How to prepare your workforce for the arrival of AI


One of the guiding principles of technology innovation is that any new product should be there to adapt and support the human user not vice versa. The notion of robots taking away jobs is frightening, especially given the dire predictions that have been made about how automation will replace millions of workers, particularly those in low-skill positions.

Evidence to date is mixed. A recent German study suggests that robots aren’t causing a net loss of jobs in that country. But the devil is in the detail. While robots have not been major job killers in Germany so far – not affecting total employment – they do have strongly negative impacts on manufacturing employment.

Optimistically, the researchers say that robot exposed workers have a substantially higher probability of keeping a job at their original workplace. “Robot exposure increases job stability for these workers, although some of them end up performing different tasks in their firm than before robot exposure.”

If the bottom line is robots and humans will be working together, it makes sense to prepare your workplace for the changes. Upskilling and/or retraining your affected workforce should be a priority. Automation tools will provide the opportunity to move some staff to higher-skilled, higher quality and higher paid tasks.

CIOs play an important role

CIOs are in a unique position to bring business and technology together. By taking a leadership role – and offering a human touch – CIOs can become the glue that ensures all the moving parts involved in new technology function as a synchronous whole. Without CIO leadership, there is a high risk organisations will fall foul of digital disruption.

Translating the daunting complexities of new technology-speak (the acronyms alone are forbidding) into language the layperson can understand is just one way a CIO can help guide the enterprise and facilitate acceptance of new technology. Developing pilot projects and involving business users to identify areas of opportunity will enable staff to be proactively involved and feel that they are contributing not just to the technology, but the success of the enterprise.

Naturally, it will fall to the CIO to put into action all the preliminary tasks that must be done to onboard AI technologies. These include integrating core processes, liberating siloed data, building out your enterprise’s analytics footprint, and creating better connectivity between systems.

The CIO should also have an eye on engineering a common IT platform, based around the key business processes that your organisation most values. The platform doesn’t have to be all on-premise or all in the cloud, but it does need to be cost effective and each part needs to connect simply to the other.

The influence of new technologies is growing rapidly and, as Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon, once said: “The outside world will push you into irrelevance if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you are probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tail wind.”

Stuart Dickinson is Director and General Manager for DXC Oxygen.

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