Why we’re creating new guidance on the key role of HR in responsible investment in technology

April 21, 2021

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by Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

In this guest blog, Ben Willmott discusses Responsible Investment in Tech, a new CIPD-Carnegie UK Trust-Institute for the Future of Work project, which will explore how organisations can help ensure that the adoption of new technology has positive outcomes for both job quality and businesses.


The impact of technology

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 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.


Our project

In response to this challenge, CIPD is working with the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW) and Carnegie UK 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 to which 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 (2019) 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.


This blog is adapted from an article originally published in CIPD Voice Issue 28 on 12 April 2021.