The impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) is being felt across industries and in workplaces worldwide.
As a result, augmented work is becoming an increasingly important consideration for businesses, and it has sparked debates about the future of skills, jobs and the workplace of tomorrow.
As advances in AI and automation continue to accelerate, business leaders navigating this complex environment must take real steps to prepare their businesses and workforce for this shift.
They will need to take an ethical and forward-thinking approach to develop their future workforce, based on a partnership between humans and AI assistants and what their future workforce should look like.
The business impact of generative AI
Generative AI will deliver transformative change for companies in two distinct ways: trusted AI supporting the automation of routine business processes, and AI serving as a creative partner to foster innovation.
Automating routine business processes will free employees of the most repetitive and administrative-heavy tasks, enabling them to spend more time performing meaningful work.
For example, traditional AI is already having a big impact on business functions such as HR. This includes data-heavy and repetitive tasks, such as payroll and compensation, which can be automated.
This allows HR professionals to redirect attention to tasks that require strategic thinking and emotional intelligence, such as talent acquisition.
Generative AI will shift the needle even further because it can be used to perform a far wider range of tasks, without having to be tweaked by a data scientist.
It can also carry out knowledge-based work, such as research and writing, which traditional AI cannot.
To give just one example, IBM’s HR department has used Watson Orchestrate to perform time-consuming and repetitive administrative tasks that form part of the promotion process, such as inputting basic documents and data.
This solution is now used by over 5,000 managers across 25 countries to automate some of the administrative tasks of a quarterly process, allowing managers to focus on the key human task of making decisions regarding promotion.
This is just one example of how AI in the form of Natural Language Understanding will begin to shift the required skills within a company.
When we consider that applications like this will be adopted in businesses around the world, we can start to understand the impact this will have on the workforce.
Another key consideration for leaders is AI ethics. The ethical and responsible implementation of AI is a non-negotiable; it is vital for organizations to build an AI governance framework based on the pillars of transparency, human oversight, trusted data sets, and a trained workforce.
Together, these components work effectively to guarantee accuracy, fairness and remove bias.
The workforce at any organization will be integral in establishing this and employees must be equipped with a solid understanding of where AI is being used and how it is helping an organization achieve its goals, guaranteeing human oversight and interaction at every stage.
AI and the skills landscape
Against the backdrop of a highly competitive job market, building skills has become a strategic imperative. Business leaders need to acquire the right skills for the changes generative AI will bring, while considering how to redeploy people who have been freed from routine work into more strategic roles.
Business leaders, and particularly those in HR, have three options in acquiring skills: they can buy them (hire), build them (internally develop), or borrow them (contractors).
Companies that build skills from within their existing workforce will gain a competitive advantage and will be able to reskill and redeploy employees. In fact, IBM’s latest Augmented Work Study found that business leaders predict that 40% of their workforce will be required to reskill in the next three years.
This is a significant portion, but it’s important to recognize that reskilling is about ensuring your employees can work with generative AI and understand the governance frameworks for correct and responsible usage.
An example of this is in customer service, where AI is supporting employees in giving more tailored customer care.
With the right training, employees are able to harness their experience in customer service and train the AI model better than any external data scientist could.
The life cycle of skills is shortening, and it’s predicted that new skills will be required every two-three years.
Building a culture of continual learning within your team and providing the tools so that employees can reskill and move internally will prove an effective strategy for future-proofing your business.
IBM mandates its employees to do 40 hours of learning per year, and uses AI to steer them to relevant training.
Looking at the long-term skills landscape, closing the wider digital skills gap will be imperative for driving economic growth and prosperity.
Business leaders, educators and policymakers need to act with urgency to make real progress on the issue.
This is why IBM has recently announced their commitment to train 2 million learners in AI by the end of 2026, with a focus on underrepresented communities.
This commitment will be delivered through the wider SkillsBuild education program, which helps high school and university students, educators and adult learners build the skills they need to succeed in the labor market.
Creating a culture built for generative AI
For business leaders navigating generative AI in their workforce, creating a positive and inclusive company culture with technology at its core is extremely important.
Usability, communication and speed of adoption will all impact how employees respond to AI – affecting the business’s productivity and return on investment.
To create this positive environment, leaders need to clearly articulate the problems an AI application will solve and clarify what success looks like.
The truth is if it’s not providing a solution to a problem, you probably should not be investing time and resources in it.
And there’s no point using technology to improve a bad process – eliminating and simplifying processes should always come before automation.
Leaders should also look to introduce AI where there is a natural change occurring, embracing the opportunity to introduce a new capability to augment decision-making in a way that always adheres to ethical AI.
If a system or department is already undergoing a change, then the integration of new technologies will be perceived as a positive development and not as a disruption.
Reskilling and highlighting future career pathways in the company will also contribute towards this.
Fear of the unknown can create resistance to change.
Organizations, therefore, need to ensure their employees are provided with the opportunity to participate in and help shape the AI landscape in the organization – this will help alleviate apprehension and nurture a positive attitude towards new technologies.
For their part, employees need to be adaptable and open to change.
Ultimately, business leaders must realize that the true measure of success is adoption.
It does not matter how good a generative AI application is; if people are not using it then it will have no impact.
Building a positive AI culture within your business will therefore be essential for the success of your AI strategy.
AI at UNLEASH World
Automation and AI is going to be front and center at UNLEASH World 2023.
Grab a ticket now for our upcoming Paris show to get invaluable, in-person, actionable insights on how to use AI to your advantage from Josh Bersin, as well as HR leaders like Anika Grant and James Purvis.
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