Can AI Solve our Workplace Woes?

By 2025, half of all current work tasks will be performed by artificial intelligence (AI). How will your humans adapt? 

Offices evolved as a way for humans to join forces in the pursuit of shared goals. They have been a standard feature of the job landscape, but in late 2021 workers began abandoning the workforce in large numbers. It’s been called The Great Resignation, the Great Upgrade, the Great Rethink, and the “About Time” Resignation, as roughly 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month starting in 2021 and continuing well into 2022, many without plans to return. Though the reasons for the exodus are complex, this phenomenon gives rise to increasing competition for human workers, and those we do hire will come at a premium price tag. How can companies make sure they spend payroll wisely?

Enter the digital workforce. Automation and artificial intelligence are emerging in interesting and infinitely practical applications on a large scale for the first time, and these technologies are one way for companies to better manage their payroll costs while still providing outstanding products and services to customers. As the number of digital workers increases, companies will also need to find better ways to engage and honor human effort.

What does it mean to be human-centric?

We tend to throw around the term “human-centric” these days as if we all agree on exactly what it means. Yet, human-centric job design emerges in a myriad of ways. For some, it may mean more parties, activities, and public recognition for workers. For others, it’s an increase in benefits or downplaying the role of technology in business accomplishments. At an extreme, some may think human-centric stands in opposition to the use of automation in the workplace.

I think the most practical execution of human-centric honors the contributions of the human workforce alongside responsible efforts to leverage automation and AI.

How do companies strike this balance? It starts by recognizing that “Although the pandemic changed how many people work and interact with organizations, people are still at the center of all business. And they need digitalized processes to function in today’s environment,” according to Gartner.

As technology resellers, the move to digitization and automation offers significant revenue potential, but it’s important that our offerings and efforts are balanced by a more human-centric perspective that considers the best ways to help companies continue to honor investments in their humans.

By 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines and 97 million new roles will emerge according to the World Economic Forum. That’s a net gain in the number of available jobs Human-centric offices are characterized by a focus on collaboration and open and honest communication. They invest in smart job design that offsets repetitive, manual tasks to digital workers and reskills humans for more meaningful job tasks that include analyzing, visioning, and creating. Finally, leaders at all levels of human-centric companies are skilled at recognizing and aligning the strengths of all workers both human and computer to get to the best results.

How do automation and AI support human-centric job design?

Technology can support human-centric job design, but it won’t happen automatically. It’s important that you support businesses that are implementing automation by transitioning their workforce to a digital/human hybrid, what Harvard Business Review calls “augmented intelligence.” Augmented intelligence occurs when both humans and AI perform at optimal levels as they work side by side. According to their experts:

  • AI is suited for “lower-level, routine tasks that are repetitive and take place within a closed management system.” These tasks are characterized by clear rules, rigid procedures, and little influence from external factors.
  • Humans are suited for tasks that require them to “imagine, anticipate, feel, and judge changing situations,” and work that requires shifting between short and long-term concerns.

All of this means that AI is another tool along our journey toward more meaningful work. Just like the farmers of the 1800s who plowed, seeded, planted, and harvested crops largely by hand, we have spent a significant chunk of our work lives performing simple, routine tasks like data entry. Over time, this type of farm labor shifted from human to machine allowing farmers to focus their energies on maximizing crop yields and improving soil quality while protecting longer-term environmental concerns. Our jobs are now offsetting mundane tasks to computers, and energizing our daily work with tasks that more fully engage our creativity, leverage our ability to forecast and vision for the future, and enable us to make complex decisions while weighing a significant number of factors. Humans working alongside AI leads to a bright work future!

Where is the AI opportunity for technology resellers?

The market value for AI technologies is expected to top $15.7 trillion by 2030 according to the Harvard Business Review, so you should be looking to this marketplace for new revenue. As a technology reseller, your existing customers will value your insights and offerings to help them continue to execute their automation strategies, so vet potential products carefully before adding them to your lineup.

Since many resellers in our space already offer workflow, automation and AI tech, some of the most helpful guidance may be for shifting your marketing and sales messaging. Here are my top three AI messaging suggestions:

  1. Re-message your automation and AI campaigns to focus on the benefits as a solution for companies struggling with their workforce (either resignations and hiring or engagement and job satisfaction). Finding the right balance between digital and human workers often leads to the best results for business.
  2. Explain that instead of expensive human workers, digital workers often complete tasks for a fraction of the cost. Rather than paying expensive humans to perform menial work, offset those chores to technology while engaging humans in higher level tasks that have more value to the organization.
  3. Package your AI and automation offerings with some down-to-earth job design consulting that helps HR professionals redesign jobs with displaced tasks into careers that offer opportunities for more meaningful work. For example, finance professionals whose primary job has been to input debits and credits and maintain financial statements (tasks already being automated at a rapid pace), can be reskilled to evaluate spending and focus financial resources on projects with the highest projected return.

Conclusion

Every day draws us further into the high tech, high touch office of the future. It’s high-tech because of the amount of work being done by machines and AI-enabled applications. It’s high touch, because the human workforce needs to feel seen and appreciated alongside their digital coworkers. As we sell, implement, and support the very technologies leading us toward this new office diversity, we need to demonstrate significant sensitivity and understanding of the ways in which it will affect humans at work. In speaking with prospects and customers, emphasize the synergistic power of a fully enabled, diverse workforce founded on augmented intelligence. 

Christina Robbins is Director of Strategic Communications for Digitech Systems LLC, one of the most trusted choices for intelligent information management and business process automation worldwide. Celebrated by industry analysts and insiders as the best enterprise content management and workflow solutions on the market, Digitech Systems has an unsurpassed legacy of accelerating business performance by streamlining digital processes for organizations of any size. For more information visit www.digitechsystems.com.