Three ways for HR to win engagement
By laying the groundwork for engaging employees, CHROs can play an important role in avoiding this kind of disaster. They have three things to do. First, they need to counter common fears and put nervous minds at rest. Many employees have a straightforward, visceral fear of AI: “It’s coming for my job.” So a vital starting point is stripping away the hype about AI’s scope.
This dovetails with the CHRO’s second task: to inject some realism into the discussion. Among the more extreme reactions to AI are from those people who see it as something like “Skynet” from the Terminator movie franchise, but in the business world it is nothing like that. So HR needs to explain in straightforward, practical terms how AI will be used in the business.
The third task is to build understanding of AI’s positives. Automation and AI are brilliant tools for cutting out the “Four Ds”: tasks that are dull, dangerous, dirty, and dear. There is a real upside in freeing employees to focus on more creative and rewarding work.
How to get through to the workforce
To communicate these messages, CHROs need to encourage dialogue with employees. Blanket emails to thousands of people across the company will barely be read. Instead, HR should work alongside line managers to support them to have direct conversations with employees who might be affected by AI implementation.
Line managers are in a better position to explain to their teams how AI tools might change and enhance what they do, and highlight the positives while addressing individuals’ fears sensitively. They can also be a conduit for passing back common concerns. So HR needs to educate and support those line managers in having those conversations. At the same time, they will have to develop policies to support those whose jobs are affected by new technologies, such as opportunities for reskilling, upskilling, and redeployment.
The other people CHROs must work with are chief technology officers or chief data officers and their teams. A closer relationship than in the past will help HR to find out exactly how automation and AI are being used within the organization.
Underpinning these new relationships is education: CHROs will need to develop a basic practical understanding of how AI can be used. Reading around the topic can help, as can engaging with technology experts within the business.
AI is going to become even bigger news in the coming years. But organizations will struggle to make AI a success without their workforce on board – and for that, they need their CHROs.