AI and the Future of Work

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ZipRecruiter released their latest Future of Work report – examining how AI will impact future career opportunities and how humans and technology will work together. Interestingly, the report notes that “the most successful applications of AI have been when used in partnership with humans, rather than as a replacement” – directly contradicting most employees’ fear of the technology.

High level takeaways from the report include:

  • 44% of businesses surveyed said that they use some form of AI
  • 46% of workers surveyed said they work with some form of AI on a regular basis
  • Senior data scientists were the fastest growing jobs created by AI – up 340%
  • AI will help support the demand for baby boomer healthcare in the coming years
  • Education is the filed slowest to adopt AI technologies

At the same time, Forrester released its guide to the future of work, which gets beyond the hype and provides a pragmatic view of the future of work; what it means to leaders, employees, customers, and companies; and what leaders can do now to prepare for intelligent technologies and an automated workplace.

Automation will define the future of work. With the rise of automation and intelligent technologies such as robots, AI, machine learning, and others, the pragmatic search for margin is introducing a speed of change and uncertainty not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

AI and machine learning will undoubtedly shake up the business world as we know it and data will continue to be one of the most important drivers of success and digital transformation,” observed Alan Jacobson, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Alteryx. “In many cases, AI or ML deployment will work hand-in-hand with humans – not instead of humans. To ensure AI applications are valuable, organizations need to empower and amplify their human workforce to do more with data, regardless of their technical acumen. A diverse team that incorporates data scientists and line-of-business analysts presents a more holistic approach to AI – one that doesn’t eliminate jobs, but works to marry emerging technology and human expertise and thinking. If organizations can create data-driven cultures, where data workers can up-level their skillsets and access or build models in understandable ways, they will be much more successful applying AI technology to their businesses and extracting valuable insight from data. When executed well, AI/ML approaches free workers to do more valuable tasks that computers can’t do, strategizing, evaluating AI/ML implementations, and a myriad of tasks that are not the domain of machines.

Firms, economies, governments, and societies will be challenged and transformed. Despite apocalyptic predictions, the full implications of automation are still unknown. Change will come in waves, waves that include currently unrealized technologies. Firms are in a difficult position: Act too slow and risk falling behind; act too quickly and generate unnecessary complexity and confusion.

Intelligent automation — the tools including AI and robotics — is the next multiplying force that will shape how consumers and workers accomplish daily tasks. Automation will have implications in four main areas related to the future of work:

  • Impact on jobs: Human-touch workers, cross-domain knowledge workers, teachers/explainers, and digital elite jobs will grow. Single-domain knowledge workers, physical workers, function-specific knowledge workers, location-based workers, coordinators, and cubicle jobs will shrink. According to Forrester, that will translate to job losses — 29% by 2030 with only 13% job creation to compensate.
  • Impact on economic opportunity and disparity: Automation will exacerbate income disparity, as dividends shift to digital-savvy leaders and negatively impact non-digital workers unable to skill up fast enough.
  • Impact on global markets: Outsourcing and evolving supply chains have favored low income economies able to match skill level and capacity to global needs. Automation disrupts offshoring and applies additional pressure on economies to build domestic demand that is able to counter-balance changing global demand.
  • Impact on how work is done: Work will depend on a symbiotic relationship between man and machine. This is not a man-led, machine-do structure; instead, it will match leadership, decisioning, and execution tasks across robots and humans that best deliver the desired outcome.

Automation’s impact to the future of work will be both sweeping and sensible, but these changes can place unprepared leaders on their heels or put companies in peril. Companies should examine how they manage their automation portfolio, prepare and hone leadership skills, maximize employees’ value, build robotics quotient (RQ), and can create a learning enterprise to prepare for the future of work.

Contributed by Daniel D. Gutierrez, Managing Editor and Resident Data Scientist for insideBIGDATA. In addition to being a tech journalist, Daniel also is a consultant in data scientist, author, educator and sits on a number of advisory boards for various start-up companies. 

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