Are the robots coming for your job? Yes. No. Maybe.
There’s a lot of talk in the media and society about how AI (artificial intelligence) will change our jobs and our lives. A lot of it is hype, but you shouldn’t ignore it altogether – especially if you’re a leader.
Dell reports 82% of leaders expect their employees and machines to work as “integrated teams”. And many employees look forward to AI that can help them do their job better. But the flip side is that many employees are stressed by “robophobia”: the fear of losing their jobs to automation and AI.
That’s why you need to treat AI – both opportunities and threats – seriously.
The most extreme – and most limited – mindset is to see AI completely replacing a human’s role. But that’s not the only way to think.
Broadly, you can think of any new technology at four levels:
When you integrate this into your workplace, you can do it at any of these levels. There’s no “one size fits all” answer, so think carefully about how you will do it.
In this scenario, the AI completely replaces the human, as with technology replacing lift operators, telephone operators, and typists.
This will happen to some jobs. In Australia, the report “Australia’s Future Workforce” predicts about 40% of jobs could be lost to robotics, automation and artificial intelligence in the next 10-15 years. There’s no point burying your head in the sand about this, but you shouldn’t give it too much weight, either!
At this level, AI helps humans do a task better. We take this for granted with much of our daily technology – such as cruise control, auto-correct (when it works!), and Google Maps.
In principle, AI is just the same; it just happens to be more advanced technology. That means it can be even better at assisting people – and, in fact, that’s typically how it works. For example:
- AI helps HR and recruiters find suitable candidates and identify potential people problems.
- AI records meetings and transcribes conversations to simplify search and retrieval.
- AI integrates with online learning tools to guide employees to improve their learning.
- AI listens to sales calls in real time, and offers coaching tips to salespeople to improve their future calls.
The next level is where the AI elevates the human to do higher-level tasks. It might replace the human in that particular task, but frees her up to do something more important
For example, AI customer service chatbots answer the most common online questions instantly, freeing up time for staff to manage other areas of the overall customer experience.
As another example, many law firms now use AI to handle complex repetitive tasks, such as reading and interpreting contracts, so the lawyers can focus on strategic thinking and better client experiences.
Finally, the highest level is where the AI creates completely new opportunities for you, possibly with entirely new products, services, or business models. In other words, it creates a disruptive opportunity – not just at an individual level, but for your entire organisation.
Not every organisation will grab this opportunity, and it’s not easy for an established business to completely change its business model. But that doesn’t mean you need to close off that opportunity altogether.
For example, in the insurance industry, the World Insurance Report says more than 50% of traditional insurers want to collaborate with InsurTech companies (smart startups using AI, among other things) to broaden their offerings.
How do YOU approach AI in your workplace?
It’s easy to default to the doom-and-gloom scenario, where AI just replaces a human? But it pays to be more open-minded, and see how it could assist or elevate them? And what about being a real possibility thinker, and imagine how it could completely transform your products, services, or entire organisation?