How Artificial Intelligence will change the workforce

16th September 2016, 08:00am
After years of hype, artificial intelligence is ready to disrupt the workforce – and it’s time for executives across industries to pay attention.  

Elon Musk made headlines last year when he predicted artificial intelligence (AI) and automation would take over most human jobs. 

In some sectors, the transition is already underway. A hamburger-flipping robot has reported for its first shift at fast food restaurant CaliBurger. In the United Kingdom, telecommunications company O2 has announced plans to introduce AI capable of performing the same job as customer service representatives.  

Closer to home, Victoria Police is trialling semi-autonomous highway patrol cars that steer themselves and automatically brake in emergencies. 

While a Terminator-style robot job takeover may seem imminent, it’s also unlikely. In this article we’ll take a look at which jobs are under threat, how AI can support a more effective workforce, and ways executives can prepare for change. 


Which jobs are on the chopping block? 


The answer to this question is more complicated than you might expect. The World Economic Forum says the rise of technologies such as robotics and AI will result in five million job losses by 2020.  

On the other hand, McKinsey says automation and AI will eliminate very few occupations in the next decade. Instead, they will “affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail." 

It’s safe to assume, however, that AI presents a greater threat to workers in certain jobs. For example, a robot cannot inspire a team or make ethical judgements like a human, which makes it a poor choice for CEO. 

But a robot can drive a car, operate machinery and solve basic customer service queries. That’s bad news for taxi drivers, low-skilled manufacturing workers and call centre staff. 


Harnessing new opportunities 


Meanwhile in the corporate world, AI may help managers, sales teams, operational staff and administrative workers become more efficient – for a price. According to ontology architect Jay Wacker, employees “will have to make significant changes to their work to leverage new tools that will make them more productive.” 

To thrive in a post-AI world, upskilling will be required. A sales representative, for example, may need to develop data analysis skills to learn from trends and improve performance in areas of sales that cannot be automated. 

In organisations that outsource decision-making to AI, managers may need to enhance attributes that are unique to humans, like creativity and social intelligence. 

As JLL managing director, Peter Miscovich, wrote in a recent article, AI isn’t just taking jobs. It’s also making humans better at theirs. 

“Automation has begun to displace human workers, as some predicted, but the effect is more than just replacement – it’s advancement. The influx of sophisticated technologies will enable us to think of work in new and innovative ways,” he wrote. 


How to prepare for change  


No one knows for sure how AI will impact the workplace. But that doesn’t mean executives should adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. 

With new artificial intelligence applications being developed every day, now is the time to experiment with AI. What works? What doesn’t? Are managers and employees equipped to work with AI, or do they need to develop new skills? 

Organisations that answer these questions with confidence will be better prepared to navigate the challenges and opportunities that AI presents. 

How are you preparing for the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace? 
Follow us on

Get the best of Better Business in your inbox

Sign up for the latest Better Business news, tips and insights to stay informed and ahead of the game. Bigger and better starts today

Subscribe