The news is awash with stories of the impending robotic revolution and the mass-displacement of jobs by new technologies. This fear is not new, and any new technology which changes the way we work and live is likely to shift perceptions, but it is important we question how much evidence exists to support these fears. At CIPD we want to know what is really happening in the minds of decision makers in organisations, when they consider the potential value of AI and automation. Is new technology really re-shaping the world of work as we know it? And how are employees being effected?
We've recently explored these questions in more in our new research People and machines: from hype to reality developed with PA Consulting. Below I will give an outline on some of the key findings for the HR profession:
The value and outcomes generated by AI and automation
We surveyed employers to find out how they approach AI and automation, and the impact it is having on work and found several interesting findings, some of which counter to the rhetoric on this divisive topic:
We also conducted surveys of employees and found some interesting results. Job quality and well-being is also being affected, but not in the way you’d expect:
The role of the “technology and people” strategy
Given that AI and automation is changing many important aspects of work; namely job quality and employment levels, there is a clear need for the HR function to be involved. But we know that HR impact doesn’t stop there. There is considerable value that HR can add to organisations when operating strategically as a function. Key financial and performance outcomes related to the business are associated with strategic HR activity – it is therefore important that the function is involved in strategic decisions relating to the workforce, and this includes decisions relating to the application of new technologies.
The reality however is very concerning. Our study shows that of all the functions, HR is the least likely to be involved in decisions to invest in AI and automation (55%) and in its implementation (45%). The reality is that most HR functions have no voice on the topic of AI and automation. This is a considerable risk factor in today’s organisations.
Technology as a tool & the worker as the master
An important point to draw out from the findings of the study is the extent to which the relationship between technology and the human workforce is highly complex, and not as simple as many would have us believe. Whilst technology, in its various forms, may change the way work is done it is very clearly the employer who has agency in the decision to implement technology. The application of technology at work is by no means an inevitability.
It is for this reason that we recommend HR does several things to enable the effective implementation of AI and automation:
Overall, we recognise the real potential of AI and automation . There are many positive stories emerging about the potential for technology to positively shape the workplace, but the risk of low HR involvement is one we cannot overlook. Only by being involved in these conversations can HR professionals shape outcomes for the better.
To find out more check out the research here.
Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.
Thanks Louise for your thoughts. I agree, its an important space for HR to up its knowledge and engagement on to ensure employee propositions and experiences are aligned and effective. If we don't we risk losing a lot of the traction we have gained from becoming more strategic in our practice. AI and automation will be a big test to that i'm sure.
Thank you for sharing the perspective Ed, the AI and automation era is fast upon us and this is just another component of knowledge that we as HR practitioners need to embrace and understand, as with business acumen and financial perspectives we have needed to expand our thinking, AI is just the next phase of this. If we truly want to lead the way for shaping the future for our organisations this is the next area to definitely focus and understand. Aligning the approach for AI will mean we can evolve our employee propositions and refine the people capabilities. We run the risk of resisting which will result I’m taking significant steps backward as strategic people partners
Subscribe to the CIPD Newsletter