It’s a popularly-held view that machines and automation will make the human workforce obsolete in the near future. According to a study by Korn Ferry, “44% (of 800 leaders) said they believe the prevalence of robotics, automation and AI will make people “largely irrelevant”.” Worldwide, the share of the economy devoted to labour has fallen massively, but does this necessarily mean the end of human usefulness?
New innovations offer all kinds of possibilities, with AI becoming so advanced it’s capable of making business decisions and negotiating trade deals. But despite the fall in human labour and the views of many leaders, humans are still the most valuable resource for businesses, far outstripping physical capital.
When we look at the biggest technological shifts of recent years, the biggest gains have been through optimising human work to make people more efficient and productive. The biggest technology gains have been made by connecting people from all over the world and augmenting them with the right tools. Even if we could replace all humans with machines, does that mean we should? AI may be capable of making sense of massive amounts of data, but people will still be needed to make judgement calls, run teams and think creatively.
According to Gary Burnison, Chief Exec at Korn Ferry, “The debate should not be either-or, technology versus people. It’s obviously both.” The goal for enterprises should not be to get rid of people but to augment them with the right tools to unlock their potential. If your best people are bogged down in menial tasks, you’re not getting the best out of them. By automating work like this you free them up to be more productive and innovative.
The right human-automation partnerships are what will help enterprises the most. Chatbots are a good example of “augmenting the people you already have” by taking repetitive manual tasks out of the equation and allowing those people to focus on the things humans do best, such as using emotional intelligence and building relationships. Innovation will definitely change the face of work and the skills people will need to be successful, but it won’t eliminate the need for people altogether.
While there will be jobs that become obsolete or change dramatically, new technologies are likely to create new jobs that we haven’t even thought of yet. New roles are already springing up around AI such as AI trainers and roles to support data science, modelling and computational intelligence. Leaders will have to think carefully about how to best augment their workforce with the right tech and ensure that their people have the skills and knowledge to succeed in this new environment.