The huge economic and social disruption caused by Covid-19 will have very significant ongoing implications for employment, job quality, working practices, and workforce skills development. All of these issues are also likely to be affected by further increases in demand for the use of technology as organisations seek to adapt and compete in the new post-pandemic environment.  

The impact of technology

The pandemic itself has already accelerated changes in how technology is used, for example to reduce human contact in the delivery of services and enable more people to work and learn remotely. Organisations have also used AI and automation to cope with peak demands during the crisis, for example to process invoices or mass cancellations, while people analytics have been used to analyse workloads and redeploy staff. 

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, there will be other pressures to increase the rate of automation in order to boost workplace productivity, or to address skill or labour shortages when the economy returns to growth and as a result of our ageing workforce. 

Consequently, the impact of new technology on organisations and workers will continue to grow, which will highlight the need for senior leaders to fully understand the ethical and operational challenges associated with its use and optimisation, including its impact on the different dimensions of job quality.  These include job security, pay, employee health and wellbeing, work-life balance, inclusion and skill development and use.  

CIPD's work with the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW) and Carnegie Trust 

In response to this challenge, CIPD is working with the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW) and Carnegie Trust to develop practical guidance for business and HR leaders to help ensure organisations’ investment in new technology, such as AI and automation, has positive outcomes for both the business and the workforce.  

It will consider how investment in new technology can augment rather than undermine the key dimensions of job quality through the business decision making process and the extent key HR and people management practices are deployed or developed. For example, what role should workforce planning, employee consultation, job re-design, or learning and development play when the case for investment in technology is made or during implementation? 

The project will have strong focus on the issue of employee voice and representation and the role that this plays in informing management decision-making to secure positive returns on investment in technology from the perspective of both employees and the organisation. It will be informed by the input of an expert advisory group including HR directors, technology specialists and union representatives. The project team expect that the guidance will be available by the autumn.  

CIPD's viewpoint 

CIPD's research report People and machines: from hype to reality suggests that if technology is introduced in the right way with a strong focus on the workforce, it can have a net positive impact on employment, and boost job quality and productivity, which are all key objectives if the UK is to build back better following the pandemic.

About the author

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy

Ben leads the CIPD’s Public Policy team, which works to inform and shape debate, government policy and legislation in order to enable higher performance at work and better pathways into work for those seeking employment. His particular research and policy areas of interest include employment relations, employee engagement and wellbeing, absence and stress management, and leadership and management capability.

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