Artificial Intelligence has moved into the mainstream over the past year as organizations seek to address the widespread skills and productivity issues that threaten their future growth. Employees must be kept informed of these changes if they are to embrace automation.
Artificial Intelligence, when used in a knowledge worker environment to provide intelligent automation, enables companies to automate a range of workplace processes quickly, efficiently and securely. As a result, organizations are redefining the way work is funded across their operations, based on the relative strengths and capabilities of human and digital labour.
This hybrid manpower-Artificial Intelligence workforce enables companies to be more agile in responding to disruptions and changing regulations, allowing them to seize new opportunities that would be impossible with a traditional approach to resources.
Organizations need to tackle head-on any internal resistance to automation by emphasizing the benefits that Artificial Intelligence can bring to employees themselves.
But it is important to remember that the introduction of Artificial Intelligence is not limited to processes and technology. There is an important "human" element to AI and automation, not only for the staff who see parts of their work become automated, but also for the staff as a whole in terms of the skills, mindset and cultural behaviours needed to make AI and automation a Success.
Here we describe five tips to prepare a workforce for the introduction of Artificial Intelligence and to ensure a smooth and harmonious transition to a hybrid resourcing model.
Eliminate fear by proving the benefits
Often, the biggest challenge with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence is getting skeptical staff to see the benefits when much of the story around automation remains highly emotional, fuelled by media reports that automation will create millions of jobs replaced by machines.
Of course, there will be some job displacement in the future, but there will also be enormous job creation. Most industries will see the creation of a range of high value-added, strategic jobs in place of more tactical, lower-paying administrative roles.
Organizations need to tackle head-on any internal resistance to automation by emphasizing the benefits that Artificial Intelligence can bring to the employees themselves, as well as to the company. The goal is to demonstrate how AI can eliminate the burden of mundane and repetitive administrative tasks and free employees to focus on a job more creative and fulfilling The students, who are also in the process of learning new skills and benefiting from a more varied career.
Be transparent and inclusive
You would have to live under a rock to ignore that Artificial Intelligence and automation are expected to transform the world of work over the next 10 to 20 years. Yet, very few organizations are currently communicating with their employees about this change in any meaningful way - that needs to change.
We have seen wonderful examples of organizations that have creatively trained staff on the benefits of a digital workforce. Some have held competitions among staff to nominate their virtual colleagues, while others have had initiatives asking people from across the staff to nominate the mundane, laborious tasks (those they really don't want to spend time on) that would be ripe for Artificial Intelligence and automation to replace.
These types of initiatives are good because they get all staff to think about how Artificial Intelligence and automation could be useful to them personally. As a result, they are invested in the journey towards a hybrid workforce that is comfortable with the idea of working alongside AI.
Focus on learning
Most of us will see our roles and the types of work we undertake change as Artificial Intelligence is deployed more widely within organizations. This means that we need to develop new skills that support and complement the contribution of AI and digital work. Much has been written about the need for more digital skills in the European workforce, but human workers will also need to be more creative, objective and agile in order to maximise the benefits of AI and move their organisations forward. The World Economic Forum predicts that the average worker will need an additional 101 days of training by 2022 to prepare for the introduction of Artificial Intelligence.
In a fluid labour market, people are simply not willing to spend time in unsatisfying roles. Instead, they demand challenging work and expect employers to provide them with the latest skills. AI provides a platform for employers to develop a more attractive brand that differentiates it from the competition.
Creating automation champions
It is important for companies to ensure that each department has its own "automation champions" who can help their peers master automation technology and work effectively alongside machine employees. These individuals also have a crucial role to play in identifying a pipeline of processes that can be evaluated for automation on an ongoing basis.
After all, it is the people on the front lines within each department who are best positioned to identify high-volume, mundane tasks or bottlenecks that are ripe for automation, rather than the senior management or automation team.
Creating a culture of automation
The ultimate goal for organizations is to instill a positive culture of automation in the workforce, where people proactively seek to automate part of their work to free up their capabilities and feel comfortable entrusting tasks to Artificial Intelligence and virtual workers.
Such a culture can be achieved over time by communicating a constant flow of positive news about how the company's virtual workers are helping individuals, teams and the organization as a whole to become more successful. While it is essential that everyone understands the broader context of Artificial Intelligence (faster processes, lower costs, better customer experiences), more personal stories are often ignored. Employers should encourage workers to share their experiences of working with AI and how it has impacted their morale, motivation and career prospects.
We're talking about Artificial Intelligence and the virtual workforce enabling people to maximize their full potential. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best artificial intelligence and intelligent automation programs are all about people, how best to deploy them to add value to the business, and how organizations can do more with the same workforce. That's why AI must always start and end with people.