Using artificial intelligence and automation to your advantage in the workplace

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 29 January 2020
The workplaces of the future will look fundamentally different to those of today. Regardless of whether you work for a technology company, a technology-driven role, or a field less intrinsically connected to the digital world, it’s likely that modern technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation will have a significant impact on what you do and how you do it. And as the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, workforces will be forced to implement new strategies, solutions and technologies in order to remain competitive and retain customers – or risk being left behind.

AI and automation: What you need to know

The digital revolution is ongoing and has brought with it new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). While AI, automation and machine learning aren’t new developments, what is new is the technological progress that has allowed them to become much more accessible and applicable in the workplace.

AI: Defined as the ability of a computer or robot to perform tasks previously associated with humans
Automation: Defined as using machines, programmes and technologies to make processes run automatically

As worldwide spending on artificial intelligence systems is predicted to hit US$98 billion, it’s clear that businesses will continue to invest in and utilise AI software and platforms. These technologies bring obvious business benefits in the form of streamlined processes, removing monotonous tasks from employee roles and improving efficiencies and profit – but with that has come an ongoing discussion around whether AI and automation will threaten jobs. 

How will new technologies impact Hanover’s markets?

The retail and banking industries are expected to lead the way in spending on AI systems, according to research by the International Data Corporation. Examples of this include chatbots that mimic customer service assistants, leveraging customer data to provide personalised insights and recommendations and using AI to help detects and prevents payments fraud.

Much has been said about the impact of automation on banking, with banks scrambling to balance customer service with productivity and efficiencies that can be delivered through new technologies. It’s predicted that banks in North America alone could save $US70 billion by 2025 through the introduction of automation and AI, while the broader financial services industry could double that saving in the same time frame. Looking to some of Hanover’s other sectors, we can expect to see life sciences use AI to accelerate research, improve drug development and drive compliance in clinical trial transparency, all resulting in more efficient products and therapies. Meanwhile, insurance is already employing many AI-driven technologies, including utilising big data produced by personal devices, open source and data infrastructures and customer service chatbots. 

There has long been the fear of AI taking over jobs, thanks to new systems having advanced cognitive abilities that can automate repetitive and physical tasks, as well as some qualitative tasks. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics says 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs due to automation, with shelf fillers, waiters and people in elementary sales occupations most at risk of having their work automated by computer programs or robots. The flipside of this is that by automating some more monotonous and repetitive tasks, AI will push professionals to hone their skills in uniquely human areas such as creativity, empathy, innovation, socialisation and sense-making, none of which can yet be replicated by machines. For professionals who are willing to – and can – adapt their skills, learn new practices and work with machines, AI and automation could result in more career opportunities. 

What skills are needed to remain competitive in the future technological landscape?

It’s been predicted that as many as 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may face needing to be retrained or reskilled in the next three years in order to compete with AI and automation. Meanwhile, only 41% of CEOs say they have the right resources, skills and talent required to execute their business strategies into the future, according to IBM, suggesting that while technology may make some human tasks redundant, it’s also exposing skills gaps and challenges in changing workforce needs. There’s a real opportunity for professionals to work alongside technology to enhance their existing roles and build to their skillsets, whether that’s understanding how to operate and supervise machinery, program automated software or better utilise their time for strategic and creative work. One real world example of this is at Amazon, where warehouse workers displaced by robots have found themselves with new roles of supervision and other mentally engaging work, leaving robots with the most monotonous tasks.

We can expect to see market demand for advanced digital and technological skills to rise dramatically as AI takes hold. In addition, social, emotional and higher cognitive skills will become increasingly sought after by employers. We may see teams working in more cross-functional, agile ways in order to be stable and dynamic in the face of automation, with retraining and redeployment becoming top priorities for organisations planning to implement new technologies in the coming years.

The bottom line

While robots and AI have significant potential impacts for organisations and industries, computers cannot yet do everything the human brain can. A robot does not have the years of experience and judgement a Procurement Officer or Financial Planner has, nor can it interact with customers and clients in the same way a human can. Workers and organisations alike should prepare for the impact of automation in the workplace, re-skilling as required and looking for new opportunities to provide value. A well-trained, well-prepared workforce is best positioned to meet future skills gaps and remain employable in an increasingly technology-led environment.  

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