Preparing for a future of automation and AI in the workplace

AI has the potential to increase company performance as well as assisting with basic tasks, but its success still relies on human intervention, as Alain Goudey explains

The world of business has already changed significantly due to the impact of technologies. Automation, robotics and algorithms are already widely used in the corporate world.

Whether it’s restructuring the hiring process, providing good customer service, or handling advertising campaigns more efficiently, automation is playing key a role in many businesses today. As technology improves, it is inevitable that more tasks will become available for automation, and as we look ahead to the future, there is no doubt that it will continue to be a huge technical phenomenon.

As mentioned above, artificial intelligence (AI) already has a wide range of uses within the work place, and goes beyond the mundane repetitive tasks we often associate robotic assistance with. For example, in finance, trading is made by robots, and in logistics, technologies are now automatically able to plan the ideal path for trucks to deliver using the fastest routes. AI also has its uses within the HR sector, and is showing huge potential for the future.

With the use of AI within human resourcing, recruiters may be better able to identify and hire the most suitable candidates in a much shorter time frame. As well as this, within the marketing and sales sectors, companies that have been introducing AI within their business structures are not only helping to make their targeted campaigns much more efficient, but companies are also using AI to identify key customers and hit sales targets. AI therefore has the potential to increase company performance as well as assisting with basic tasks.

Implementation from humans

But, despite AI already being used frequently within some sectors of work, the automation of tasks still requires a huge amount of implementation from humans. At present, robotic systems still need people to set up them up, and only people can answer hard tasks through chatbots for example. Therefore, AI is advancing, but success still relies on human intervention. Therefore, as companies introduce AI within their work environments, it is key that those within the organisation have sufficient knowledge of algorithms and computer technology within its business.

Companies should therefore invest in their own people by planning necessary AI training, and hiring additional individuals with the correct technological skills. By bringing in machines, employees might have to learn new technical aspects within their existing role, or an entirely new job function. Many will need to develop new critical thinking skills, and will require an increased knowledge of AI-assisted technologies. Workers performing routine tasks will need to cross-skill and prepare for roles that depend on uniquely human traits. All of this will require detailed technical planning, patience, and investment.

More importantly though, it is vital that everyone, particularly management, deeply understands the value that AI could bring to their organisation. The key for transformation is accepting that change is inevitable, and that constant learning is crucial in order to not only adapt, but also to innovate in your area. Understanding technology and solving complex problems is important, and employees must be highly knowledgeable of various processes and functions. However, implementing AI into the workplace goes far beyond technical capabilities.

Development of new skills

The future of the workplace relies on the transformation and development of new skills – not only hard technical ones, but also soft ones such as empathy, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration within its employees. To thrive as an organisation and to truly embrace automation within the workplace, all must become capable of understanding and accepting the benefits and functions of AI to a much deeper level in order to work with it confidently and efficiently.

I believe that conducting digital transformation in an organisation is much more about transforming habits, culture, and employees’ way of thinking when it comes to forming their attitudes towards machines. To do this, management and HR must be at the heart of the process to set up the organisation, to train people, to recruit new talents, and to develop a vision of the future of business and implement it. Employees may be apprehensive at the thought of new technology being introduced as part of their role, and companies should be reassuring and patient when it comes to implementing new technical functions. As AI and automation continues to advance within the workplace, a good understanding of employees’ needs and how to create a culture that embraces this new way of collaboration will benefit all significantly in the long run and will contribute to an organisation’s success.

Building assurance and trust

The implementation of artificial intelligence has the purpose of organising a company’s information in order to make it more accessible and useful for its employees, and to ultimately enhance performance and efficiency. However, in order to build assurance and trust amongst employees, as well as building their technical skills, robotic technology must be introduced and developed within organisations to be as inclusive as possible. This is key. For humans, the shock of an increasingly automated world can be difficult to process, therefore successfully integrating automation into a company starts with an all-inclusive effort to educate people about what automation is, and how it will affect them.

Management must ensure they project empathy and understanding amongst their employees when digitalising aspects of their organisation. Automation is not the conclusion, nor is it an end goal – it is a mean and businesses must learn to live alongside it, not against it.

Alain Goudey is Chief Digital Officer at Neoma Business School in France

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