Busting the myths: AI will not steal jobs, it will enhance them
By Aileen Allkins, CEO, elev8 digital skilling
A decade ago, AI was seen as a mystical, futuristic concept belonging to the realm of science-fiction. Today, it is rapidly becoming an integral part of every business’ digital transformation strategy and plans for future growth. The progress that AI technology has made in recent years has provided an exciting opportunity for businesses to revolutionize their operations, customer experience, and capabilities.
However, despite the rush to consider how AI can be adopted, there remains a sense of unease or uncertainty around AI and new technological tools more widely. In particular, there is unease around the prospect of AI making people’s roles redundant, and ultimately threatening people’s jobs. And this unease is growing, with recent research from global consultant Gallup revealing that 22% of workers in the US worry that technology will make their job obsolete, up from 15% the year before.
This isn’t the only misconception around AI that is preventing businesses from succeeding in their digital transformations. So, what myths about AI and digital tools more widely do businesses need to dispel?
The nuance of AI and automation
The fear that AI will replace people is perhaps the most damaging misconception around AI and digital tools, and it is therefore perhaps the most pertinent myth that businesses need to bust. This fear has been unhelpfully exacerbated through the sensationalist rhetoric of some influential tech-industry figures, including Elon Musk’s recent comments that AI will lead to “a point where no job is needed.” Workers could be forgiven for fearfully interpreting that if nobody needs a job, then their job will not need them.
However, the more level-headed outlook paints a far more constructive picture. The Future of Jobs Report 2023, by the World Economic Forum, predicts that technologies such as AI will have a net positive impact on the job market over the next 5 years. Further reassurance is offered by studies demonstrating that 86% of customers prefer to interact with humans rather than bots. In fact, technological advancements have the potential to go beyond enhancing jobs, but actually create them. A survey included in Ultimate AI’s Customer Service Trends 2023 found that nearly half (48%) of respondents are creating new automation-related roles within customer support departments.
Indeed, the nuance of AI, automation, and new technology is overlooked by fearmongering that machines will replace people. Rather, the key to successful AI investment is a strategy that enables employees to use AI to make their workflows more efficient, more accurate, and more cost effective.
For example, in customer support roles, AI chatbots can handle routine inquiries and free up professionals to resolve more complex and high-value issues. In data analysis, people can focus on high-level strategic tasks while AI meticulously analyses large sets of data at a super-human speed. Risk analysis professionals can use AI-driven predictive algorithms to gain more accurate insights and better strategize to mitigate risks.
The true promise of AI is not that it will negate peoples work, but that it will enhance it. For businesses, this means that their workforce is supported in new and innovative ways, and that the benefits of AI investment are ultimately passed on to their customers.
AI tools are not plug in and play
While there is a procession of new AI tools coming onto the market, a crucial step in any investment strategy is ensuring your company is ready for AI. AI products are rarely, if ever, tools that can just be plugged into a business’ operations and work seamlessly — and the opportunities offered by AI are largely dependent on the skillset of the people interacting with it.
For example, for AI data analysis to be useful, it is crucial that human analysts are able to properly clean the data inputted into the AI tool. Equally, they must be able to interpret the results and recognise any outliers that could signal an AI error.
Overall, it is vitally important that teams using AI and other digital tools have the proper training and skillsets to know how to use them, troubleshoot issues, and integrate them into their workflows without disruption.
To this end, AI and digital skills are proving a key barrier for many businesses looking to digitalize. A global study by Microsoft showed that 65% of hiring managers struggled to find digitally skilled employees. Meanwhile, research from AND Digital has found that 58% of workers had never received digital upskilling and 29% felt that their digital skills deficit was limiting their career prospects.
Investing in skilling for teams is therefore a crucial step in any digital transformation, and one which will underpin the transformation’s success.
What does good skilling look like?
Establishing internal skilling programs for teams and individuals is perhaps the best form of upskilling investment a company could make to fully reap the rewards of a digital transformation. Skilling pathways should be precise, targeted, and bespoke, taking into account existing digital skills and offering training that can further develop employees’ skill sets in line with the company’s overall goals.
There are various myths that stop companies from pursuing upskilling, for example, the idea that a STEM foundation is necessary for those looking to work with AI. This is not true. In fact, skilling programs can be deeply beneficial for employees of all abilities. Furthermore, building on the existing talents of employees is far more cost-effective than hiring in new talent, and has the added benefit of increasing employee satisfaction.
This is not a short-term investment either. Once implemented, digital training can and should become a continuous process, with employees developing their skills on an ongoing basis to ensure they have a strong foundation for using new technologies as they come along, and that the business as a whole can retain a competitive advantage.
The vanguards of the tech revolution will invest now – choosing smart and sustainable skilling programs. Those who fail to do so will fall victim to the digital skills gap, losing out to their competitors, as they watch the satisfaction of their customers and work force drop.