Employers can optimise both job quality for workers and business outcomes by responsibly investing in technology

 

New CIPD guidance shows understanding of key people issues and consultation with staff is needed for investment in technology to lead to positive outcomes.

Economists often agree on little but there is a strong consensus among them that wider adoption of digital technology by firms across the economy is required to boost UK productivity and lift living standards over the longer-term.  

However, evidence suggests employees need to be managed effectively, understand any new requirements on them and may need to develop new skills if business investment in technology is to be optimised to boost firm performance.

Just as importantly from a CIPD perspective, investment in technology should wherever possible enhance job quality rather than have the effect of downgrading skills or undermining job security.  

This is why CIPD has teamed up with the Carnegie Trust and the Institute for the Future of Work to create a guide for employers on how to invest responsibly in technology to both optimise job quality and business outcomes.  

The guide draws on input from a wide range of expert stakeholders and best practice case studies. It emphasises that the introduction of technology must be closely aligned with and complemented by relevant changes to the other key elements that make-up an organisation – its people, culture, structure and tasks. It then sets out five key stages for the responsible investment in technology.  

Understanding the why

The first stage highlights the importance of business leaders understanding why there is a need to invest in technology in light of their organisation’s operational context and what it is hoped this investment will achieve. This might include for example consideration of the impact of rising skill or labour shortages and the role of technology in addressing them. 

It is crucial the right people are involved in this stage with a broad range of professional expertise including HR leaders who can provide insight from a workforce planning perspective and an understanding of any implications for management capability or wider skills development.

Involving workers 

There then needs to be consideration of the type of technology that is to be introduced and its impact on the workforce. Active and meaningful consultation with workers is vital at a very early stage to build trust and engagement which will be key to any subsequent roll-out of technology.   
 

Choosing the right solution

The third phase is choosing the right solution, recognising that this might not mean buying new technology but could mean using existing technology in a different way, upgrading existing technology or developing something in-house.  

If the decision is that buying is the best solution, the guide emphasises the importance of thorough research as consideration of possible products, services and vendors is conducted. 

Addressing legal obligations and responsibilities  

It is also important there is consideration of an employer’s legal obligations and responsibilities to ensure that people’s employment rights are not compromised in any way as a result of the impact of technology or hasty decision making. The guide highlights the need to identify and manage any risks to workers' rights around employment relations, health and safety, equality and discrimination and data protection and privacy.

Rollout, support, and review

Finally, the guide highlights how to overcome some of the potential challenges to effective implementation and rollout of technology. The critical role of line managers is strongly emphasised and the need to provide them with sufficient support and training given the crucial part they play in working with and supporting employees to ensure that new technology can have a net positive effect on people’s working lives.   
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