Graduate’s Research Explores Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Working World

Dr Nikhal Kumar

Human Resource (HR) Management PhD graduate Dr Nikhal Kumar’s exploratory research titled: Taking the “Human” Out of Human Resources in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?, examines the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technological advancement have on the HR function.

‘This is a fast-growing topic with many developments in recent times hence I found it intriguing to fathom how technology is going to disrupt HR and possibly replace some of the activities performed by humans,’ said Kumar.

He added that the findings from the study, supervised by Professor S Brijball Parumasur, would benefit organisations as they prepared to transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

‘It concluded that although there is a great detail of automation and technological advancement taking place, there still is a need for humans with the right skill set to drive these processes to obtain maximum efficiencies.’

The challenges of balancing his studies with the pressures of working as a business manager (Global Banking & CMB) at HSBC Bank’s Johannesburg branch had been overwhelming at times.

‘I actually took a year off my studies,’ said Kumar. ‘Working for an international bank can be very demanding with long hours and a high-pressure environment. Fortunately, my supervisor was very accommodating and understanding of my work schedule and we tried to navigate around this as much as possible.’

Kumar was determined to graduate not only for his career development, but due to a bet he had with his father, retired eThekwini Municipality Chief Financial Officer, Dr Krish Kumar.

‘I enjoy a very competitive relationship with my dad and we had a friendly wager on who could complete their PhD first. He beat me to it, graduating from UKZN in 2017.

‘I got a lot of support from my family, friends, and my partner, which I think is critical. They always encouraged me to persevere when I wanted to give up and pushed me right up until the end,’ said Kumar.

With plans to tie the knot in October, celebrating the culmination of his PhD journey ahead of his nuptials is the cherry on top.

‘I am very excited about completing my PhD ahead of my wedding! My fiancé is a PhD candidate at the University of Pretoria, so I am holding thumbs for her to finish her PhD soon as well.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan