· Features

Cover story: AI risks and hazards (Part 2)

In part two of our September/October issue's cover story, Jo Gallacher explores the risks inherent in the powerful new technology of AI.

How can AI contribute to workplace strategy?

Setting strategic objectives, and following through on these, will be a consistent HR challenge. Raven Housing Trust’s Mixter recommends testing out the tech to see where it can add value to business strategy.

She says: “If you want to find out what AI could do for your sector, then honestly why not ask ChatGPT to write an AI strategy for your specific sector. It is surprisingly insightful.

“I did it for housing and it covered all the areas I would have expected, from speeding up call centre response times to helping detect patterns in reports of damp and mold across large volumes of properties, to predictive analytics that help us to consider what is going to happen in future. It is phenomenal at getting to accurate answers from large knowledge bases.”

Miss part one? Read it here: Cover story: AI risks and hazards

Just like any new development, Mixter recommends both employees and employers go in with an open mind.

She adds: “If a member of staff is curious and finds out more about AI, they can bring that to the attention of their aligned digital team and explore quickly whether a new AI solution could bring a positive benefit.

“Work with digital principles that allow fast exploration of new tech in local teams and only bring central controls to the picture if necessary, e.g. if the AI could have a much wider impact across the whole organisation.”

What will be the impact on job losses?

As with any transformational shift , jobs will inevitably be impacted. But the likelihood of total job replacement is minimal, Beamery’s Obi insists.

She says: “Inevitably, there will be circumstances where AI will take away some elements of a role, but it won’t necessarily replace entire roles. In addition, we will see the emergence of new roles related to AI, including governance and prompt engineering.

“The more proactive employees, and employers, can be in understanding the new skills that will be needed, and taking advantage of opportunities to develop these skills, the more resilient individuals and companies will be to the upcoming changes.”

As helpful as AI systems can be in automating administrative parts of a job role, Beamery does point to the impact this may have on junior employees who often start their careers in admin-level roles.

She adds: “As a society we need to understand more about what that will mean for future generations entering the workplace and ensure our education system is equipping people with the skills needed to be employable.”

Read more: Skills for the future: How tech can help solve the skills conundrum

A report by digital skills training provider Makers also predicts the new evolution of work is much more likely to impact white-collar workers than blue-collar, in contrast to the industrial revolutions of the past. Benedikt Ilg, CEO and co-founder of digital app Flip, is concerned tech developments may increase an already widening social mobility gap.

He says: “Deskless workers, by nature of their roles, are away from all of the action that is happening inside the office, and by consequence, are somewhat removed from the developments that are happening in the AI field.

“The reality today is that frontline workers don’t even have the digital tools to communicate or plan their workdays as they lack the technology. To be able to make AI work in the blue-collar space, frontline workers need the tools and technology to connect them to their workplaces.”

If HR can provide deskless workers with the same tools as office-based employees, the tech can be continually fed more data, making it more intelligent. For this to happen, Ilg recommends HR prioritise the same learning opportunities for all workers.

He adds: “The future of work for HR will be AI-augmented. AI will be able to tell HR who will quit, who is on the edge of quitting, and who needs to be engaged more. The blue-collar space needs to become part of the data foundation for AI in order for HR to enhance their work in a future of AI.”

How much should organisations be investing in AI?

At a time of stagnant wage growth and continuous strike action, spending big on new tech may not be great optics. But Cara Allamano, chief people officer at Lattice, says it’s not always about signing a blank cheque to the next new thing.

She says: “It’s important to remember that many of your existing tools and processes include AI components, so this isn’t a totally new concept or challenge. Tools like ChatGPT have drastically improved the ease of access to complex AI models and democratised the ability to leverage AI in our day-to-day work.”

Read more: Automation top investment priority for business in next two years

As is often the case, Allamano recommends HR do plenty of research before they commit to any spending.

She says: “HR could start by assessing the potential low-risk areas of its business where AI could be leveraged. Employers should conduct a listening tour to better understand how employees are already using AI tools in their professional lives and identify the high-risk and no-go areas where AI should not be integrated.”

With Makers predicting that each of the UK’s 30 million workforce will now need to be upskilled or supported through a career shift, the pressure is on for HR to figure out how AI will impact its business both operationally and strategically.

HR professionals may not have all the answers, but it seems like no one else does either. Plenty more guidance and case studies are bound to be developed over the next 12 months, so networking and sharing knowledge is paramount.

It’s worth remembering HR has successfully managed many curveballs in the past, so what’s a new bit of tech compared to a global pandemic, anyway?

What to include in AI policy (according to ChatGPT)

HR magazine: Can you summarise in 50 words what should be included in company AI policy?

ChatGPT: An AI policy should include guidelines on data privacy, transparency in AI decision-making, ethical AI usage, employee training, data security measures, compliance with legal regulations, accountability mechanisms, and a commitment to continuous AI system monitoring and improvement.