As technology evolves and jobs change, people professionals need to support their organisations and add value in areas where technology is expected to significantly affect people. They need to stay up to date on the fast-moving world of artificial intelligence and anticipate how it might impact their people.
The automation of business processes using artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies is changing how people work and the types of employment available. AI doesn’t just eliminate tasks for people or create new ones (good and bad). It can also intensify the pace of work, augment people’s capabilities, enable tasks to be done remotely, or even transfer responsibility for the tasks to someone else.
A key development has been the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative AI chatbots. They’re easy to use, widely accessible and are often free (or provide free trials). Generative AI creates new content from existing patterns of data, like text, images, voice and video. Generative AI can deliver fast and personalised outputs at scale. But because generative AI sometimes gives wrong and inappropriate outputs, spreading misinformation and bias at scale is a risk. This technology could have a wide-ranging impact on tasks that involve synthesising existing data. For example, generative AI could help teachers give personalised feedback for students, make coding more user-friendly for software developers and help HR professionals create a first draft of a job description.
Despite being freely and widely accessible, AI chatbot ChatGPT is mainly used in countries with a well-trained population. This digital divide between adopters and non-adopters of AI-enabled technology also exists in developed countries. 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.
Organisations need to take a responsible approach to invest and adopt AI and other technologies in ways that optimise business outcomes while supporting workforce engagement, enhancing job quality and providing good work. This approach is in line with CIPD’s professional standards principle ‘people matter’, which states that people are worthy of investment, should have access to work and deserve to be treated fairly.
People professionals can add value in areas where technology is expected to significantly impact people. For example, in helping people to prepare for future jobs in the organisation and elsewhere, and in advocating for good work. At a strategic level, this could include linking digital transformation plans with workforce planning and reviews of the organisation’s structure and culture. It could also include shaping an AI use policy and designing incentives to encourage innovation within safe boundaries at work.
Taking a responsible approach would help prepare organisations for AI regulation when it comes. When using AI to shortlist candidates, for example, ensure that AI has been rigorously trained, is regularly audited to mitigate bias, and that people remain in charge of who gets hired. Don’t use AI to shortlist candidates if the time and effort outweighs the benefits, ie if you risk receiving only a few applications.
- Set guidance based on principles – Establish guidelines for how you understand and approach AI and related technologies within your organisation and communicate these clearly. Guidelines should be based on ethical and responsible principles to ensure human-centred, transparent and accountable use of AI, but also manage the risks, including data privacy and security.
- Engage and develop your people – Commit to engaging and helping your people to develop their AI skills by encouraging experimentation and trials with AI and related technologies, cross-team collaboration, and fostering a culture of shared learning. This helps to increase awareness, collaboratively drive benefits and address concerns that arise. Consider the needs of diverse groups when making decisions about how different technologies are used at work. Look at Stage 2 of the responsible investment in technology guide to make sure you’ve not missed blind spots when considering the impact on your people.
- Think strategically – Understand how AI and related technologies may impact your business, your operating model and your competitive positioning. Be curious, learn from others and set a plan to stay abreast of AI and related technology developments. It is important to recognise risks of disruption and new competitive threats as well as leading for positive outcomes. To achieve powerful results, your people, culture, structure (eg hierarchy, policies) and tasks need to be tightly aligned to the technologies that your people use at work.
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