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Government ‘lacks strategy’ on technology effect on workforce

11/12/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government has been criticised for having no clear strategy for adapting to how new technology will transform the way it works and the workforce it will need.

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The Institute for Government (IfG) thinktank has made the claim in a new report, Technology and the future of the government workforce, which warns that few government organisations are prepared for the changes that increased automation of roles will mean for their staff.

It highlights the potential of technologies such as artificial intelligence and video recognition to change almost every role in government, saying that some jobs will radically change while others will become redundant.

Some organisations are already embracing it, such as HM Revenue and Customs having 78 robotic processes in place for 15.7 million transactions, and the Ministry of Justice having introduced digital kiosks for prisoners to request needs.

But the report says that overall government is unprepared to take advantage of the potential rewards that technological change will bring to its work and workforce.

It also warns that poorly managed automation also risks harming the morale and wellbeing of officials at every level of government.

Three measures

It makes three main recommendations for a response to the shortcomings.

Firstly, the Cabinet Office should develop a strategy for the future of the Civil Service workforce that details the role of technology in its reform.

Secondly, all government organisations should develop independent and individual workforce plans that outline how they will manage specific aspects of technological change relating to their own workforce.

Thirdly, the Civil Service functions and professions should evaluate how automation will change the profiles of different roles and careers within government, supporting HR teams to assess the specific risks and opportunities that automation presents to their workforces.

Marcus Shepheard, IfG senior researcher and report author said: “Government can use new technologies to transform the way it works, but it needs to do more to support its workforce through these changes.

“Leaders at every level of government need to set out clearer plans to prepare for the way that new technologies will change the tasks currently undertaken by the government workforce.”

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