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What About the People? The Human Resource Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and How Organizations Can Best Prepare.

Updated: Jul 4


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by Stacy Sprague, PhD R.Psych and Steven Tam, Partner, INQ Law 


A large public sector organization was thrilled to be purchasing a very efficient

scheduling system. It would make calls, send messages, set schedules that were timely

and geographically efficient. It would comply with any required hours per employee

group, reduce and identify those who were accumulating a high amount of overtime,

and it would save millions of dollars - but it meant the displacement of many unionized

workers. The positive side was clear. But the people side had not been planned and as

a result the organization struggled in HR related matters that derailed the smooth

implementation of the AI system. With planning and attention to the people – much of

this could have been averted.


A well-known and highly reputable private sector company realized that AI could

improve quality and efficiency by removing a department that fact checked for their

research department. It was more efficient, more comprehensive and took seconds over

days. There were no longer mistakes. This was helpful to those who used the research,

but it meant the displacement of many jobs worldwide. There had not been a

comprehensive people transition plan and as a result these displaced workers who were

offered no support and no options created organizational disruption for the company

which was costly both to its people and its profit.


Artificial intelligence is here to stay and growing every day. But with it comes a huge

impact on many jobs and the people who hold those jobs and thus the need to

effectively establish a comprehensive people plan in any AI implementation. While it is

being hailed in many public and private sector organizations for its ability to improve

efficiencies and eliminate redundancies, it also significantly affects the people of those

organizations. Workforces are changing as a result of this technology, and many

organizations are not welcoming it with open arms. Jobs are and will be lost and people

displaced.


There are many things to consider when introducing AI to your workforce and unless a

plan for its people is made with the supporting policy and mitigation, the transition to AI

will not be welcomed and will leave organizations in human resource chaos. Without

recognizing the people, the introduction of AI to many public and private sector

organizations has the potential to create more risk than reward.


Public sector organizations may face the additional complexity of managing their

relationship with unions, who have historically been advocates for their members, and

when the employer position was not one that a union could agree upon or could not be

successfully negotiated, a strike would occur. This becomes particularly poignant in an

era where automation threatens many traditional, often union-based roles.


Luckily there are things that can be done to properly manage the changes AI is bringing

to ensure smooth implementation and follow-up that can be done to ensure its future

success. This takes planning, funding and time and needs to be recognized as a crucial

factor in any AI integration project. Ideally, and from the onset, Human Resource (HR)

departments need to think about these implications on their people before an AI

integration and not as an afterthought that can be easily managed. For public sector

organizations, this means proactively working collaboratively with unions in developing

a plan for any displaced workers.


To best prepare for these changes, HR departments in both public and private sectors

need to adopt proactive strategies that include:

  • conducting workforce assessments to understand their workforce’s capabilities and gaps and potential for automation;

  • identifying which jobs are susceptible to automation and gauging employees’ attitudes through surveys or focus groups;

  • investing in reskilling and upskilling programs, training, support and change management for displaced workers;

  • developing guidelines and policies for proper governance and ethical AI use; and

  • enhancing AI literacy across the organization and developing continuous learning and career pathways for their changing workforce.


All these strategies along with regular and relentless communication to the workforce

about any AI implementation process will be integral to success. Internal cross

functional teams that include members from operations, strategy, analytics, legal,

privacy, data governance, finance, communications and human resources will work

most effectively. An HR representative on these teams is key to ensure an eye is

focused specifically on any implications for the people.


AI integration is not a “one and done” project. Once implemented, HR departments will

also need to be involved in continuously monitoring and evaluating the impact of AI on

the workforce, measuring employee satisfaction and organizational performance and

acting and adjusting their plan along the way. Through these proactive, interactive and

ongoing strategies, HR departments can and must play a pivotal role in planning and

preparing their organizations’ people for an AI-driven future and to ensure that the

benefits of AI are realized while minimizing potential disruptions.



 

How can we help?

INQ’s portfolio of AI services is customized to fit your specific needs and get you AI-ready. To learn more, visit our website at www.inq.consulting or contact us at ai@inq.consulting. To keep up with the latest in AI news, subscribe to the Think INQ newsletter.

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