We’re going back to the office: but fears that computers are waiting there to take our jobs are rising

It won’t be new news to anyone talking to HR leaders trying to orchestrate successful returns to a safe workplace by a hopefully fully-vaccinated workforce as UK lockdown eases, but remote work has HR departments completely reconsidering how workers interact with their organisations.

That’s the conclusion, at least, of an interesting look at how the recent employee experience has been driving HR thinking in specialist US HR publication Benefits Pro. It’s also a trend well summed up by this opinion piece in Your Story: “Compared to the pre-pandemic times, when economic gains associated with a project would drive a business decision for an organisation, the pandemic and the subsequent remote-working environment has changed the way businesses function, with companies realising that it’s the people that matter beyond the processes.”

Glad to hear… but how to translate these new concerns about integrating the remote worker in a more human-centric culture into reality? Technology, yes, but there are already concerns here raised by the TUC that use of one of the advanced technologies the HR automation market favours highly, AI, could lead to widespread discrimination—stoking fears that employers may already be using ‘algorithms’ to make ‘life changing’ choices about us without the involvement of a human manager.

A sobering write-up of the union body’s report in People Management reminds us that without “fair rules” the use of AI could lead to “widespread discrimination and unfair treatment—especially for those in insecure work and the gig economy”. Clearly, the HR tech sector needs to work with both employers and employees on these concerns—which may be magnified by the fact that as many as a third of all HR roles at risk of automation, according to a bulletin on trends identified in Singapore in Personnel Today, with administrative roles within talent management, performance, reward and organisation development in particular peril.

We seem to be entering a very delicate phase when it comes to how we want to work, and who gets the chance—with technology right at the heart of the debate.

thedmccollaborators editor

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