Working in a digital age has unleashed a chorus of new public policy debates on both the national and global levels. Should national governments intervene in AI and other tech-driven developments? If so, how? And what international standards should be tuned-up going forward? Lots of questions and uncertainty in a shape-shifting landscape.
But one thing is crystal clear: There has never been a more critical time for the global HR services sector to be in synch and amplify its collective voice. How can national federations and industry leaders affect the current symphony of seismic changes to labour markets and the world of work? Here are six drivers of advocacy voice and visibility in this digital age:
- Making it real – Recruitment and HR professionals are at the front line of the labour market; they are uniquely placed to pre-empt the practical implications of technology for employers and job seekers. Deciphering what technology-driven evolutions really mean in practice is a significant challenge for policymakers; this is the opportunity for tech-savvy recruitment and employment experts to be ‘apostles of change.’ Bettina Schaller, President of the World Employment Confederation (WEC), states: “Our aim must be to put forward practical recommendations and data to shape new policy approaches that will maximize benefits and manage risks for workers, citizens, and society.”
- Reframing the debate – Technology innovation will always create risks and opportunities; finding the right balance in regulatory responses is the name of the campaigning game. And a good starting point is to move away from an entrenched and binary ‘tech is good’ or ‘tech is bad’ worldview. It all depends on the use that is being made of it. It’s not the what; it’s the how. This position was the scene-setting clarion call from Anisha Nadkarni, Data Ethics Officer at Randstad, at the World Employment Conference 2023 debate on technology adoption.
- Owning the recruitment impact – Recruitment and selection procedures are prime high-impact areas for AI, platform work, the metaverse, and other technological development. The balancing act involves weighing the benefits of enhanced speed, efficiency, and candidate experience against potential risk factors such as lack of transparency and data protection. It begins and ends with trust and with ensuring that a tech-enabled labour market works for all. The bottom line is that the recruitment and HR services sector must remain at the forefront and take ownership of any national, regional, or global policy debate on recruitment and employment. It was good to hear Gilbert Houngbo, Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), acknowledge this role at the World Employment Conference 2023. The HR services industry can also count on a large community of partners bringing additional expertise on the matter. Ius Laboris, WEC’s legal and regulatory affiliate partner, has, for instance, a series of resources on the potential challenges of working in the metaverse and how employers should prepare for it.
- Connecting the dots – Technology is a significant driver of change, but how does this interact with other labour market and social dynamics? Making these linkages was one of the aims of the report by the World Employment Confederation and the International Organisation of Employers on how diverse forms of work (notably through platform work) can contribute to the delivery of UN Sustainable Development Goals around decent work, reducing inequalities and encouraging innovative business models. The ability to look at the bigger picture and harness various forces of change will also be crucial in ensuring a level playing field and effective enforcement of whatever new regulations come to the fore.
- ‘Future-fixing’ skills and education policy – Working with policymakers to ensure that education and skills policy reflects a changing world of work is a further opportunity for the global HR services sector to amplify its collective voice. This will also involve building new partnerships with education experts and developing innovative approaches to capturing and storing individual skills data to make it easier for people to enter and re-enter the workforce. This is at the heart of WEC’s partnership with the Velocity Network Foundation, a non-profit consortium aiming to build an ‘Internet of Careers™.’
- Showing, not telling – Advocacy and campaigning impact comes from strong arguments, compelling data, and thought leadership. It also comes from ‘action leadership’ – i.e., showcasing the sector’s commitment to practicing what it preaches on priority policy issues as well as its ongoing social impact. A great example of this is WEC’s adoption of ethical AI principles that all members have bought into. Another example is providing practical insight into the benefits and pitfalls of using AI in labour market matching that fed into high-profile OECD research.
The focus on AI ethics was ramped up a few notches earlier this month with the ‘godfather of AI’ Geoffrey Hinton, warning of increasing dangers and risks. This debate will only intensify over the coming years. And the global HR services industry will be at the forefront of harmonising touch and tech and fine-tuning the policy framework for this brave new world of work.