Redefining the meaning and purpose of work for employees will be a crucial role for HR in the face of increasing automation and artificial intelligence, a global HR think tank says.

The latest Industry Insights report from Reventure looks at the challenges for HR strategies in five specific industries: professional services, tourism, education, healthcare, and aviation.

It stresses how important it is for people to value their work (and feel valued) during times of technological change, and suggests that the overall implications of the new wave of technology will have far-reaching financial and cultural effects.

For instance, AI in professional services employers, including HR management and recruitment consultants, will replace and streamline human effort, and require a shift to more technical expertise for competitive advantage in the legal fraternity.

According to Dr Lindsay McMillan, lead researcher at Reventure, lawyers and accountants, for example, are likely to see entry-level roles such as paralegals and bookkeepers disappear with AI, leading to flatter organisational structures.

"There will also be changes to what organisations... look for in candidates and technological aptitude will be high on the list," he says.

HR solutions for 'meaningful' professions

However, the downside of a workplace centred on technological advances is the need to continually motivate people, the report says, and money will not be enough.

"Leaders need to be able to identify and articulate the way in which an individual employee's role contributes to the achievement of the common purpose," McMillan says.

"This includes fostering an understanding of how the individual's personal attributes, such as their interests, abilities, values and personality, uniquely equip them to do their work well.

"Employee satisfaction will be superficial if there is a lack of congruence between the outlined purpose and the internal realities of the workplace."

Encouraging employees to co-design their own purpose within the organisation requires a 'servant' style of leadership, the report notes, meaning leaders will need to demonstrate humility, and appreciate and communicate the value of employee contributions.

Industry-specific insights

n dedicated sections on the four other industries it covers, the report notes that health and aged care is undergoing regulatory changes, and faces ongoing staff shortages with an ageing workforce.

Its new environment requires a shift from government compliance to customer focus, and communicating and implementing these changes will ideally involve workers.

"Career construction is a key tool used to help individuals develop a narrative that identifies their purpose and sources of meaning at work," the report states.

Allowing the employee to be an author of their own career, and having a clear succession path will benefit retention and engagement, it says.

Meanwhile the most pressing issue in tourism and hospitality is its skills shortage, with an estimated 38,000 unfilled roles.

Recruiting the right candidates is about developing 'job landscapes' rather than job descriptions. This means creating a list of goals for each employee, and then examining how these interconnect with other staff goals, the report says.

Leadership training should also focus on the soft skills of transformational change.

The education and training sector is rapidly growing, and expected to increase by 12 per cent to 1.1 million workers in the next five years.

Four principles can assist in creating a healthy relationship framework within education: inclusion, development, engagement and life enhancement, the report says.

"This involves showing a genuine interest in the people around you at work and creating a culture of creativity where mistakes are allowed."

The report also notes that more innovation is required from state and territory departments as major employers, including carefully selecting teachers within a team for projects to ensure workers collaborate and learn from others with different skillsets, or encouraging 'workplace huddles' for short bursts of creative internal input to solve problems.

Finally, in aviation, workers should be regarded less as 'inputs' and more in terms of the 'whole relationship' in fostering a culture of respect.

Job crafting can give employees a greater sense of agency to redefine and reimagine their roles, for example by allowing them to make changes to their tasks, or reshape relationships by finding mentors or colleagues with complementary skills.