Artificial Intelligence may still be in its infancy, but it’s already forcing leadership teams around the world to reconsider some of their core structures.
Advances in technology are causing firms to restructure their organizational makeup, transform their HR departments, develop new training models, and reevaluate their hiring practices. This is according to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Report, which draws on surveys from over 10,000 HR and business leaders in 140 countries. Much of these changes are a result of the early penetration of basic AI software, as well as preparation for the organizational needs that will emerge as they mature.
“What we concluded is that what AI is definitely doing is not eliminating jobs, it is eliminating tasks of jobs, and creating new jobs, and the new jobs that are being created are more human jobs,” says Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. Bersin defines “more human jobs” as those that require traits robots haven’t yet mastered, like empathy, communication, and interdisciplinary problem solving. “Individuals that have very task-oriented jobs will have to be retrained, or they’re going to have to move into new roles,” he adds.
The survey found that 41% of respondents have fully implemented or made significant progress in adopting AI technologies in the workforce, yet only 15% of global executives say they are prepared to manage a workforce “with people, robots, and AI working side by side.”
As a result, early AI technologies and a looming AI revolution are forcing organizations to reevaluate a number of established strategies. Instead of hiring the most qualified person for a specific task, many companies are now putting greater emphasis on cultural fit and adaptability, knowing that individual roles will have to evolve along with the implementation of AI.
On-the-job training has become more vital to transition people into new roles as new technologies are adapted, and HR’s function is quickly moving away from its traditional evaluation and recruiting function—which can increasingly be done more efficiently using big data and AI software—toward a greater focus on improving the employee experience across an increasingly contingent workforce.
The Deloitte survey also found that 56% of respondents are already redesigning their HR programs to leverage digital and mobile tools, and 33% are utilizing some form of AI technology to deliver HR functions.
The integration of early artificial intelligence tools is also causing organizations to become more collaborative and team-oriented, as opposed to the traditional top-down hierarchal structures.
“To integrate AI, you have to have an internal team of expert product people and engineers that know its application and are working very closely with the frontline teams that are actually delivering services,” says Ian Crosby, cofounder and CEO of Bench, a digital bookkeeping provider. “When we are working AI into our frontline service, we don’t go away to a dark room and come back after a year with our masterpiece. We work with our frontline bookkeepers day in, day out.”
In order to properly adapt to changing technologies, organizations are moving away from a top-down structure and toward multidisciplinary teams. In fact, 32% of survey respondents said they are redesigning their organizations to be more team-centric, optimizing them for adaptability and learning in preparation for technological disruption.
Finding a balanced team structure, however, doesn’t happen overnight, explains Crosby. “Very often, if there’s a big organization, it’s better to start with a small team first, and let them evolve and scale up, rather than try to introduce the whole company all at once.”
Crosby adds that Bench’s eagerness to integrate new technologies also impacts the skills the company recruits and hires for. Beyond checking the boxes of the job’s technical requirements, he says the company looks for candidates that are ready to adapt to the changes that are coming.
“When you’re working with AI, you’re building things that nobody has ever built before, and nobody knows how that will look yet,” he says. “If they’re not open to being completely wrong, and having the humility to say they were wrong, we need to reevaluate.”
As AI becomes more sophisticated, leaders will eventually need to decide where to place human employees, which tasks are best suited for machines, and which can be done most efficiently by combining the two.
“It’s a few years before we have actual AI, it’s getting closer and closer, but AI still has a big problem understanding human intent,” says Rurik Bradbury, the global head of research and communication for online chat software provider LivePerson. As more AI software becomes available, he advises organizations to “think of those three different categories—human, machine, or cyborg—and decide who should be hired for this job.”
While AI technologies are still in their infancy, it won’t be long before every organization is forced to develop their own AI strategy in order to stay competitive. Those with the HR teams, training program, organizational structures, and adaptable staff will be best prepared for this fast-approaching reality.