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THE BURDEN OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY: WHAT SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS DO TO MITIGATE EMPLOYEES’ FEAR OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) ADOPTION?

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The article is written by Edward Murray. Edward was part of the 2019/20 cohort of MSc Management at Trinity Business School and he is currently working for Natta Building Company. Alongside Dr Jongwook Pak, assistant professor at Trinity Business School

 

The exponential growth and implementation of technology into the everyday life of billions worldwide has inevitably led to radical changes to large proportions of our daily functions and practices, of which the growing use and coverage of artificial intelligence has epitomised. Although, as a society, we have recently been highly open-minded towards technological advancements into our daily work and private lives, with some exceptions to the trend, AI implementation has been met with a great deal of scepticism… but why? Our research aimed to understand the mechanics behind employees’ fear of AI and how corporate managers can provide viable resolutions to this growing fear of AI adoption at an organizational level. The big question for organisations is how they can fulfil their duty of care and alleviate these fears of AI, especially when deep-rooted in society.  Organisations striving to put AI into their everyday practices but are concerned that their workforce may be reluctant to adapt to working alongside AI should assess the viability of implementing two organisational HR practices of well-being and up/re-skilling practices. From our research, it was clear that both practices have significant benefits for an organisation’s economic performance.

 

Dr Jongwook Pak

Employees current fears of AI

The fear that has been denoted through varying sources of individuals’ fear of AI is genuine. Whilst it may seem superficial, a high proportion of employees’ fear of AI stems initially from prior media exposure to science fiction. The often damning portrayal of AI through advanced robotics in films explicitly shapes individuals’ perceptions of the power that AI harnesses. Whilst the denominations of AI that organisations are currently striving to apply into their daily practices are vastly different from the media’s portrayal, individuals have transferred these perceptions over to basic algorithms that can help resolve long-standing organisational inefficiencies. The real threat to human-AI collaboration within organisations comes from its power to usurp the basic capabilities which many professions currently depend upon. Although AI does harness the power to take over a high proportion of jobs from the existing labour markets, the portrayal of AI within science-fiction films and other media sources has vastly exasperated individuals’ fear of such technological advancements without demonstrating the upside of AI adoption, which is mass job-creation when individuals up-skill.

 

Organisations’ roles and responsibilities

Our research supported the idea that some individuals fear AI due to its portrayal in the media. However, it is thought that the scope for job creation through the implementation of AI is far greater than that of job loss through AI replacement of human workers. Organisations have a responsibility for both themselves and their employees to assess the areas in which AI could be integrated into their organisation and adapt their current workforce to future organisational needs. The two main options for organisations to fulfil this duty of care are either up/re-skill practices or well-being practices. Our research evaluated these two varying HR practices to ascertain which method is most viable for organisations striving to adopt AI, or whether an amalgamation of both is best for mitigating employees’ fear of AI. The implementation of these practices demonstrated clear managerial implications such as eradicating human bias and organisational inefficiencies and addressing the core fears that have burdened employees since the development of AI.

 

Edward Murray

Re-skilling and up-skilling

So what exactly are up/re-skilling practices? Simplistically, they are practices put in place at an organisational level to facilitate employees’ technical development. During change initiatives such as rolling out AI within an organisation, access to up/re-skilling practices will be paramount as employees are unlikely to have previously worked with AI. Indeed, the necessity of re/up-skilling employees is evident, with the merits of implementing such training regimes benefiting employees’ capacity and likelihood to work alongside AI and other forward-thinking technology. The up/re-skilling of employees is a fundamental driver for organisational growth. It will also benefit individual development, inclusive growth, and future sustainability for employees to cope with future technological advancements. The global workforce will have to adapt to change alongside the rise of automation and AI, with the core skills that many companies will require exponentially changing in the coming years. Therefore, the success of AI adoption and subsequent organisational performance will inherently hinge on the level of offering task-specific, technical training to their employees to adapt to these new working methods.

 

Employee well-being

Well-being practices are essentially what it says on the tin; initiatives put in place to help improve the overall psychological state of the workforce of which could come through stress intervention programmes or through other means to boost morale. As previous research has alluded to, there is a profound fear of AI within the masses, stemming from various sources, which innately has to be tackled. Intervention initiatives such as stress intervention programmes were a viable idea put forward by many respondents to tackle the additional stress that may occur when employees complete the training required to upskill when AI is implemented into an organisation. Additionally, this will help the organisation maintain a motivated and stable workforce.  In reality, employees’ well-being has often been sacrificed in favour of pursuing business-oriented performance outcomes, but neglecting employees’ well-being can be damaging. We explicitly observed from the research that implementing supportive measures such as stress intervention practices and other well-being oriented practices helped develop employees’ inclination to work in unison with AI and other forward-thinking technologies.

