Last week I spent a few days away from home attending the Annual Conference of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which takes place every year in Manchester England.
As regular readers of this blog will know, we believe that there is an inextricable link between good employee relations and good customer service. So therefore, many of the issues discussed at the Conference relating to HR are also very relevant to customer satisfaction and customer service generally.
There were numerous seminars, keynote speakers, and educational activities taking place at the Conference, but just two of them that especially caught my attention were related to artificial intelligence and employee well-being. Both of these have a direct impact not just on company staff, but also on customers as well, and I have briefly summarised some of the interesting points below.
Health and Wellbeing
Dr Judith Grant, associate director of health and wellbeing at Mace Group, shared her experiences of joining the construction firm and developing a strategic approach to their employees’ wellbeing. She said that the company had previously focused on safety, but had never approached health and wellbeing in a strategic way.
In her view: “traditional occupational health is the focus of a construction company, and many viewed health and wellbeing as offering our employees bicycles and smoothies - not really strategic in any way. The culture was such that we whispered about health, murmured about wellbeing and actually talked about safety.”
Grant said that she worked with senior leaders to create a collective definition of wellbeing for Mace Group and align that definition with the overall business strategy. They also used a wellbeing survey to get a measure of the overall health of the workforce to target intervention towards identified issues such as smoking and diet.
According to Grant: “the sites who reported higher wellbeing on the surveys ended up reporting higher levels of productivity, and we were able to demonstrate a clear link between wellbeing and intention to leave.”
Cheryl Allan, Atos's director of HR transformation warned delegates to be careful with tech terminology. The terms 'AI', 'automation' and 'robots' are used interchangeably and people don't always understand the difference. In her view: "different tech terms are bandied around under artificial intelligence, but they all have different implications for the world of work."
Meanwhile, the Institute of Apprenticeships Chief Officer Robert Nitsch said that organisations need to use terms that resonate with people, or they'll be rejected. He advocated the use of more user-friendly words like 'digital' when describing new and emerging technologies, rather than 'AI' or 'automation' and he added that we're in danger of having an "allergic reaction" to words if they're not used properly.
Megan Marie Butler, HR AI analyst at CognitionX, suggested that humans are going to need to "redevelop their skills every few years" to keep up with changing technology, and she asserted that “digital literacy, emotional intelligence and a growth mind-set” are going to be the three most important skills needed in the future.