Information Technology has become a standard part of the modern office, but automation is likely to become more common in the workplace. Even if you're not involved in IT management (opens in new tab), expect to see changes in everything from how you use your office software (opens in new tab) to collaborative working (opens in new tab). Mathias Mikkelsen explains how there's nothing to fear from the increasing role of AI and machine learning.
What was once the stuff of science fiction is fast becoming reality. We are increasingly interacting with futuristic and intelligent machines on a daily basis, within our homes and to an even greater extent in our workplaces, where technology’s increasing sophistication and prevalence is beginning to disrupt the world of work.
Society adapts and changes as each new major innovation is implemented into our everyday routines, so that ultimately we can’t imagine life without them. Similarly, successful businesses continue to reinvent themselves, evolving with these new technologies and improving service delivery, adding value, and leveraging competitive advantage. And few technologies have captured the workplace’s collective attention quite like artificial intelligence (AI) (opens in new tab).
Mathias Mikkelsen is the CEO and Founder of Memory.
From assistance with recruitment and on-the-job training, to automated time tracking (opens in new tab) and workflow monitoring, significant progress is being made, though these advancements have not come without a degree of cynicism. Among the global workforce, many are growing increasingly anxious about the creeping influence that AI and automation will have on their day-to-day working lives, with some even fearing their ultimate replacement by ‘machines’.
Amidst all the scaremongering, however, the implementation of AI within the workplace will almost certainly have its greatest impact when it comes to improving business performance, starting by increasing employee productivity tools (opens in new tab). Instead of replacing entire roles, the majority of jobs will likely only experience a replacement of certain tasks – and those tasks will be the unrewarding, repetitive ones employees often resent. What's more, a recent study by PwC suggests that AI will actually create as many jobs as will be displaced through automation, over the next 20 years.
If introduced, responsibly and sensibly, AI has the potential to ultimately transform the entire business landscape, and for the better. The technology likely has a place in every organisation, regardless of its size, industry, or IT budget, and those companies that fail to keep up will risk losing out on its benefits and ultimately get left behind. In a separate report, PwC also stated that if businesses harness the power of automation and machine learning quickly, global GDP could be 14% – or $15.7 trillion – higher in 2030. Of that, $6.6 trillion is projected to come from increased productivity.
Despite what the research says, it's something of a given that people naturally fear the unknown. For this reason, the key to business success lies in making sure your employees feel comfortable with any potential change brought about by AI and the automation of tasks.
You should begin by explaining what its implementation will mean to them in real terms; what it is going to look like and how it may impact them. In turn, organisations must work to create a collective mindset that is open to meeting this type of change, rather than resisting it. Technological advancements will not wait around for anyone and doing this will help to ensure that it is being driven by people, and for people.
The fact of the matter is that - rather than taking over someone’s entire role - automation is far more likely to target specific task management (opens in new tab) needs, within an employee’s role, particularly ones that are repetitive or involve basic problem-solving and tend to be regarded as low-value work. These often use up a lot of time and effort, and restrict more meaningful work being done.
People are hired for their skills and the way in which they use these to foster innovation and creativity, and ultimately have a significant impact on a company’s growth and bottom line, not simply to track their time and respond to inane emails.
This move to automating tasks isn't just founded by a desire to excise repetitive admin and free up time, it is also to improve reliability and remove human error from the equation. In some cases, AI will be used to fulfil tasks that go beyond current human capabilities, but there is still no need to fear its impending takeover.
By processing thousands of data points to identify emerging patterns and trends, AI can actually increase the quality of high-value work, tasks that contribute to long-term missions, values, and goals, and ultimately inform a better service, analysis or product. Unsurprisingly, when workers don’t have to scroll through calendars (opens in new tab) for open meeting slots, build spreadsheet reports to look for insights, or spend their day answering the same questions again and again, they become infinitely more productive.
New roles for machines
In its 2019 report, ‘From Jobs to Superjobs’, Deloitte acknowledges that while the roles of today are more machine-powered and data-driven than in the past, they also require more human skills such as problem-solving, communication, interpretation and design (opens in new tab). Therefore, as machines take over repeatable tasks and employees’ work becomes less routine, a number of jobs will quickly evolve into what they deem to be ‘superjobs’.
These will be made up of the aforementioned higher-level skills, which do not necessarily correspond to fixed tasks, and leverage the significant gains when it comes to productivity and efficiency that arise when working with AI technology. As a result, organisations are being encouraged to create more agile, less rigidly defined positions and roles for their employees.
AI offers a huge opportunity to the business world and should be viewed as a useful creative assistant, rather than a competitor or replacement. Careful integration of the technology will not only have a marked impact on a company’s profitability but also, as a result, a dramatic bearing on the longevity of a business.
Mathias Mikkelsen is the CEO and Founder of Memory (opens in new tab).
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