The new, technological revolution is reshaping our economy and society, as well as an area that intersects both – the workplace.
Estimates suggest Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone could be worth £232 billion to the UK economy by 20301 and provide significant benefits for businesses, employees and customers if it is developed, adopted and deployed responsibly and ethically. With that in mind, it’s time to for us all to explore the future of the workplace and prepare for the changes ahead.
Humans and AI will coexist in the workplace
According to a recent global survey, 61% of business leaders expect the share of roles requiring collaboration with Al to increase in the next three years. 54% placed human-machine collaboration as important to achieving their strategic priorities. Gartner has also predicted that by 2022 one in five workers will have AI as their co-worker.
In a world augmented by AI, our human qualities, such as creativity, empathy and problem solving will be more important than ever. We need to ensure that the current and future workforce is equipped with a blend of digital skills and capabilities to support that, such as creative problem-solving and analytical thinking.
The growth of chatbots
AI is already working alongside humans in the creation of chatbots. This trend is still in the early stages, with only 4% of enterprises having deployed conversational interfaces but 38% are planning to or actively experimenting in this market, which is set for significant growth.
Chatbots are increasingly being adopted for customer service operations. Aylesbury Vale District Council implemented DigitalGenius’ AI chatbot solution and dramatically reduced response time to constituents’ queries.
Instead of displacing jobs, chatbot technology is freeing up employees’ time, reducing dull and repetitive tasks and allowing employees to maximise the use of innately human skills and qualities. This refocus on how people spend their time can increase the skillsets of workers, leading to greater fulfilment and better performance.
AI improving workplace conditions
Automated AI systems in HR also have the potential to reduce repetitive, manual tasks, freeing up time for HR professionals to support employees and provide pastoral care. They also have the potential to change the way workplaces operate. A well-trained AI system can ensure recruitment and workplace promotions are decided based on ability, results and merit, without biases. AI can also give employees access to personalised, real-time advice about benefits such as healthcare, pensions and childcare.
Shift in the nature of work
While there are numerous reports being published about the impact of AI on jobs, what is clear is that the nature of many jobs will change.
Just as we have seen in other areas, the adoption of advanced digitally-driven technologies, such as AI, means jobs will change but not every sector is expected to be impacted equally. Some have predicted manufacturing jobs could fall by 25%, transport and storage by 22% and public administration by 18%. PwC, however, recently suggested AI will create as many jobs in the UK as it displaces over the next 20 years. We are going to see new types of jobs emerge, such as AI trainers, chief trust officers and ethical sourcing managers.
Businesses must move away from being consumers of talent to being producers of talent. Supporting the workers most likely to be displaced, through reskilling and retraining schemes, will be vital to ensuring people are able to adapt to change. Only then will the great benefits from AI and related technologies be recognised across the whole workforce.
There is huge opportunity for AI to positively impact the way we all work. But if we are to reap the full economic and social rewards being offered, it is important that we act now. Every organisation must look at their existing ways of working and put the necessary provisions in place to ensure their workplace, and workforce, is future-proofed.