Algorithms and Accountability

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Tech. Tech and HR. Tech and remote working. Tech and furlough. The technological revolution has accelerated in the last few years – notoriously in the advancements of algorithms, AI and robotics – and it has played a key role in the pandemic, helping people stay connected and businesses keep on going. HR has often been side-lined, last off the starting line in this tech evolution; other business departments often first in the pecking order for investments in technology. However, having been spectator in my husband’s virtual recruitment process, and managing a collective consultation in virtual times, the effect of technology during remote-working can rapidly turn whispers into rumours faster than Boris Johnson’s hand-shaking before announcing lock-down. Is it time HR got on the technology bandwagon? Have we seen the tech poison chalice in the last few months where the employee experience has, dare I say it, been negatively impacted by how quickly information can pass between individuals?


Firstly, I know – this is a long-standing issue; experts have talked about tech in HR for years. However, this conversation often aligns to the data collation piece and streamlining otherwise manual processes to free HR pros to truly partner with their business stakeholders by bringing people data to the forefront and enabling data-driven people decisions. What I’m talking about is the age of ‘instant HR’ – the slack or Microsoft Teams conversations where a ‘quick question’ seldom is quick and the responses live in the internet ether forever, and where the outcome of an interview is known to the candidates before having officially been informed by the hiring manager. Yikes!


Now, on the one hand, there is argument to say that these kind of things are to be expected in virtual times – everyone is trying their hardest to work within the confines of the new normal. However, on the other, how does this balance with protecting both the interests of the business and the individual and does HR have a part to play in this? In my view, I think that HR can play a part in this new era by partnering with other business departments on some of the following initiatives:


  1. GDPR/Data Protection refreshers – Whether you’re in the EU, or Timbuktu, there will probably be legal frameworks in place that protect personal information from being shared easily. It may be a good time for HR and Legal departments to consider refresher training for employee and manager populations and remind them of what should and, more importantly, should not be shared on instant messenger. Remember, this stuff can be disclosed as part of a GDPR Subject Data Access Request. Workplace instant messenger systems remain professional networks and, although it seems obvious, individuals should refrain from sharing incriminating personal data or viewpoints through these channels. Just think – don’t share what you don’t want shared in a court of law!

  2. Communication Channel Training – As businesses start implementing longer-term remote-working practices, it may be worth giving some consideration to the communication channels being used. From a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to have pieces of information across multiple channels and knowledge repository systems, and from a mental health perspective it can get very draining keeping track of multiple messages, and the countless versions of documents, landing in your inbox every day. It could be worth partnering with your communications department (if you have one) or stakeholders more broadly to outline an internal comms approach – should documents be worked on a collaborative channel such as slack for instance to save the hundreds of emails flying around? Or where is it more engaging for employees to click in and see company updates? If company email announcement click-through rates have declined, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking of a more engaging platform to centralise these.

  3. Don’t replicate the office online – This sounds obvious, however, the number of emails for me,personally, have gone up a hundred-fold. It kind of ties in with the above points, but remembering you’re not in the office is key at times like these – replicating meeting rooms with online versions is not the solution. Might that conversation be better over the phone for instance? Or are you better off sharing that bit of information at a later date or not at all? Have you written down agreed outcomes and minutes for the team meeting and shared them accordingly?

Overall, there’s an increasing sense of personal accountability required at times like this. Both from the empathetic perspective that you may not be the right person to deliver a particular message at that particular time, and from a legal or compliance perspective (both personal and business repercussions). However, the role HR can play is in supporting in training and knowledge sharing and helping managers in setting expectations around workplace behaviours.



13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All