

Intrigued? Read on! Here are our eight best predictions for what HR software might look like in the next 100 years.

1. HR systems might be controlled directly by our brains

We’re already moving away from clicking and pointing with a mouse, to tapping and swiping with our fingers. Is the next step direct brain control?

According to futurologists Ian Pearson and Patrick Tucker, we will definitely achieve telepathic communication within the next 100 years. “Synthetic telepathy sounds like something out of Hollywood” says Patrick, “but it is absolutely possible”.

In fact, telepathic communication has already been achieved. In 2014, a person in India used brain power to speak to a person in France. Admittedly, the methodology was crude, the communication was only a single word, and the whole process took more than an hour. But the proof of concept is there, and it is very likely that the technique will become much more refined within the next 100 years.

So how might telepathic communication apply in the context of HR software?

Well, if we are able to send and receive electronic signals using our brains, then we may no longer need to control our HR system using touch. We may be able to approve holiday requests, review job applications, and send out employment contracts, simply by thinking.

It could get even crazier than that. If we put ethics to one side for a minute, it isn’t hard to imagine a world where employees are “microchipped”. This could let us tap into brain signals to assess mood and motivation levels in real-time, and without the need for surveys.

Imagine receiving the following notification from your HR system:

Happiness levels are critically low. Suggested action: Team lunch.

2. Manual timesheets may no longer exist

If microchipping does become a thing, then timesheets probably won’t be necessary for clocking in and out of the office. Your HR system will be able to simply detect each person’s presence, and then clock them in automatically.

Proximity technology is already a very real thing. Shopping centres and marketing companies are already using beacons and GPS to work out where people are. Why wouldn’t businesses do the same to automate things like timesheets?

3. Your employee database is likely to contain people in all sorts of weird locations

We’ve already started moving towards a more contingent, international workforce. In our modern world, you can hire anybody, anywhere. And good HR software lets you manage these people just as easily as if they were in the same building as you.

The rise of flexible and remote working is showing no signs of slowing, and we’re already seeing people working from pretty strange locations.

But if experts are to be believed, we will be seeing even stranger locations for living and working in the next 100 years. Yes, we’re talking about bubble cities in the ocean, and “groundscrapers” that dig deep into the earth’s crust.

It might not stop at ocean cities and underground bunkers, either. With more private companies sending people into space (and even trying to colonise Mars), it isn’t hard to imagine that our HR systems will be helping us manage an intergalactic workforce in the not-too-distant future.

4. You might be managing a robotic workforce

Will robots ever take over the world? Maybe, according to Professor Stephen Hawking. But so far, most robots can still only actually do what they are programmed to do, meaning humans remain behind the wheel.

However, the rise of “machine learning” is changing the pace of how robots behave.

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn things they have not been programmed to do. And according to Edward Monaghan, writing on Wired, this is pushing us into an age where computer programmers need to act more like dog trainers.

If we hit an age where robot behaviour becomes unpredictable, and where humans need to train a machine’s behaviour, will we begin to see human-like robots on our payroll? Will we need to manage a semi-robotic workforce? And will we need to treat computers in a similar way to how we treat humans?

We might be a long way away from robots demanding rights, as presented by the Channel 4 series “Humans”. But performance appraisals, training programmes and even team-building exercises could all be on the cards for a robotic workforce of the future.

5. You probably won’t need a password to login

Face, fingerprint and retina recognition technology already exists. Yet passwords remain the most common way to log into your online email or your office computer.

As identification technology is refined, however, we are seeing more apps and systems trying to replace the traditional system of entering a password. Phones let us unlock them with our fingerprint, and voice recognition is already a big part of technology.

In 100 years, it is highly unlikely that anybody will use passwords for anything – including accessing their HR systems!

6. You could be managing your workforce on digital scrolls

Once upon a time, digital HR systems were locally stored and spreadsheet based.

Today, many companies still use spreadsheets or on premise solutions to manage their HR information. But we’ve taken a massive leap towards cloud-based software optimised for smartphones and tablets.

In 100 years, traditional tablets will probably be a thing of the past, and HR systems will most likely be optimised for devices as thin as paper.

Samsung has already announced production of a tablet that can be rolled up like a scroll. This technology is only a few years away from becoming mainstream, and it might not be long before we’re rolling up our computers and stuffing them into our pockets.

Will HR software be scroll-based in 100 years?

7. You may be able to print company equipment on-demand

HR is typically responsible for tracking company-issued equipment. But with the rise of 3D printing, it is possible HR will soon be able to produce company equipment at the touch of the button!

Imagine hooking up your HR system to a 3D printer, and using it as part of your on-boarding process? New recruits could be issued with pen holders and tablet stands, and maybe even chairs and desks!

As 3D printing becomes more mainstream and affordable, it is absolutely possible that you will be able to log into your HR system to issue and print small pieces of company equipment on-demand.

Or maybe we should be thinking even bigger. Earlier this year, a 3D-printed house was finished in China. It took just 45 days to build.

Is it possible that HR will be using their software to print temporary training venues!?

8. You might be able to boost punctuality by predicting traffic jams

How many times have you heard the excuse “sorry I’m late, I got stuck in traffic”?

In 100 years, HR systems might be avoiding this problem altogether, by issuing automatic congestion alerts before the traffic jams even happen!

Microsoft has already teamed up with the Federal University of Minas Gerias, to use big data for predicting traffic jams up to an hour before they occur.

If this technology proves reliable, and if it becomes available to more people over the next 100 years (and this is very possible), then it could be very helpful to HR. You could send alerts to employees an hour before their shift starts, advising them not to take a particular route because big data says it’s likely to get congested.

What it might be like if all of these predictions came true

Let’s imagine what your day might be like if all of these predictions came true.

You’d start your day by stepping into your office. You wouldn’t be late, because your HR system would have already told you which route to take, and you wouldn’t need to clock in, because your HR system already knew you were there.

After thinking “log in”, a voice in your ear tells you that Jimmy Haddock, of Atlantis City branch, is requesting a holiday. In order to check this out in more detail, you slip a digital scroll out of your pocket and unroll it on the desk that you 3D-printed earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, a knock on your door tells you that Botty McBotface has just arrived for his performance review.

Which of these predictions do you think is most likely to happen to HR systems in the future? And in which order?

It all sounds very bizarre. But then again, if you tried explaining the Internet to somebody 100 years ago, it would sound equally bizarre.

Let’s take a moment to list all of these predictions. Which do you think will happen? Let us know by voting, or give us your own predictions in the comments!

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