Deploying AI to Fight Automation: Help Your Employees Future-Fit Their Careers

Employees should see artificial intelligence not as a threat but as an opportunity for them to reinvent skills, enhance their development, and discover new career paths.

The acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive technologies, and automation is transforming the workplace as we know it. Automation will cause a shift in the skills required for specific jobs—demand for employees in some professions will rise, while for others it will fall—and employers and employees alike will need to adapt to this new reality. Faced with this, 86 percent of respondents to a recent Deloitte survey believe they must reinvent their ability to learn at work in the coming years.

For any workforce, the prospect of technologically driven change can be unsettling, and so companies have a choice: whether to fight it or embrace it. Those who choose the latter will reap the rewards.

By viewing AI not as a threat but as an opportunity for employees to reinvent skills, enhance their development, and discover new career paths, companies can ensure that their employees do not just survive, but thrive in the age of automation.

The Looming Threat of Automation

McKinsey estimates that half of the activities people are paid to do worldwide have the potential to be automated by adapting existing technologies—amounting to almost $15 trillion in wages. A recent report from the firm reveals that between 2016 and 2030, 15 percent of the global workforce—approximately 400 million employees—are expected to be displaced by automation.

AI does not discriminate; it has the potential to infiltrate almost every industry. About 30 percent of activities in 60 percent of all occupations could become automated in the future.

When McKinsey examined several hundred use cases of AI, it found that advanced deep learning techniques deploying artificial neural networks could account for as much as $3.5 trillion to $5.8 trillion in annual value across all major sectors of the global economy.

These are disturbing figures for employees, particularly those with manual jobs that are most vulnerable to replacement by automation. So how can employers alleviate fears and protect their valued workforce?

How to Ensure Employees Keep Up Pace

Ironically, the very technology that is the source of so much fear—AI—is, in fact a critical part of the solution. Companies can utilize AI not just to drive automation, but also to enhance their employees’ careers, opening up opportunities that previously may have been unavailable or inaccessible.

Horizontal growth—the strategy of enabling employees to develop their skill sets in different roles and projects outside of their daily roles—already is proving to be hugely effective in retaining employees, particularly Millennials. AI can help employers pinpoint their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and match them to the right opportunities for horizontal growth, without taking away from their daily responsibilities.

The future of work will depend not only on employees’ ability to broaden their skills horizons, but also on successfully working alongside cutting-edge technology. Indeed, there is a growing number of  “superjobs,”  in which the work and responsibilities of traditional jobs are augmented through technology, to broaden the scope of the work performed. They involve a complex set of domain, technical, and human skills. People with these jobs have the opportunity to expand their skill sets and increase their value in their companies tremendously.

Existing roles in a range of fields can be enhanced by technology to create such superjobs. In HR, for example, talent experience software can provide professionals with real-time insights into employee behavior and sentiment. These insights, combined with the essential human skills required for any HR professional—such as communication and empathy—can create an entirely new role: HR “experience architect.”

Additionally, learning and development platforms can empower employees with new skills to help them future-fit their careers. Cornerstone Ondemand, for one, helps organizations recruit, train, and manage their people—streamlining what can otherwise be costly, time-consuming processes when carried out manually. The platform uses AI to personalize the learning process—a strategy that is becoming increasingly popular among organizations.

A Tried-and-Tested Theory

Many organizations already are harnessing AI to incentivize talented employees to stay at their company. Unilever, for example, offers an internal talent marketplace that matches employees with new career opportunities and projects within the company. Since launching in 2018, the solution has been rolled out to 50,000 employees in more than 90 countries—enabling employees across the organization to unlock their potential, develop their skills, and free up their capacity.

In a similar vein, Schneider Electric recently launched an internal “open talent market”—leveraging AI to find employees career opportunities within the company, including part-time projects, full-time positions, and mentorships. Innovative platforms such as this enable people to fulfill their career goals and organizations to retain talent. With the cost of replacing a single employee estimated at between 90 percent and 200 percent of that employee’s annual salary, companies cannot afford to pass up such technology.

AI Is an Opportunity, Not a Threat

Rather than fight the threat of automation, companies must seize this opportunity for growth by utilizing AI to its full advantage. In doing so, employers can enable people to expand their skill sets, discover new opportunities, and fulfill their ambitions—benefiting in return from a strong, loyal, and ambitious workforce equipped to tackle the future head on.

Ben Reuveni is CEO and co-founder of Gloat and its InnerMobility solution. Gloat’s Internal Talent Marketplace helps enterprises democratize career development, unlock skills, and future-proof their workforce.

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