About the series
Fact or fiction? breaks down common myths and misconceptions about digital transformation, while showcasing KPMG leaders’ perspectives on related topics such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, and the impact of these emerging technologies on the workforce, businesses and society.
Many companies are re-evaluating their way of doing work as AI is introduced into their workplaces and have been successful. KPMG’s Cliff Justice addresses the potential benefits of using AI and other cognitive technologies in the latest episode.
By Cliff Justice
With a wave of intelligent automation on the horizon, now is the time for enterprises to invest in the talent they need to build a workforce for the future.
Among the most significant changes we will see in our lifetime are smart machines that are able to act, learn and reason like a human. Artificial intelligence is poised to fuel a massive digital transformation of business across every industry. The technology we have access to today, as advanced and capable as it is already, is improving at an exponential rate. What we see now, such as intelligent assistants, document readers and computer vision, are rudimentary examples of what will be accessible on astonishingly fast, high-bandwidth, low-cost cloud networks by almost everyone who has a mobile device in the next three to five years.
AI technologies will undoubtedly improve the productivity and quality of business processes. And it will completely change the role of humans in the workplace and how we interact with machines.
This has massive implications for the workforce as we know it, but not necessarily in negative ways.
Hidden between the optimism and promise of AI sits the troubling fact that business leaders say they do not have the right talent in place to properly handle these technologies or the changes they will bring. But with such major investments expected over the next several years, businesses can’t afford to continue ignoring the changing workplace. Job losses, redesigned roles, and new positions that don’t yet exist are inevitable, and companies need to start preparing now to ensure their employees are ready to work alongside machines.
Thriving in the automation revolution requires more than simply hiring new employees with specialized technology skills; it demands careful attention to curating and nurturing the right existing talent, employees who understand customer and business processes, and equipping them with the education and training needed to reimagine the way business processes can operate when equipped with these new technologies.
While the challenges seem overwhelming, and indeed the execution is not trivial, it is sometimes helpful to simplify the process and think of it in a few broad principles for change. And, the blueprint for this change is straight forward and not much different from any other major change initiative. Here are four key steps cutting-edge business leaders are taking today to evolve their workforce to adapt to the monumental changes to come:
Establishing a learning culture
Many employees are well-suited for new roles in an AI world, if they embrace a mantra of continuous learning. Companies from AT&T to Flexport have built extensive programs that encourage continuous learning, enabling employees to develop new skills and remain valuable assets in an automated workplace. Such training can also be a great source of excitement within an organization and help address much of the anxiety associated with change. Companies can also leverage new technologies to help employees adapt. For example, augmented reality enables trainers to teach employees even when they are not in the same physical location.
New approaches to performance management
In a digital-first world, what metrics should companies use to measure performance in a blended human and machine workforce? Companies are not only reconsidering these metrics, but evaluating organizational structures, HR policies and workplace practices. Developing a strong understanding of this transformation must be a priority to ensure performance is fairly measured and that employees can successfully evolve and adapt to the new world order.
Designing the workforce of the future
Finally, companies preparing now for the changes AI will bring, should create a detailed blueprint of how human and digital labor can be optimally integrated. The blueprint needs to cover structural aspects, such as who sits where and their accountabilities, as well as enabling factors such as information flows, capability building and career path redesign. While only serving as a guide, a blueprint can help you visualize a plan for the future and what changes need to be put in place to get there.
This does not have any reasonable basis. While some job categories will experience change and turbulence as automation takes hold, this has happened before and there is no evidence that over the long term that this or any other technology would cause widespread unemployment. In fact, all the historical evidence points to the opposite outcome of higher employment, rising standards of living, never-before-thought-of job categories, and better access to basic human needs.
Despite the undoubtable change AI will bring to the workplace, the need for humans – especially those with specialized skills – is growing. Success depends on a forward-looking vision that can seamlessly and strategically blend human talent and machine capabilities. If done right, there is every reason to believe organizations can improve the future world of work.
Cliff Justice is U.S. Leader, Intelligent Automation, for KPMG. This article is adapted from a piece that originally ran in Information Week entitled, Avoid Automation Failure: Invest in Your Workforce. To speak to Cliff Justice, contact Melanie Batley.