How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing the Workforce
Disruptive technologies are on their way. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and robotic process automation (RPA) are among the disruptors that will change the way we work.
According to Forrester’s Future of Work Report, automation will cut jobs by 29 percent over the next decade while contributing as little as 13 percent to job creation. A recent study of 36,000 firms in the Netherlands shows that automation impacts higher paid, higher educated workers more often, but hit low-wage, less-educated workers the hardest in terms of pay and job loss.
Automation serves a variety of purposes. These include decision-making, customer interaction, process automation and technology infrastructure management and security. According to the Forrester report, automation will disproportionately impact those companies with non-digital workers who are unable to keep up with the rapid rate of change.
Companies already have intelligent tech, but use cases are often fragmented and small. And they often have employees and corporate learners who have skills that management isn’t even aware of.
Fortunately, there is often a grace period before automation takes over. How do you take advantage of it? Here are some key measures you can implement to ensure your organization stays on top of the disruptions caused by automation.
Workforce strategies for keeping up with AI and automation
As automation increases, and takes on new capabilities, employees will need to learn new skills. The question becomes: how much of your resources do you invest in teaching, coaching and mentoring?
Forward-thinking business leaders are preparing for impending changes by increasing their organization’s agility. This means hiring more contingent workers so staffing levels can be adjusted according to market fluctuations. Training, up-skilling, and re-skilling employees builds a capable workforce and keeps organizations competitive.
“The most successful development programs identify populations with relevant adjacent skills that can be easily adapted, developed and applied to these new roles,” Becky Frankiewicz, President of ManpowerGroup North America, told HR Dive. “That way, rather than up-skilling people from scratch, employers can help them bridge from one skill set into another.”
To meet the growing demand for automation controls technicians, in advanced manufacturing, Frankiewicz’s company partnered with Rockwell Automation to up-skill military veterans with strong technical backgrounds. The vets completed what a six-to eight-month course in just 12 weeks. However, it can take time to establish an upskilling pipeline.
Reskilling efforts begin with an evaluation of current workforce skillsets and special abilities, traits that will give each individual employee a head start. Conducting a skills assessment across the organization is a good way to start, says Christopher Pappas, the founder of eLearning Industry. Skill-sharing webinars and mentoring programs can help with the transfer of skills.
Tech-based strategies for keeping up with AI and automation
Analysts recommend a step-laddered strategy that includes not just workforce training but a good match between technologies and their purpose.
RPA, for example, can easily be misapplied. Deloitte predicts “near-universal adoption” of the tech by 2023. To avoid sinking resources into failed bots, companies need to track their processes and project-tech fit.
Industry best practices are to start small and scale up. When planning an RPA roadmap, companies should adhere to what Craig Le Clair calls “The Rule of Five.” The Forrester analyst breaks this down into:
- task the bot with no more than five decisions (give a bot too intricate a task and the odds of failure go up)
- let it interact with no more than five applications (give it too many applications to interact with, and the task can become too complex for a bot to handle efficiently)
- allow it no more than 500 clicks/keystrokes (tasks that require more than that this can become too complex for them to function properly)
By tapping unused or adjacent employee skills, helping your workforce increase their learning, and figuring out what technologies to implement, and when, your organization can ride the wave of at least some of the coming disruptions.