Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise. This incredible technology is affecting the workplace in unimaginable ways. In this article, we will unpack the effect of AI on the workforce over the next decade.
1. Human-Machine Collaboration
Artificial intelligence allows the workplace to become datafied and digitalized. This process converts information into digital format, which is easier to track, share, and save. At the same time, processes that were previously “invisible” are now traceable, and can thus be monitored and analyzed. This capability allows for more significant optimization.
Here, the employee now, in effect, has a “virtual assistant,” analyzing their workflow and suggesting optimizations. With the increase of connected devices and other smart sensors, this “virtual assistant” can collect more data for analysis, increasing the possibility for optimization. Optimizing workflow and processes will improve employee efficiency, increasing company revenue in the process.
According to research done by Accenture, collaboration between humans and machines will increase workplace efficiency by 38% soon. Here, the smart integration of machines into the human workforce allows employees to achieve strategically essential priorities faster and more efficiently.
The driving force in this process is knowledge sharing – with AI in place, it is far easier to capture and maintain knowledge. It is also easy to share knowledge with co-workers located in other sites on the globe. Through this process, the right knowledge reaches the right employee straight away. Employees no longer must sift through stacks of internal data, trying to find the relevant information. Duplication of tasks and systems also won’t occur, since all stakeholders will know what information is already available.
AI offers further streamlining of this process with semantic search and natural language processing skills. Along with this, AI has the capability of connecting disparate, but relevant data sources, allowing for greater collaboration and knowledge sharing.
In this manner, AI enhances human intelligence. By harnessing vast amounts of data in real-time, employees gain insight into situations that, until now, was done through “gut-feel” and experience. Here, companies that are the first to adopt AI into their processes gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
2. Human Resource Management
Filling a new position is often an HR nightmare. AI can simplify this process and considerably cut down the time needed for a recruitment drive. Artificial intelligence algorithms can scan through and analyze millions of social profiles and resumes in a matter of minutes. This program would then offer a shortlist of candidates to the HR practitioner, while at the same time sending engaging interactions to potential candidates.
HR teams use AI programs to assess potential employees in terms of skills, personality, and even organizational fit, all before the HR representative makes contact with them. During online assessments, facial recognition algorithms can also detect cheating. These results would be filtered before hitting your inbox. In this way, the HR representative only must sift through and interact with a pre-approved shortlist of candidates, potentially saving weeks of their time. This process enables them to screen far more candidates than in the past and find better candidates in the process.
In the same vein, AI can take over mundane administrative tasks. An example is using internal chatbots to answer basic HR queries. The employee gets the relevant information quickly, while the HR representative is free to continue more productive work.
Ongoing training and development is essential to maintain a competitive edge. Employees always want to upskill themselves and their teams. AI algorithms can identify individual employee needs and compile personalized training and development programs. AI can also define missing skills and suggest the relevant training programs. This lightens the load on managers and HR teams, since they no longer must manually develop training programs.
Chatbots can even facilitate microlearning classes. Imagine a trainee in your sales team arriving at a new customer. Before she leaves the parking lot, a chatbot sends a message to her phone with tips on customer engagement and first impressions. Also, the message includes a link to the customer’s website and the latest news article on the company. This information puts her in a far better position to engage with this customer and close the deal.
3. Remote Work
With the rise of AI, many employees will no longer have to leave the comfort of their own home. Here, tele-robotics (the process where humans remotely operate machines) would have a significant effect, especially in technical, practical fields, such as engineering. When integrating AI with virtual reality (VR), the result is even more powerful.
Imagine a situation where an underground pipe, located in a remote area, is leaking. The repair operation is complicated and time-consuming. The mechanical engineer responsible for the repair uses tele-robotics and VR to repair the leak, all without leaving his home office. Using AI cuts the travel time and costs for the project down to the bare minimum, without sacrificing quality of work.
In the same vein, VR-enabled “in-person” meetings would be possible for colleagues based in various locations across the globe. As employees are more able to work from home, employees would have an improved work-life balance as well.
4. Workplace Optimization & Productivity
AI, coupled with smart devices and sensors, allows for smarter buildings and cities. Recently, the Edge, the most intelligent building in the world, located in Amsterdam, was constructed. This building knows who is inside, what their personal preferences are, and even how they like their coffee. AI allows for workplace optimization according to individual needs and preferences. This optimization creates a more pleasant working environment, which, in turn, leads to higher productivity.
Added to this, machines don’t take a day’s leave, don’t get sick, and can work around the clock. When AI is used to augment human jobs, mundane and repetitive tasks are taken over by machines. Here, employees are enabled to do more productive, complex, and creative work that machines can’t do.
AI-driven chatbots can handle the initial interaction with customers, resolving basic queries instantly. Integrating AI into your person-to-person sales calls also allows for analysis of the conversation. Here, sales personnel receive real-time tips for improved customer communication. Other insights are also gained from the interview, allowing salespeople to close more deals.
5. Changes in Culture and Leadership
With the rise of AI, company culture must shift from being driven by experience and expertise to being data-driven. Here, actions are in real-time, while many decisions are automated and employees empowered. Through the use of AI, insight gained from data offers a more significant understanding of the opportunities available. Here, the optimal opportunities are automatically identified, allowing for faster reaction time and even replacing humans in some more advanced decision-making processes.
An example is automating identification of a marketing message to be published. The marketing manager no longer must make the executive decision in this matter.
In the process, more employees will have access to knowledge in real-time, shifting power from the traditional top-down model to an equal footing. Here, employees are empowered to take action, thus working more efficiently and autonomously.
AI is likely to replace most jobs that are mundane and repetitive. Posts that are at risk are mostly those requiring minimal skills and education. Unfortunately, this is likely to create a standoff with unions and other stakeholders.
At the same time, the rise and implementation of AI is likely to create far more jobs than are at risk. These new jobs would most likely relate to the implementation of new systems. The new skill sets needed for these tasks are mainly in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field.
According to PWC (mailto:https://www.pwc.co.uk/services/economics-policy/insights/the-impact-of-automation-on-jobs.html), the first wave of AI-linked automation will displace about 3% of jobs. This displacement is likely to increase dramatically to 30% by the mid-2030’s.
This shift from a low-skilled to a new, highly skilled workforce will change the educational demographic of the workplace significantly. This change creates the need for further academic fields and other workplace-related training fields. Industry must partner with educational institutions to identify and develop training programs that deliver workplace-ready graduates capable of taking on these new roles that didn’t exist a decade ago.
At the same time, companies must upskill current employees to fill the skills gap created by the rise of AI.
As the workplace becomes more efficient through the use of AI, hopefully, company culture will become more humane. AI will disrupt, augment, and improve existing processes, allowing people to focus on creative, higher-functioning tasks. In turn, this makes the workforce far more productive, increasing company revenue.