News Automating HR tasks could boost productivity, government document suggests

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UK businesses could be more productive if they assigned some of their HR duties to computers, a recently published government document has suggested.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and chancellor Philip Hammond announced a business productivity review on Tuesday, calling on organisations to share what they think could be done to improve productivity.

As part of the review, companies are being asked how technology can be used to boost productivity. The government document identifies seven ‘best practice’ technologies that could increase “firm-level productivity across a broad base”, including “software for automating and digitising various aspects of HR, thereby reducing costs”.

In particular, those who wish to contribute to the call for evidence are being asked how important the identified seven best practice technologies – which also include cloud computing, accounting software and enterprise resource planning – are for boosting productivity in businesses, which offer the greatest returns and what reasons organisations have for not adopting new technologies.

The UK’s lacklustre productivity has been a puzzle for some time now, as it lags most of its G7 counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) most recent flash productivity estimate, published earlier this month, revealed that output per hour had dropped by 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2018.

A number of recent reports have highlighted the importance of integrating technology into business. A House of Lords review, published in April, called on the UK to embrace artificial intelligence, arguing that taking steps now to shape the country’s relationship with new technologies could provide a “massive boost” to the economy.

And research by the Confederation of British Industry, published last November, revealed that failure by businesses to use technology and best practice management techniques was costing the economy more than £100bn.

Besides a focus on technological developments in the workplace, the review honed in on leadership and management as key to bridging the productivity gap, citing ONS data published this year that uncovered a strong link between management practice score and labour productivity in service industries.

People and talent management and the use of incentives and targets to track business performance were outlined as two areas where the UK had the most “room for improvement”. The report called on organisations to suggest public and private sector actions that would be most effective for embedding best management practice.

The government additionally acknowledged the need for companies to receive external support to boost their practice and productivity, seeking advice on how to provide sustainable business support ecosystems that would be available to both the public and private sector.

“For centuries, Britain has been a nation of discoveries, but these ideas haven’t always been commercialised in the UK and new ideas applied in practice,” said business secretary Greg Clark.

The Business Productivity Review forms part of the government’s wider industrial strategy, which was launched last November and focuses on five ‘foundations’: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.

The review’s call for evidence closes on 4 July.

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