Artificial Intelligence, along with machine learning and digital platforms form the core technological disruption within businesses today. Its adoption has over the years led to many pivotal shifts in how organizations look at deploying their human capital. With many areas that gain to benefit from the comparatively cost-effective option of leveraging Artificial Intelligence, many are skeptical over the impact of such technological transformations on human productivity and employment. Such concerns are not without merit. Certainly, in the short run, the advent of such technologies has created shocks within the labor markets.
According to a new global study released by Pegasystems Inc., organizations today are more hopeful of reaping the benefits that accrue from form investing in newer technologies, chiefly AI. Many today believe that pairing humans alongside intelligent machine will create a more effective, engaged, and meritocratic workforce.
In its report, the software company surveyed over 845 senior executives working globally across key industry sectors, including financial services, insurance, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications and media, and government, on the increased role artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation will play in the workplace of the future.
The survey uncovered some interesting insights into what executives expect the future to look like. Many believe that overtime machine intelligence will reach a point where machines and humans work alongside in a perpetual manner. Around 69 percent, i.e. that is around seven out of ten respondents believe the term 'workforce' will evolve to encapsulate both humans and ‘intelligent’ machines. They also expect AI-augmented employees to generate tangible business returns such as more efficiency (73 percent agree) and better customer service (62 percent). But that’s not all as many believe that the effects may extend even deeper as AI transforms the way people work, are managed, and rewarded.
Empowering employees with more autonomy
The report notes that one the biggest changes that organizations will bring in are a certain amount of autonomy within workers. Around 64 percent of the respondents believe that AI will allow their staff to perform more varied roles by enabling them to find solutions to problems that would previously have been referred up the chain of command. This, in addition to reducing the response time also helps make employees better at what they do.
By augmenting their work with the help of machine intelligence, employees will be empowered with more autonomy and a greater sense of job satisfaction. The survey notes the following broad points:
- 76% believe support from AI will allow workers to make informed decisions at a more junior level and from a management point of view would lead to a flattening of traditional management hierarchies.
- According to around 77 percent of respondents, AI will help suggest next best actions for most customer service agents within the next five years greatly improving the decision-making capabilities of employees.
- While 88 percent are comfortable working together with machines, they are less enthusiastic about being managed by them. Over 79 percent say they would not be comfortable with an AI-powered boss.
Establishing a more transparent, meritocratic workplace
The other benefit that executives expect to gain from AI lies in its potential to transform the workplace. From removing inherent biases that often cloud recruitment and performance-based decisions to improving workplace culture, many hope AI to bring in concrete shifts in how employees interact with the organizations.
- Two thirds (66 percent) believe the widespread use of AI will give rise to a more transparent meritocracy in the workplace. 65% believe it will become standard practice for AI to be used to conduct interviews and shortlist candidates in the next ten years.
- As organizations increasingly come under scrutiny on equal pay for equal work issues, the study found the use of unbiased machine intelligence to analyze employee effectiveness could be the key to level the playing field.
- Almost three quarters (74 percent) think that within ten years, AI will become standard practice for evaluating employee performance, while 72 percent predict it will be commonly used to set appropriate rewards and compensation.
- Eighty-four percent agree it will be commonplace for AI to calculate the true value added by each worker within a decade, while 44 percent see this happening within five years.
Leveraging machine intelligence to manage the gig economy
With the onset freelance work and gig economy, there have been significant changes in how managers and HR professionals look at workforce compositions. Showcasing a similar trend, respondents of the survey “expect the number of permanent employees at Fortune 500 companies to be cut in half by 2030. But while this shift to the so-called gig economy brings new flexibility to employers to hire on demand, it also opens new challenges:
- Eighty-five percent expect the use of more flexible, freelance customer service staff will make it easier to provide customers with 24/7 service, while 82 percent forecast faster response times as a direct result.
- Conversely, 81 percent believe this shift toward temporary staff will make it harder to cultivate an ongoing culture of customer centricity.
- The gig economy makes it more important to pair humans with AI to ensure consistent quality service. For example, nine out of 10 say that the use analytics is necessary to ensure customers receive the same level of personalization from one worker to another.”
- 86% expect algorithmic matching of tasks to the most suitable worker to become standard practice in the next ten years.
Many such projections by the study are focused on the upcoming 5 to 10 years. Although the future is not set in stone, AI is bound to be an impactful force in the coming years. Many studies have shown how the deployment of AI has greatly influenced work efficiency and thus, as a result, find increased usage today. So much so that between 2000 and 2010 around 5.6 million manufacturing jobs were shed in the US, 85 percent of them as a result of automation and technological change. This is set to increase in the coming days. It, therefore, becomes imperative for organizations to respond and the create scope of work and environment in a way to assimilate both humans and machines to drive growth in the coming years.