By Leanne Bull
Are the robots taking over?
Fret not – the rise of the machines isn’t imminent. However, as technology continues to advance, it is safe to say that some jobs currently held by humans may one day be performed using artificial intelligence. Last year, a report released by the Brookfield Institute suggested that 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of having their job affected by automation over the next decade or two.
As A.I. becomes increasingly "intelligent", it won’t just be unskilled positions that are affected. Knowledge work, (such as consulting, law and financial services), is poised to see a shakeup.
This may seem like an issue that is too far off on the horizon to worry about today. But there are steps employers can start taking today to help prepare the workforce for this transformation. Here are three potential steps to consider now.
1. Perform a workforce analysis
It’ll be hard to anticipate which areas of your workforce might be disrupted by the artificial intelligence transformation in the long-term if you don’t have a clear understanding of how it has been shifting. Workforce planning isn’t something you can afford to ignore – and it can help you gain an understanding of how you can prepare for the changes that automation is sure to bring.
Consider analyzing the changes your workforce has undergone in recent years. It’s not only important to take into account if A.I. has influenced your workforce – make note of any areas within which there has been a greater need for talent and skills development. This can help to identify and prioritize functions within the organization that may need to evolve more urgently.
You’ll also want to stay apprised of the latest trends and innovations in your industry to identify risk factors early on. If you’re seeing widespread adoption of new automated systems impacting areas of your business, this might signal that your organization has waited too long to act.
2. Encourage – or mandate – ongoing learning and development
When an employee joins an organization, time and resources should be committed to ensuring they are brought up to speed effectively and efficiently. But just as training is more than just an expense, learning and development extends beyond the onboarding process. Companies which thrive know that ongoing learning is essential. Learning management should be adapted to suit each company, and if resources allow, each individual employee.
While this is true for today’s workforce, it is essential for the workplace of tomorrow. It can be difficult to predict how the workforce will change in just a few short years. Take the investment industry, for instance. A few short years ago, consumers were often seeking a Real Person to help with their investments – but now, there is increased comfort in digital advice solutions, such as robo-advisors. Adapting to change is necessary and companies can set themselves up for long-term success if they recognize this.
Employers should examine any existing learning and development programs to ensure that the areas of focus are current and regularly evolving. If resources don’t allow for a formal program, consider permitting employees to take time each month to pursue learning, through workshops, webinars, courses or modules. If resources are limited, there are low- or no-cost options to explore.
3. Enable skills diversification
When faced with an eventual seismic change to the way many businesses operate, organizations will want talent with a mix of skills. Waiting until that change takes effect to ensure employees are armed with a diverse skillset could leave employers playing catch-up.
Again, it’s hard to predict just how artificial intelligence will change organizational structures down the line. But companies can start to examine ways in they can support employees in building new skills and learning new specialties to be able to complement advances in technology.
This can start with giving employees access to new tools to facilitate skills development. For example, have employees – and not just those working in an IT capacity – learn how to interface with data by learning to code, which is a new initiative GE is undertaking.
Avoid thinking you’ll be unaffected
Sooner or later, the status quo is going to change. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. Students who enter a degree program might find that their chosen industry has completely transformed between their first day in the lecture hall and their last. It’s never been more important to be professionally adaptable.
Artificial intelligence will become increasingly integrated into our world and our work. But the degree to which various businesses are affected may vary, as will the order in which certain industries or functions within an organization are impacted.
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