Microchipped staff & more AI? | What people leaders need to know about the future of HR

What people leaders need to know about the future of HR

Microchipping employees may be on the horizon, almost half of business leaders claim in a recent survey by Advanced. Are HR leaders equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities that come with the “4th Industrial Revolution” of digital transformation?

  • Amidst fears of mass job losses, one in three business leaders think that AI will replace at least half of their manual processes.

  • Employees are demanding better tech: 77% of hybrid and remote workers say they would be more committed to their role if their company provided them with better technology.

  • New technology is being rolled out faster than ever before. A recent TUC survey of more than 2,209 workers in the UK showed that 60% believed they had been subject to some form of surveillance and monitoring at their current or most recent job, up from 53% in 2020.

60% of HR professionals think AI will have a positive impact on how HR operates, whilst younger generations are already on board - with 40% already using AI in their daily working lives.

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People Management experts at Advanced outline our fears of futuristic tech: what do HR professionals need to know? Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer at Advanced says: “HR departments need to urgently address the opportunities and challenges associated with this transformation.”

Most HR professionals agree that microchipping employees is a bad idea, with at least 11 US states having banned employee microchipping at the time of writing. But are People & Culture teams ready for the large volume of ‘the next big thing’ technologies? On the one hand, many employees fear mass job losses due to AI and automation. On the other hand, as tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z employees will soon make up the majority of employees, the adoption of new technologies has never been more important to attract and retain talent. Amidst all this, companies are trying to keep up: 40% of employees state their organisation’s leadership is prioritising technology investment.

Assessing challenges of new technologies

New technology typically comes with new risks, particularly when in the early stages where possible negative outcomes are yet to be revealed. From cybersecurity risks to ethical implications, the sought-after innovations that improve our working lives can also create a whole new set of challenges for business leaders.

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The pandemic triggered a widespread surge in employee monitoring, with companies using surveillance software to monitor teams working from home. Being watched can have a hugely negative impact on employee morale, making people feel less trusted and more micro-managed than before. “Employers need to consider the proportionality and necessity of new technologies, weighing convenience against the impact new additions might have on employee morale.” Advanced Chief People Officer Alex Arundale says.

Technology exists to make our lives easier

However, the fear of new technologies should not hamper innovation, Arundale continues: “Technology exists to make our lives easier, hence workplace technology should make working easier. The digital solutions that we use now are streamlining processes, reducing arduous and time-consuming workflows, enhancing communications, and allowing teams to share one true version of information immediately. In short, technology has taken much of the legwork out of many roles, allowing people to focus on more rewarding tasks such as strategy, creativity, innovation and collaboration.”

“Today’s digital natives, the generation that has grown up with the internet and Cloud-based technologies, are much more open to the role that technology will play in their working and home lives.” Alex Arundale notes. “Employers can leverage those skills and expectations to help build a sustainable skills pipeline for the future.”

HR teams as ‘AI evangelists’

Do People & Culture teams possess the tech and data knowledge to separate fact from fiction, and recognise challenges and opportunities that new technologies bring? HR teams are highly trained in communication and people skills, but historically they haven’t had to sift through large volumes of data.

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Now, with employee experience relying on large datasets, Arundale urges HR teams to improve their data fluency: “HR teams need to be the ones making decisions about if and when to automate, whether to reskill or redeploy the human workforce – and the ethical/moral implications of such decisions. They will need to recommend how to get the best from technology and from people.”

Arundale envisions People and Culture teams as disruptors, experimenting with new tools, models, learning strategies and coaching techniques so they can continue to attract, develop, train and retain top talent.

“HR professionals can assume a key role as AI evangelists, promoting and supporting company-wide applications. HR must begin to anticipate the impact AI will have on the composition and skill redevelopment of the future workforce – and workforce planning models must be updated. With AI taking on roles that perform repetitive tasks, new skill sets will emerge which will affect the future needs of the organisation.“

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