HR should lead the C-suite in AI policy
HR must lead the C-suite's attitude and response to the development of AI, Anna Thomas, co-founder of the Institute for Future of Work.
She said: “There is a new role for HR in connecting, translating and moderating AI.
“That means connecting the machines and humans by finding new ways to engage with the workforce through AI and lead your colleagues’ perceptions and attitudes towards AI.
“As AI is gathering so much more workforce data, HR must translate what this data means and what it can be used for. Through that, they can make strategic suggestions about what the data tells us to do.
“We need to moderate, critiquing and challenging assumptions that our business leaders make around AI. We need to know all the benefits, but also the risks around different ways it can be implemented.”
Natalie Sheils, CPO of Mosaic Group, added: “AI is moving at a daunting pace but it's very important for us to become knowledgeable about AI. There's never been a more exciting opportunity for HR to help our businesses grow and be a strong strategic partner through this. This can really strengthen our position with business leaders.”
Education policies need to be linked to the job market
The needs of employers in terms of skills is not matched up to the training currently provided, according to Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People.
He said: “If we’re going to become more prosperous, we have to do something about our skills system."
Jo Sellick, managing director at recruitment firm Sellick Partnership, said the lack of stability in government has prevented any real progress in skills development.
He said: “Since July 2019, we have had six education secretaries. With so much change you’re not going to get any cohesive education policy and it is going to be flawed.
“The education policies we need to adopt need to be continually linked to the job market. There’s a real skills gap where employers are looking for the ability to code their workplace, and it’s just not working.
“We need closer collaboration between government, industry and education. At the moment it’s very disjointed.”
Ex-offenders face unique barriers at work
Personal and bespoke support should be provided for employees with previous convictions, according to Dawn Moore, group director of people and communications at J Murphy & Sons, which actively recruits from a local prison.
She said: "When recruitment from prisons doesn't work out, it's not usually as dramatic as people think, such as people reoffending. It's these personal challenges that HR may not think of.
"In my own experience, a brilliant candidate didn't show up on the first day. When we tracked him down, he had missed his alarm clock. He told as that as he had been in prison for seven and a half years, he had woken up, eaten, exercised and gone to sleep at the sound of a jingle of keys. Waking up to an alarm just wasn't normal for him anymore, which is something we'd never have thought of.
"After that first mistake, he had completely lost his confidence and he actually just needed some mental health support."
Duncan O'Leary, chief executive of the New Futures Network, which brokers connections between employers and prisons, added that support needs to start before the first day of work.
He said: "Employers need to look beyond conviction and to the individual. Work with employees to figure out what bespoke support you need to give them and make a plan before their first day of work to avoid any problems."
HR can’t be complacent when it comes to workplace culture
Speaking on toxic workplace cultures, author Susan Hetric asked conference delegates how many people professionals had worked in a toxic workplace.
Nearly everyone attending the session put their hand up.
Hetric said: “In our quest for a seat at the table, have we lost our primary role as the guardian for organisational justice?
“We used to talk about personnel management being tea and sympathy, today it should be about wellness and empathy.
“HR policies, counselling and coaching are all key to wellbeing. When an organisation takes action on toxicity, people know there is zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour.”
Hetric raised a series of recommendations on how to prevent toxic workplaces, from enabling psychological safety to management training as an insurance policy.
She added: “Even if you think you have a great culture in your organisation, it’s not just frozen in time and things change.
“It’s about being cognisant and always monitoring, being clear about behaviours and understanding what’s going on. Never get complacent.”