The hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is intense despite that fact that as yet, artificial intelligence (AI) for most enterprises is still at an early, or planning, stage.
While a lot has been done, there is a lot more to do before it becomes commonplace. However, that hasn’t stopped speculation about the impact on employment and what it might mean for workers, especially those whose jobs are repetitive and considered low skilled.
In October last year, a survey carried out by analytics giant Cary, N.C-based analytics giant SAS showed that the vast majority of organizations have begun to talk about artificial intelligence, and a few have even begun to implement suitable projects. There is much optimism about the potential of AI, although fewer were confident that their organization was ready to exploit that potential.
AI Human Challenges
The reason for this is not because there is a lack of technologies on the market. What the research uncovered was that the challenges come from a shortage of data science skills to maximize value from emerging AI technology, and deeper organizational and societal obstacles to AI adoption. Some of the figures contained in the report show that:
55 percent of survey respondents felt that the biggest challenge related to AI was the changing scope of human jobs in light of AI’s automation and autonomy.
41 percent of respondents raised questions about whether robots and AI systems should have to work “for the good of humanity” rather than simply for a single company, and how to look after those who lost jobs to AI systems.
It also showed that several organizations had a senior-level sponsor for AI and advanced analytics. In some cases, this was a member of the C-suite, and in a few, the CEO. In others, it was a more junior director, usually one with an interest in the area. One respondent mentioned that the organization planned to appoint a Chief Data Officer within the next six months, who would take on responsibility for this area.
And it’s not the only research that has raised the issue of the impact AI will have on jobs. Recently, we were able to identify seven jobs that might be overtaken by the growth in the use of AI in the enterprise. That said there are ways that enterprises – and individuals – can meet the challenge.
Building a Talent Pipeline
AI is generating a demand for new skill sets in the workplace. However, there is a widespread shortage of talent that possess the knowledge and capabilities to properly build, fuel, and maintain these technologies within their organizations, according to Mohit Joshi president and head of banking, financial services and insurance, as well as, healthcare and life sciences at Bengalaru, India-based Infosys. The simple answer is up-skilling. “The lack of well-trained professionals who can build and direct a company’s AI and digital transformation journeys noticeably hinders progress and continues to be a major hurdle for businesses. But there is also opportunity here too and a way to redeploy workers who face redundancy because of AI,” he says.
To mitigate this, businesses should look inward and create on-the-job training and to build these skills internally. With the proper staff powering AI, employees are able to focus on other critical activities and boost productivity creating a larger ROI. If an enterprise’s digital transformation goal is for AI to become a business accelerator, it needs to be an amplifier of its people. “It’s going to take work to give everyone access to the fundamental knowledge and skills in problem-finding and remove the elitism around advanced technology, but the boost to productivity and ROI will be worth it in the end,” says Joshi. Businesses that haven’t yet allocated budget for AI should start small by manually auditing the organization to streamline processes and free up employees’ bandwidth. This allows decision makers to clearly see which systems aren’t utilized effectively and which areas could benefit from technology down the road.
Anthony Macciola, Chief Innovation Officer and is responsible for AI initiatives at Moscow, Russia-based global giant ABBYY, a company that uses machine learning, robotic process automation and text analytics to improve business outcomes. He says that the introduction of AI into the general workplace will result in more tasks being addressed by system of record applications and shift knowledge workers’ roles from a control to an expertise standpoint. He cites an example of how this will work in the mortgage lending market. The dependency on a loan origination officer to drive the loan process will diminish over time due to the loan origination system being able to make intelligent decisions based on past funding behavior. This will leave only rules-based exceptions to require a loan processor’s attention. As a result, this will lighten the overall workload for loan officers, allowing them to be more responsive when an exception rises and should allow mortgage lenders to increase the productivity of their operations.
“As software gets smarter, dependency on the workforce shrinks and knowledge workers who have typically conducted manual input tasks or controlled processes in fintech, healthcare, transportation and logistics, and government customer/constituent engagement scenarios will become more narrowly focused from a role and responsibility standpoint,” he says.
Need For Leadership
No one knows what the jobs will look like in a generation from now, but the trend is always higher skill, more education and more technical. However, the success or failure of an AI company will depend on leadership just as it has always done. Global leaders must understand how to leverage human abilities in the age of rapidly advancing technology and change, Julie Friedman Steele, CEO of the World Future Society, says. For companies to succeed in the 21st century, employees and contributors must rise above specialties and pigeonholes to become agile, life-long learners. “They must be trained to see non-linear possibilities, and become comfortable with ambiguity. Work isn’t just about income or success: it’s about the energy we put into the world, the impact that we have on others, and the meaning we make for our lives,” she says.
She explains that when robots can do more things for us, that frees up energy to be creative and more productive. “When old knowledge or skills aren’t enough, we get to keep learning more so that we can become not just better and more useful workers, but better humans. We make the choice to be ‘young’ or ‘old,’ we may age chronologically, but our minds must stay nimble or we will be left behind. If we can adopt the agility, empathy, and curiosity necessary for this new world, there is no limit to what we can achieve.
There is huge potential in soft skills too, according to Jeff Weber, SVP of People and Places at Salt Lake City-based Instructure. Weber specializes in tech learning and his current role is focused on driving scalable people processes including a framework for achieving talent acquisition objectives and implementing talent management and development programs. One surprising challenge about working in a tech company thet Weber shares is that sometimes soft skills may be even more important than technical prowess. “This is especially true as companies become increasingly global and teams may be working with each other’s that are thousands of miles away. This heightens the need for team members to be exceptionally flexible and adept at resolving conflicts,” he says. “This feeds back into the need for strong messages from strong leadership.” Tech companies need leaders who can set expectations with teams and communicate well with others. Potential leaders should develop soft skills alongside technical expertise.”
By David Roe
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