On Thursday 5th March 2020, La Fosse hosted a roundtable event with a panel of HR professionals to discuss the impacts of AI and digital technology on the workforce, from a Human Relations perspective.

This event was facilitated by DEVYANI VAISHAMPAYAN, Managing Partner at HR Tech Partnership and career HR Director.

How is AI impacting the future of work?

Devyani opened with two key stats:

  • 65% of the jobs that people will be doing in 10 years have not even been thought of yet.
  • 91% of millennials expect to change jobs every three years, implying 15-20 employers over their career.

These projections have a huge impact on the work of HR departments, requiring a complete re-think with regard to training, retention and career development planning. However, technology does provide a range of benefits in areas such as employee experience, collaboration, augmentation of processes and much more.
As technology becomes more sophisticated and we move towards further automation of processes, it’s not just HR functions who will be affected. Workforce composition is also expected to change significantly, with many full-time positions being replaced by part-time, mobile and contracted roles. As a result of all the above changes, many organisations will be required to re-think their leadership culture and overalls structure, as well as their data privacy and ethics policies as more and more data becomes available.

What impact will AI have on jobs?

Machines ‘taking over jobs’ is an increasingly key concern for any organisation, but there is a silver lining – advances in technology can allow for positive substitution, of ‘physical, repeatable jobs’ that then enable workers to focus their time on more skilled tasks and strategy planning.
According to a PwC report, the impact of AI will come in three waves:

  • Wave 1 – Algorithmic (now -> early 2020s)
    Simple computational tasks and analysis of structured data
  • Wave 2 – Augmentation (early 2020s -> late 2020s)
    Dynamic interaction and robotic tasks in semi-controlled environments
  • Wave 3 – Autonomous (late 2020s -> mid 2030s)
    Automation of physical labour and problem solving in dynamic, real-world situations

Effects also depend on individual countries’ education and development stages. Third-world countries will be affected quickest, followed by service economy areas such as the UK, US and Europe. Highly developed countries like Japan and South Korea are already highly automated, so will likely not see significant change until the 2030s.

Which skills will be in demand?

Among the list of skills due to become more in demand are, naturally, AI and digital skills – in the coming years, every job will have a digital element and all workers must embrace new technology, whether it augments their role or allows for deeper analysis and strategy. As more tasks are automated, empathy and other ‘human skills’ are likely to be more highly valued – making customers feel understood and maintaining company culture is key to the future of any business in a digital world.

What can we do to understand AI and digital?

According to research by KPMG, 70% of HR executives recognise the need for workforce transformation but just 37% feel ‘very confident’ about HR’s actual ability to transform and move them forward via key capabilities like analytics and AI.
Thankfully, there’s a lot that can be done to quell any fears and work towards a more digital future, and it all starts with mindset. It’s time to start moving away from the ‘headwind’ mindset of:
‘Digital is not for us, we’re not a tech company and we don’t have time to do anything more than is essential.’
to a tailwind mindset of:
‘We will lead on this transformation – digitisation is a great business opportunity and even if we don’t have the answers, we are willing to experiment!’
It’s also crucial that HR departments ensure everyone in the business gets familiar with AI and digital, identifying areas where it can be beneficial to business in terms of costs and efficiency. Particularly, it’s crucial that board and C-level staff are digitally savvy in order to drive change.
The world is changing, and if businesses don’t adapt, they will collapse.