In closing, it was clear that the successful implementation of AI depends on organisations’ commitment to their employees – their development and well-being. Investing in up/re-skilling their employees and effective well-being initiatives will help create a unified and highly skilled workforce capable of utilising AI for all it is worth.

 

Business

HOW WILL DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION EFFECT JOBS SKILLED IN TECH

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Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

 

The world of technology is constantly evolving, and digital skills are also rapidly changing over the years. The interaction with the end customer is becoming more and more digital since the pandemic, therefore tech jobs, particularly in the banking industry, may need professionals to “humanise” the interfaces used by customers.

 

Tech jobs on the rise

Tech talent is growing, particularly in the Artificial Intelligence (predictive, customer profiling, etc.) sector, and technical skills regarding augmented reality, the user experience, and interface design are also on the rise. The outbreak of the pandemic has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the digitisation of processes, therefore jobs that specifically require knowledge of digital skills has increased in order to meet the needs of customers. Tech jobs remain focused on specialised areas of tech, however as the technology industry is in constant flux, some areas might be in more of a demand in comparison to others.

 

How remote working will affect the tech talent pool

The increase of remote working has already impacted the tech skills business, as the day-to-day working environment now exists in the digital realm. Tech skills are needed now more than ever, and employers have a huge role to play in helping people to continue their personal development while continuing home working. They need to focus on their personal development in order to build the workforce they need for tomorrow’s world.

 

Skills beneficial to the banking industry

There has been a massive shortage of skilled candidates in digital and technology disciplines. IT and financial companies need to upskill existing staff to fill these exciting new roles. In an age of high-frequency change, learning is truly for a lifetime.

In the debate about tomorrow’s skills in the banking sector, the rising value of each employee has often been overlooked. People are a valuable asset as machines take on the more robotic processes, and uniquely human skills come to the fore. How we develop these skills becomes a critical question for employers and workers alike. It will be many years before schools and universities nurture students well versed in these skills.

 

More tech talent required for business digital transformation

The process of digital transformation has already started with some businesses as a modernization process. This has undoubtedly accelerated strongly following the COVID-19 pandemic which forced everyone to overcome situations of technological immaturity and to radically review flows, work processes and models of consolidated business. Digitisation has entered even more pervasively into working life, becoming an essential and permanent condition, and making it necessary to acquire skills that are best suited to the new digital paradigms.

It’s inevitable that companies looking for ways to counteract the effects of the pandemic on their operations will ask their technology function to bear part of the burden. However, they must be strategic about any shifts made to the tech workforce. To ensure that vital digital services remain up and running, organizations must do everything possible to protect mission-critical talent. By showing their support now, companies can create goodwill that will carry over to when better times return.

Another of the direct consequences of remotisation is the emergence of new demands for soft skills suitable for managing collaborations and partnerships as well as specific technological talents that are increasingly specialized to support the new needs of businesses.

 

Tech skills that companies can use for their benefit

The movement towards technological areas are becoming increasingly crucial. Companies must necessarily equip themselves with professionals experienced in cybersecurity and train their people on the adoption of new operating models to protect all internal workflows from possible cyberattacks. In parallel, the need to acquire skills in the cloud, artificial intelligence, automation and user experience fields is growing exponentially in order to adequately support the changes in progress and allow work processes to be increasingly safe, intelligent and functional as well as suitable for supporting the new business models developed by companies following the pandemic.

 

How tech skills will support remote working

Soft skills are essential as they allow remote management and collaboration in virtual environments, but the importance of digital skills is growing. All HR departments are engaged in planning and finalizing training and learning projects whose main topic is information and communication technologies. The high complexity and technological vastness necessarily imply a high level of know-how and specialization in order to guarantee an optimal performance in the production and line areas, unlike the managerial or corporate areas where a disciplinary transversality of skills is generally privileged to allow a global overview.

Businesses have to work in order to build the right talent into the organization as a long-term plan during and after the pandemic, and this might be possible by applying AI, automation, and other exponential technologies to make workflows more intelligent. All of this affords a new opportunity to build better businesses and a better world. It starts with enabling a diverse workforce to perform optimally, and building trust and confidence among employees will be critical. How they are treated now will have an outsize impact on perceptions and value in the future.

