In the context of artificial intelligence, big data and modern robots helping machines perform the tasks that once could only be done by humans, companies need strategies to survive and thrive in this fast-changing world. The future scenario for the next 10 years is fairly dim. What we know is that business leaders must take steps to shape their workforce for emerging smart businesses. Research and experiments indicate three important things:
1. Use technology to enhance human skills and recreate operating models
Companies’ leaders who think of labour replacement and cost savings will gain much more return. For example, a new kind of adaptive robot can work safely alongside workers and can take on difficult and tedious work. Take this as an example: At Spartanburg factory, S.C. BMW, the robots are installing door seals, an awkward and tiring job for workers. This will speed up the progression, improves quality and gives workers more time to perform higher-value work. The researchers estimate that using adaptive robots in this way can reduce wasted time for non-value-added work by 25%. Surveys show that workers have a more positive view of new robots that they consider helpful supporters. Far from factories, companies are using AI to reduce the workloads of employees and provide them with new analytical tools to improve customer experience and explore new possibilities of products, services, and business models that drive growth.
2. Grab the opportunity to redefine employment and rethink the structure of organizations
Companies cannot optimize their investments if they don’t adjust job descriptions and the old organizational structure. The CEO should evaluate the tasks that need to be done, predict the tasks that can be done by machines, then restructure all the works by adding new tasks or creating completely different roles if necessary to manage smart technology. For example, a factory worker can be trained to run a robot. AI systems also need human assistance to correct algorithms and overwrite a computer’s false guess. For example, at Stitch Fix, an online clothing registration service, 3,400 stylists work with the AI recommendation engine to make personalized recommendations for customers. These machines give the stylists the speed they need to work effectively and the stylists provide the additional judgments needed for accurate recommendations. To operate effectively, a smart business should have a “flat” organization, in which employees collaborate on a straightforward structure in terms of function and operation. This allows smart businesses to quickly tale action based on the insights of data analysis machines and leverage human talent to focus on problems, tests, repetition and bringing solutions into the market.
3. Consider your employees as partners in building a smart business
To achieve the right balance between investing in smart technology and maintaining existing businesses, companies’ leaders need help from their employees. Employees are much more willing – even eager – to master new technologies than their employers think. They want to learn new skills, at least because they know they will need them to keep a job. Investing in both technology and training will help companies make a smooth transition to smart businesses. Companies doing this will outperform their competitors because they will open up human talent, which still can’t be found in machines and is essential for development – creativity, empathy, communication, adaptation and problem-solving. “When basic automation and machine learning become commodities, human skills will become more valuable”, says Devin Fidler, research director of the Future Institute.
As science and technology are constantly evolving, the job market will witness great changes. These are the three actions that business leaders can take to shape the future.