Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Firms that ignore human factor will struggle to see performance gains from new technology, says CIPD

The CIPD has responded to a new report in which the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee warns that if the transition to a more automated workplace is managed badly, entire groups and regions could be left behind, and British businesses could find themselves uncompetitive. Story on PA, embargoed to 00.01 18th September 2019.

In response, Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

“If the UK is to benefit from sustainable increases in productivity it’s crucial that companies explore opportunities to invest in and maximise the benefits of new technology. This means investing in their people, as well as in new technologies. Technology must work with people, not against them if it is to boost human potential in the workplace and lead to improvements in output. 

“Too often when companies invest in AI or automation they fail to fully consider the workforce factors and people management practices that will help them to get the best value out of their investment. To avoid this pitfall, they should consult staff ahead of any changes and consider the implications of new technology for staff training and development, job design and job quality. This needs to happen when considering introducing new technology right through to the point of implementation and beyond.  

“Our research found that more than half of employees when questioned said that AI or automation did not help them to do their job better, highlighting clear risks to productivity if the human element of work is missed. 

“Employers need to be ready to engage with their workers to understand how job design and organisational policies and processes will change and to ensure that workers won’t be left behind in a new era of technological advancement.” 

“The select committee is right to be encouraging the opportunity of greater automation but this must go hand in hand with a programme of clear guidance for firms highlighting opportunities and risks. This will be especially important amongst smaller firms.”  

CIPD/PA Consulting research from April 2019 found that: 

- Just under a third (32%) of UK organisations have invested in AI and automation in the last five years 

-  54% of employees said that AI or automation had NOT helped them to do their job better, 28% felt it had and 19% neither agreed or disagreed, highlighting the risk to performance gains  

- Overall 35% of employers saw more and 25% saw fewer jobs in the areas most affected by AI and automation (others saw no change)