A data-driven culture will be the biggest HR and ER trend in 2022. That was the headline last week in The HR Director which carries the message that forward-thinking HR leaders should know what type of intelligence they want to see, and manage it in a way that encourages their teams to make commercially-focused, business-critical decisions. We agree, data will be of huge importance in 2022, but be aware the regulators will have plenty to say about this - how data is gathered and how it’s used – so HR will need to be well on top of that.
Data is one of the issues flagged up by Helen Corden and Sue Gilchrist in their Outlaw article ‘Flexibility, digital and diversity issues to shape UK workplace in 2022’. They say HR professionals can expect a busy 12 months ahead, as digital transformation and the policy and public health response to Covid-19 continue to reshape the workplace. They say we can expect a digital transformation in the workplace in 2022 which will raise a number of challenging issues around equality, privacy and data protection, fairness, and workplace culture. They say artificial intelligence and data analytics can help deliver on HR processes, from recruitment to training, but HR should develop a framework for implementing digital solutions. They say that framework will need to factor in new guidance on monitoring workers and on using artificial intelligence tools in recruitment.
As we flagged back in August, UK employers can expect a wave of new data and AI guidance at some point in 2022 from both the ICO and the Commission. Last year the ICO announced it is planning to replace its current guidance with new guidance that addresses changes in data protection law and which reflects the changes in the way employers use technology and interact with staff. They intend addressing the processing of personal data in the context of recruitment, selection and verification, employment records, monitoring at work and workers’ health, as well as data processing in the context of TUPE. Between August and October last year, the ICO ran a consultation exercise seeking views from stakeholders into what that guidance will look like. They recently published a summary of all the responses received.
Separately, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it will provide guidance on how the Equality Act applies to the use of new technologies in automated decision-making. The Commission says it will be working with employers ‘to make sure that using artificial intelligence in recruitment does not embed biased decision-making in practice’. Those plans were outlined by the Commission in its draft strategic plan for 2022 to 2025.
So let’s hear more about both sets of guidance and their relevance to HR. Anne Sammon joined me by video-link to discuss the issues. I started by asking Anne what the regulators are planning:
Anne Sammon: “Well the ICO already has some existing guidance around using artificial intelligence but there has been some concern in the past that that maybe is difficult to understand and to properly implement and so the ICO has said that it's going to try and produce that in a more user friendly way and this is particularly important given that artificial intelligence seems to becoming more common and we seem to be seeing more instances of it. So it's really important that the employers and other organisations understand what their obligations are in relation to that from a data privacy perspective. In relation to the Equality and Human Rights Commission piece, their real concern is about automated decision making. So they're trying to ensure that where organisations are using artificial intelligence in a way to make decisions about individuals that those decisions aren't tainted by discrimination.”
Joe Glavina: “I can imagine HR being involved in the purchasing of AI, but what about implementing it? Is that something they should be concerned with?”
Anne Sammon “I think one of the really challenging things about artificial intelligence is its complexity and it's very easy to go into situations not fully understanding how the technology works and it’s so important that employers really do have a good understanding of what the technology is actually doing and how it's working so that they can help to identify if there are potential discrimination issues. Without that sort of knowledge of how the product works is very difficult to take mitigating steps to alleviate any disadvantage that the technology might be causing.”
Joe Glavina: “In your Outlaw article you say that before implementing AI tool it’s vital employers do some due diligence. What do you mean by that?”
Anne Sammon: “So I think there are two steps. The first step is the kind of procurement of that artificial intelligence tool and it's about making sure that the HR teams have the confidence to ask the right questions and don't allow themselves to be bamboozled by technological language. So I think that's the first piece, asking questions so that you understand how it works and what it does is a key part of this. Then there's a separate piece about how you communicate that to the individuals who are subject to that technology. So for example, if it's a recruitment exercise, I would expect HR teams to be talking to candidates about the technology that's being used, how and how it's being used, so that if there were questions raised by those candidates, in terms of potential disadvantage, the HR teams can respond accordingly.”
Joe Glavina: “You also mention in your Outlaw article that there are ethical issues around the use of AI. Why should HR take notice of that?
Anne Sammon: “I think that that there is the natural kind of human tendency to be interested in those issues. I also think that, from an HR perspective, having an awareness of what those issues are is quite important so that if employees, or potential recruits, challenge the use of AI on those bases the HR team are equipped to be able to provide reasoned, proper, responses rather than feeling kind of hijacked by those questions.”
The analysis piece by Helen Corden and Sue Gilchrist looking ahead to what we think HR professionals can expect in the months ahead is called ‘Flexibility, digital and diversity issues to shape UK workplace in 2022’ and is available from the Outlaw website.