This topic is the second of a three-part series from our Enterprise Change Practice.
Read Part 1 here

Robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence are redefining the future of business – and fast. According to several recent studies, a third of today’s jobs will be performed by robots or smart machines by 2025. That’s less than eight years away.

While the optimistic view is that AI and automation will replace rote activities and/ or augment human performance, making work more rewarding (and they certainly can), there’s a reason tech giants such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerman are taking a dimmer view. The likelihood is that, at least in the short-term, that we will see large workforce displacements – particularly among segments of the workforce that may be least able to adapt and retool.

No one has a crystal ball. As a colleague of mine recently said, the agrarian workers confronted with industrialization couldn’t foresee the new jobs that would arise out of the industrial revolution, and the manufacturing workers displaced by the knowledge work revolution couldn’t foresee the new jobs that would arise in the tech-enabled knowledge workplace. None of us can really foresee the jobs that may arise in the world of AI and automation – nor know how many there will be, nor what skills they will require. Some experts see a sharp rise in jobs in the care economy absorbing the surplus. Others see growth in the rise of more localized production and service economies. But one thing is certain: the character of both individual work and corporate workforces will change.

 

The Times They Are a-Changin’

To view our animated video on Change Management click here

 

As the technology consultants planning and implementing revolutionary AI and automation solutions, how should we address the human impacts? Following are my top three recommendations:

  1. Invest in communication. People have always feared change, and savvy employees are increasingly skeptical of corporate “spin” about how the latest large-scale implementation will impact them. Now more than ever, skilled communicators trained in the art of anticipating tough questions and helping executives deliver honest, straightforward answers are needed to prevent panic, manage rumors and preserve credibility – which, in the age of social media, can plummet in the matter of minutes. Don’t skimp on these critical resources.
  2. Up your training game. The speed of technological advancement will result in virtually constant training needs, which newer generations – cultivated by the digital games they grew up on – will embrace. However, their learning style, characterized by a significantly shorter attention span than that of their predecessors, will necessitate a much more sophisticated and creative approach than the all-day classroom sessions of the past. Learning must be delivered in fun, bite-sized formats that leverage modern technologies (think video, gamification and social media) to keep our future workforce engaged. For individuals, embracing continuous lifelong learning is the key to remaining relevant. For businesses, providing employees with continuous learning opportunities is the key to attraction and retention, future-proofing the workforce and minimizing seismic workforce shifts.
  3. Treat people right. As new technologies perform tasks once replaced by humans, organizations will need more help assessing and addressing the people impact. The smaller the employee base, the more critical it is to retain top talent, and nothing stokes a mass exodus better than a poorly executed organizational realignment. How well a company navigates technological change is also watched by investors and – as the incidence of people losing their livelihoods to machines rises – will likely become of increasing interest to news media, customers and regulators alike. A public relations backlash could significantly offset the financial gains of headcount reduction.

 

As with the industrial and digital revolutions of the past, the human race will survive these disruptive technologies. The question is who will thrive in the new environment. Smart leaders are wrestling with that question now and helping their organizations prepare. For those who wait, someone might answer for them.

 

Members of our Enterprise Change leadership team discuss Change Anxiety in the following video.

 

Next month, watch for our third and final installment in this series: ‘You Say You Want a Transformation’

Holly Benson

Holly Benson

Partner, Enterprise Change Practice, Infosys Consulting

Holly brings the scientist’s curiosity and observational skills to the world around her.  She uses her interactions with some of the world’s leading corporations – and their workforces – to form fresh and intriguing insights on education and skills.  After 25 years’ consulting experience, she remains a hands-on practitioner who helps clients deal with people and organizational implications of agile enterprise and changing business models.  She is developing and delivering learning programs, both for Infosys Consulting and its clients that grapple with the challenges and opportunities provided by technology in the learning space.  Holly is now bringing this perspective to the World Economic Forum, as steering committee member of their Global Future Council System Initiative on Education, Gender and Work. Holly can be contacted via LinkedIn or Holly_Benson@infosys.com