Reimagining the workforce in the age of AI



The disruption and evolution of the workplace is not a new phenomenon. It happened during the industrial revolution. It happened again with the advent of computers and the internet. It’s happened recently, with cloud computing, mobile use and automation software.

And now it’s set to happen again, on a whole new level, with the rise of artificial intelligence. But how exactly could AI change the workforce as we know it today?


The traditional workforce

Before measuring the workforce changes that AI might bring, it’s worth looking at the current state of things. The modern workforce is one of fluidity. Many employees work from home or on the move (known as digital nomadism).

The workforce of today also has a growing appreciation for the power of automation. For many businesses, employees spend a large amount of time using computers. Plus, often regardless of industry, the modern workforce tends to include some form of IT department or tech-based challenge.

Sought-after workforce skills, meanwhile, are based on knowledge of how to do things. For example, how to code, how to sell, how to do your accounts, and so on.

So, now that we have an idea of the current state of the workforce, how is AI set to change it?


Human/machine interaction

Artificial intelligence will lead to a different interaction interface between humans and computers. AI abilities such as natural language processing (NLP) and voice recognition will enable human workers to interact with computers in a more natural way.

As such, a future workforce will see a closer relationship between machines and humans. Currently, machines and computers offer only a one-sided interaction for human employees. We command, rather than converse. With AI this will become a more symbiotic relationship. That is, it will enable two-way interaction. Machines will come to rely on the human workforce as much as humans will rely on AI.

AI alone will not be capable of every intricate aspect of our work. But what it will do is streamline and speed up. Automation is already handling the simpler tasks, the data entry and the menial admin needed to keep a company ticking. AI will increasingly instruct the more complex tasks, the number crunching and the decision making needed to lead and succeed.

So, artificial intelligence will infuse more of our processes – weaving itself so intrinsically into the office that it feels both more invisible and more accessible at once.


A skill-shift

The future workforce is going to need a different skillset. AI’s continued growth in scope and ability will lead to greater emphasis on human-unique workforce skills. These include soft skills such as empathy and flexibility, as well as creativity and strategy formation.

This will translate into a shift in the type of work that humans do. While technology takes over the ‘grunt work’, the human workforce will be thinking more about the outcomes of a project or action. They’ll be able to spend more time interacting with customers. And, crucially, the human workforce will be free to explore more new, innovative avenues.

Artificial intelligence will also assist the future workforce in ways unique to the technology. By conducting more advanced analytics, it will enable humans to make use of more data. So, humans will need the skills to apply the insight AI generates in the most productive and effective way.  


The lost and the found

It’s futile to deny that AI will remove the need for some jobs. This means that some human team members might find themselves losing their job as they know it. But that’s the crux of it, because in place of the tasks they’ve lost, new ones will be found.

One need only look at the industrial revolution for evidence of this. Even then, people feared that technological change would spark mass unemployment. But people found new jobs to do. History tells us that with new technology in the workplace, new jobs will also emerge.

By recognising the way things are set to change, human workers gain an opportunity to improve skills and adapt to the coming evolution. For example, AI relies on a huge pool of human-generated data to learn and understand the world. Monitoring, managing and maintaining this data, then, is going to create new challenges and jobs.

Likewise, we need people to referee machine-human relations. We need people to train AI, to design it, to deploy it, to monitor its work. Indeed, as the workplace evolves, we will need humans for tasks we cannot yet foresee.


Workforce location

The future workforce is also likely to reflect the shift in our understanding of ‘the workplace’ from a physical location to a more digital space.

Artificial intelligence bots could come to act as an intermediary between human members of the workforce. So, regardless of whether they’re in the office, or on the other side of the world, colleagues can collaborate through an AI assistant. This would allow greater teamwork across time zones.  

AI could also enable less obstruction from language barriers. This means the workforce of a given business can become more diverse, with more talent coming from anywhere in the world. In this way, artificial intelligence will support both the digital nomad movement and the traditional office space.


An AI-integrated workforce

An AI workforce – where no jobs are handled by humans and robots do everything — is extremely unlikely. But that doesn’t mean that the future workforce won’t be heavily influenced by artificial intelligence.

AI is set to integrate into our workforce. There will be greater human-machine cooperation, and human team members will have different skills. AI integration could even present the future workforce with new opportunities to interact, explore, think and innovate.


Note: we originally published this article here: https://datafloq.com/read/reimagining-workforce-age-of-ai/6179