The threat to workers’ current jobs is inescapable when it comes to AI and automation. While business leaders are fully charged to cultivate enormous cost savings from AI, employees are terrified of losing their jobs as a result. Industry reports claim 70% of HR executives expect AI to result in significant job losses in Asia over the next five years. Fear of redundancy is a key concern for employees today, and few companies have a clear understanding of how to manage this concern. We are about to witness a significant decrease in trust not only between employees and employers, but among employees themselves, as revealed in our recent report. As feelings of isolation grow, company loyalty among workers can only worsen in the future.
Replacing humans with bots to significantly reduce costs and increase profits may be the million-dollar dream for many businesses, but a world of work without humans is unrealistic. While automation will eliminate some jobs, many more will be created, or evolve. Humans will still be needed. AI is like an ocean: its waves can be merciless, but even the biggest waves can be tamed by a human being on a surfboard. Without people, you cannot surf the age of AI successfully.
Pragmatic business leaders need to step up to this significant shift in the world of work. No matter how much you have invested in building AI systems, the transition won’t be successful without an acute focus on the human-machine relationship. How will the two collaborate? How will the current workforce, and the business itself, adapt? Until this fear can be handled effectively, employees will be reluctant to leverage AI in augmenting their job efficiency.
In order to grow trust, leaders must proceed sensitively and gradually when introducing AI systems. Involving employees at an early stage in the development process will help them acclimatize to the new technology, ultimately elevating trust levels. Human behavior does not evolve exponentially in the same manner as technology, but discontinuously, in leaps and bounds. People only summon up the courage to change when they can see the benefits, not when they feel threatened. Even then, it takes time before they accept it fully. The right balance between AI and humans must be struck. Prioritizing people will require changes in management culture, which still tends to be hierarchical and authoritarian in many Asia Pacific organizations.
The slow pace of change within organizations in preparing workforces for the future is a serious concern. Automation and AI will increasingly take over not only routine, repetitive, and low-end tasks, but also highly skilled white-collar work. Some skills and capabilities will inevitably be rendered irrelevant, and those unable to keep up will be left behind. Preparing the current and future workforce with relevant skills requires a reboot of traditional training and learning models. Decades-old training models were fit for the industrial, not the digital, economy. To establish new learning models, businesses need to engage in more flexible partnerships, accelerate their response time, provide different modes of delivery, and offer new combined-skill programs in order to prepare people for what comes next.
The future of work will be shaped by two inevitable, powerful forces: The growing adoption of AI, and the future partnership between humans and machines. Striking the right balance between the two will be both the biggest opportunity and the greatest challenge for organizations. Trust is the new battleground for AI success.
As we’re early in the emergence of intelligent machines, leaders now have the opportunity to provide a clear understanding of the changes in roles, responsibilities, and ownership that will result. It is the perfect time; will the real leaders out there please stand up?