Fast-evolving innovations in technology mean that most of us will soon share our workplaces with artificial intelligences (AI) such as machine learning (ML), natural language processing, virtual assistants, and bots. AI and ML are possibly the most transformative technologies available today. While they bring benefits to business and society, they also have the potential to disrupt industries and organizations by changing how work gets done and what work looks like.
Automation will impact traditional models by removing tasks and parts of jobs, even rendering some jobs obsolete. But how will AI impact the future of jobs, how profoundly, and when? This uncertainty has created anxiety and fear in the workforce. How long before we are replaced by a robot? Either a technological talent or a human talent can be matched to a process to deliver the most productive outcome or process. And ‘talent’ no longer has the same meaning; many of the roles, skills and job titles of tomorrow are unknown to us today. How employees feel about the future, impacts your business today – anxiety can destroy employee confidence, productivity and their willingness to adapt to non-linear career paths.
Being human gives us an edge
This anxiety is not totally unfounded. Some jobs will disappear without a doubt, however, there is also no doubt that new positions will be created. Although robots can work around the clock, they do not have unique human skills such as creativity, nor do they possess emotional intelligence – a person’s ability to be aware of, control and express their own emotions as well as be conscious of the emotions of others. The future workplace is going to demand new ways of thinking, and human creativity is the key. As technology and robots take away repetitive tasks, it will free humans to do more creative thinking and higher-level decision-making. Humans with developed creative talents can engage, empathize, negotiate, motivate, inspire and lead others – giving humans a definite advantage over the bots.
The workplace of the future
To adapt to a changing work landscape, industries will need to reshape their workforce strategy to consider new technologies, talent sourcing models, flexible work, and mobility. Disturbance to the physical workspace will require firms to have strategies that address a workforce comprised of FTEs, but with increased use of contingent workers such as freelancers, independent contractors, and other remote working arrangements. There will be fewer dedicated desks, less need for physical offices, and collaborative team communications platforms will be leveraged more frequently.
The role organizations can play
Organizations can minimize BOT anxiety by adapting their training programs to address the human impact of automation on jobs and professional progression. Solutions such as re-training and occupational re-skilling can help solve for potential skill gaps related to automation within their workforce. Specifically, demand for advanced technological skills such as programming, cloud computing and data analytics is rapidly growing, but social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, imagination and critical thinking, will also see growing demand. There is a need for evolved judgment and decision-making skills, as well as argument evaluation skills using a reasoning and logic approach. For example, AI will come with a host of legal and ethical challenges that only humans can solve.
Hiring new talent can also be part of the solution to solve for potential skills gaps. Millennials and the Gen Z’s are digital natives who have been exposed to entirely new curriculums based on the disciplines of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) combined with gaining skills of problem-solving, exploratory learning, and critical thinking. These newer generations will need to be adaptable and embrace lifelong learning to acquire or upgrade skills that the market will demand to fill the new jobs created by automation. Traditional linear career progression will cease to exist; constant retraining and rotation will become the new norm.
Lastly, sharing your narrative about what the future of work means for your organization and the actions being taken will reduce the anxiety associated with intelligent automation within your own office. As more organizations start discussions about this growing concern it can have a greater impact on the overall workforce. The fear of losing jobs is a reality, but so too is the excitement about what the future holds.
Bottom line: We have an obligation to shape the future. Are you ready?
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