Working Transitions

I, Robot vs Humanity

Today’s world of work is rapidly changing and organisations – no matter how big or small – are operating within a continuously changing environment. Flatter structures, new technologies, longer working lives and up to 5 generations in the workplace – more is being demanded of both leaders and individuals.

And there’s something else – something that has been on the horizon for a while and is becoming more and more prevalent in our daily lives. Artificial Intelligence (AI), are systems that demonstrate at least some of the behaviours associated with human intelligence including planning, learning, reasoning, and problem-solving.

How does AI affect the workplace?

One of the key uses of AI is to perform tasks that would normally require human intervention. In many cases, AI can do it faster, more efficiently and without the risk of human error.

Within the realm of AI, there are different classifications. These include:

Narrow Artificial Intelligence  - systems that complete certain, defined tasks within tightly set parameters. We see narrow AI in use all around us every day - from recommending what we should buy next online to facial recognition within digital photos, AI has many uses within our daily life – many of which we take for granted!

General Artificial Intelligence is quite different – it is the type of adaptable intelligence that can imitate a human. Carrying out a wide range of varied tasks, not only does it behave in the same manner as humans but it has also been created to think and reason the same way a human would when completing tasks. General AI is not yet in wide use and experts are widely divided about how soon it will become a true reality.

The Pro’s

Dealing with mundane tasks –  AI can comfortably complete a range of time-consuming task. For some, it will no doubt mean a more interesting and specialised role – with many of the more ‘mundane’ day to day tasks automated, it will free up time to focus on tasks that require a higher level of capability.  

Faster decisions – without the need for emotion and conscience, in the right circumstances AI can make decisions and carry out actions quicker than any human could. With decisions being made upon true logic, continuity and consistency can be enhanced.

Avoiding errors – “Human Error” is a phrase familiar to every organisation. Regardless of how much training is offered, a margin of human error is always to be expected. AI takes this out of the equation – as long as programming is accurate, every task should be completed correctly.

Risk Taking - as humans, we take a huge amount of risk in the name of science. However, there are some risks which present too much danger and are simply not acceptable – or ethical -  for humans to face.  This is where AI can step in. The Mars Rover is a good example - not only could it function effectively on Mars but it was able to determine the best course of action in the name of research and science without the risk to human life.

The Con’s

Job losses – It is a fair assumption that many organisations will, at some point, need to reduce headcount – there simply won’t be the need for as many man-hours – particularly for low-skilled workers. However, with the right support, guidance and training it can create exciting opportunity to retrain into a new role.

Lack of judgement calls – AI removes emotion from the equation. In many cases, it’s our human emotions that lead us to make the best decisions. Humans consider all angles  - including the impact on people’s feelings.  Artificial Intelligence will only see the logical solution to a problem, with no regard to the collateral damage it could cause.

Making AI work for your Organisation

What do the developments in AI mean for your organisation? If you currently employ a team who may be affected by the increased use of AI, how can you ensure that you retain talent, redeploy appropriately and utilise the skills that have made your business a success in the best way possible?

Raise the issue

Where possible, share information and details of any potential developments in technology as soon as it’s viable. Nothing is more damaging in the workplace than ‘chinese whispers’ – if employees feel that decisions are being made without their involvement they will feel alienated and disheartened and their first instinct may be to ‘fly the nest’.

If managers of potentially affected departments have not been through a change process before consider whether coaching or training in this area may be of benefit.

Keep it positive

For many, the process of redeploying into a new role or considering a change in direction can be a really positive experience. If your organisation has been through a similar process before, success stories from previous redeployees who are now successfully settled in an alternative role can be reassuring and inspiring. Think about incorporating these into your communication strategy.

Enabling employees to identify and explore their transferable skills – either through coaching, workshops or online tools – can be empowering and equip individuals for success in an alternative role within the organisation. Make sure too that hiring managers truly understand the value of transferability and how to properly assess skills at interview.

Introduce supporting measures early

A supportive and proactive approach to redeployment is key to ensuring that the people that you want to keep see an internal move as a viable option. Ensure affected employees are made aware of the available support as early as possible and allow them time to understand, digest and fully utilise the package on offer.

Ensure that the support package is tailored to the workforce and offers support that will benefit all affected employees. Group workshops, seminars, individual sessions, telephone coaching, online tools – there’s lots available – whatever you decide to offer make sure it’s properly targeted to your workforce.

It’s also worth reviewing the process for internal applications – ensure this is as simple, clear and streamlined as possible and that every available job vacancy is properly communicated. In times of stress a convoluted, difficult to navigate system can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

Plan ahead

Don’t just think about redeployment and skills development when you’re going through a period of change. Encourage a strong culture of internal mobility where employees are actively encouraged to move between departments and experience different areas of the organisation. Encourage work shadowing and strong inter-departmental communication as the ‘norm’. Not only will all employees have a far better understanding of internal opportunities within other departments but the whole organisation will benefit immeasurably from the increase in communication.

Working Transitions believe that the most important enabler of change – technological or otherwise -  is the people affected. By adding the human touch via face to face coaching, workshops and facilitation we ensure a successful outcome for all.  

Our flexible suite of bespoke, tailored services are designed to support workplace development and transition and help you drive your business forward.

 

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A small yellow Wall-E robot with sad eyes, placed on the ground holding sticks in the hand.
Author
Working Transitions
Date
19 February 2019
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Supporting effective and successful organisational change

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