 

Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

Maria Paola Resta has been a HR Manager at Auriga since 2018. Her role includes the coordination and overseeing of the group’s HR initiatives. She has a background in occupational and organizational psychology, and has been working in the human resources profession for 15 years. Her role focusses on talent acquisition, people development, training and employee relations. In the last 10 years she has worked in the HR departments of important companies that specialise in Information Technology, and her roles have increased in responsibility as she has progressed throughout her career.

 

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Banking

TO ENABLE BETTER LENDING FOR PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES, WE HAVE TO LOOK TO OPEN BANKING

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By Iain McDougall, CCO of Yapily

 

A recent FCA study found over 14 million people were grappling with financial issues at the end of 2020, representing more than a quarter of the UK adult population. The picture is similarly tough for SMEs, too, which have been impacted hugely by lockdowns, loss of earnings and more; it’s estimated the pandemic will cost SMEs an extra £173,000 in debt per year.

This is resulting in a lack of lending options for both consumers and businesses, as well as expensive or high interest loans, or worse, rejection from lenders all together. This in turn is driving unaffordable lending, and penning consumers and businesses in an ongoing and irresolvable debt cycle – at a time when they need the most support.

One of the biggest causes of this lies in lenders relying on credit scores and credit bureau data to inform their decisions, which simply aren’t accurate enough to truly get the full picture of a borrower’s financial situation.

The case for using Open Banking data in lending decisions has never been stronger.

Data accessed through Open Banking permits lenders to retrieve accurate information about the borrower’s financial history. This can provide more accurate assessments, and therefore enable fairer lending decisions.

 

Credit scores aren’t helping consumers

Take NHS workers as an example. Despite working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, NHS workers make up a sizable portion of the UK adult population currently struggling with debt.

Iain McDougall

An independent report from the University of Edinburgh Business School, in partnership with Salad Projects, found NHS workers are heavily reliant on long-term overdrafts and high-cost credit, where APR is as high as 1,333%. Almost all (93%) respondents said they use one or more types of credit or loan, compared with 75% in the wider UK population (according to the Financial Lives Survey). More than half (58%) use up to three loan providers and 68% use up to four loan providers.

This situation is the result of relying solely on credit scores. While these are the near-universally accepted method of determining credit terms, each credit reference agency has a different method for calculating a credit score. They rely solely on financial history, whether they’ve previously defaulted, or failed to get credit, and not a consumer’s actual financial position, whether they’ve recently got a pay rise or new income, to see how likely it is they will pay back any money borrowed. This can mean, no matter if a consumer’s financial position has changed, they can’t get a better loan because of a previous discrepancy.

 

The challenges facing SMEs

These issues are not just limited to consumers. SMEs, particularly those in the hardest hit industries like hospitality and travel, have struggled to access credit throughout the pandemic.

While many may have been thriving pre-pandemic, their lack of ability to turn a profit during lockdowns, meant they needed extra support. In an effort to keep these industries alive, we saw numerous government backed loan schemes launched, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, to help struggling businesses survive. In total, these schemes have provided almost £180 billion worth of lending to date, supporting over a quarter of businesses in the UK.

However, the soaring demand from businesses in need of these vital funds meant lenders were unable to keep up and many businesses did not receive support quickly enough. What’s more, providers may register these types of loans with credit reference agencies, which means companies that previously had strong credit ratings may see their credit scores negatively affected by any delayed or missed repayments.

This is why it’s vital for lenders to get lending limits right the first time round, so SMEs can avoid potentially adding to their already growing list of debt and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

 

Enhancing lending with Open Banking 

Using Open Banking can add a much-needed layer of trust and loan personalisation for businesses and individuals. By basing credit decisioning on real-time financial data, lenders will be able to create a more accurate picture of their financial situation; and so make fairer credit offers.

Through adopting Open Banking principles, lenders will be able to onboard new customers and grant loans more efficiently, providing businesses with the cashflow required to maintain their workforce and support the economy.

With the borrowers’ consent, it will also give lenders oversight into how the economy is recovering, and enable them to monitor the rate at which the individual or business can expect the loan to be repaid. Meaning they can step in and provide extra support if and when required.

Open Banking provides what credit scores alone simply cannot – real-time insight into an individual’s or a businesses financial position right now, not three to six months ago. By leveraging the data that is readily available to them, lenders could achieve far better and more responsible outcomes. This will reduce the risk of loan default – for both businesses and individuals – and lead to more responsible lending decisions that can help people and businesses bounce back after what has been a difficult year.

 

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