Written by Daphne Doody-Green, Head of CIPD in Northern England (September 2023)
AI is accelerating fast – it is changing not just how and where we work, but business models, and the world of work itself. In response, employers must anticipate how AI may impact their people, and prepare to use such technology to add value to their business, support workforce engagement, and enhance job quality.
Keeping up with AI
AI has led to fears of job loss among workers, with cashiers, drivers, and translators among some of the jobs most at risk of being replaced by AI. However, studies have found that any job losses from automation are likely to be offset by new jobs created as a result of a larger and wealthier economy made possible by these innovative technologies.
A key development in AI has been the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative chatbots which can help to automate manual tasks and processes, by creating detailed, personalised content and information at pace. The result is tasks can be completed much quicker and at scale.
However, generative AI can deliver inaccurate and inappropriate outputs, leading to misinformation and reputational risk.
Guidance for employers
As the professional body for HR and people development we have launched a ‘AI in the workplace’ hub - full of guidance, podcasts, and resources -to support employers and HR to mitigate the risks and harness the benefits of AI.
Our most recent guide, Getting your organisation ready for AI use covers how to create clear policies surrounding the use of AI tools and includes a range of recommendations for employers to adopt AI responsibly in the workplace, including:
1. Establish guidelines for how to understand and approach AI within your organisation and communicate these clearly to all staff. Guidelines should be based on ethical and responsible principles to ensure human-centered, transparent, and accountable use of AI, but also manage the risks, including data privacy and security.
2. Engage and develop your people by encouraging experimentation and trials with AI and fostering a culture of shared learning across teams. This will help increase awareness, collaboratively drive benefits, and address any concerns that arise.
3. Think strategically about the impact of AI on your business. Be curious, learn from others, and keep abreast of AI developments; recognising risks as well as looking for potential positive outcomes for your business today and in the long term. To achieve powerful results, your people, culture, structure (e.g., hierarchy, policies) and tasks need to be tightly aligned to the technologies that your people use at work (see CIPD's Digital transformation in organisations and people functions).
Do not worry if your organisation has not given much thought to AI up until now. CIPD research found only 29% of UK senior decisionmakers said their organisations had invested in AI and related technologies between 2019 and 2022. The most common reason for not investing was that they were unaware of technology that would be of use in their organisations
Policymakers must address both low employer investment in digital technologies and low investment in digital skills if the UK economy is to realise the potential benefits of digital transformation.
Actions for the UK Government
As a trusted advisor to the government, we are calling for more support and investment for both employers and workers, to adopt and embrace AI. Our recommendations include:
- Improve the quality of locally delivered business support services to help SMEs develop people management capabilities that support the introduction of new technology and optimise its impact while protecting job quality.
- Improve labour market enforcement to ensure that people’s employment rights are not compromised during the introduction of modern technology.
- Increase investment in career advice and guidance, adult skills, and lifelong learning to support upskilling and re-skilling to enable people to adapt to the impact of technology.
The investment in and adoption of rapidly advancing digital technologies in all forms will impact every organisation’s competitiveness and longer-term survival.
Now is the time for organisations to learn, experiment and innovate, to understand the potential benefits to people, jobs, and business outcomes, but also to understand and mitigate the risks.
CIPD is the professional body for experts in people at work, championing better work and working lives by setting professional standards for HR and people development, as well as driving positive change in the world of work.