Just the mention of artificial intelligence (AI) evokes excitement and dread at the same time. AI is the inevitable next step in the evolution of technology. Leaders in business, technology and science are already mapping parameters to guide AI development so it will benefit humankind. AI could radically change work as we know it, and that could actually be good news.
If you ask Ravin Jesuthasan, Managing Director and Global Talent Management Practice Leader at Willis Towers Watson, there’s every reason to be optimistic about a digitalised future. With its supercomputing capabilities, AI could help take over work that would otherwise be largely routine or labour-intensive, and allow us to redistribute our time and strength towards endeavours of greater value.
Instead of purely realising the current narrative of technology replacement, we could experience a surge of technology enablement as new jobs and roles emerge. Organisations could reimagine work and reclaim a sense of purpose for their talent, boosting productivity and efficiency by seamlessly merging various functions and allowing work to be managed across geographical borders, talent platforms, and even time.
It will be crucial for leaders to properly identify the spaces that AI can occupy in the workplace and, more importantly, effectively manage the time and talents of employees whose jobs could be replaced by machines. The more important question to consider isn’t how to prevent human work displacement, but how to prepare your organisation to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.
AI’s role in compensation and benefit strategies
Upskilling employees to co-exist with AI applications should be your top priority. This will help your workforce navigate the digital landscape and ensure your employees’ roles remain relevant. Integrating AI into the workplace will come with a steep learning curve. And the time required to move from skill acquisition to proficiency will get shorter as innovation cranks up to light speed.
One of the initial decisive moves leaders will need to make involves upskilling compensation professionals. This will mean upgrading roles from organisational support to strategy consultants, and applying AI’s accelerated analysis and learning capacity to your organisation’s data storehouses to gain insight about work and its value. With this investment, compensation workers will be better equipped to provide clear direction and a tailwind for your organisation’s growth strategy.
Recruiting and training
Recruitment and training will be critical to growth. By integrating machine-powered analytics, your organisation could gain greater insight into the challenges of job matching and talent selection, which could lead to significantly improved recommendations and higher performance. AI already has the ability to accurately cross-analyse and track an organisation’s learning and development goals with human factors, such as training needs, current skillsets, career paths, learning styles and generational differences. And if today’s predictions hold up as we venture further into digitalized territory, you could see company analytics showing a shift towards soft skills. For all of AI’s wondrous capabilities, a job well done will still require a combination of human skills and technology.
Training initiatives will need to strike a balance between upgrading technical skills and developing key leadership skills, such as higher reasoning, critical thinking, effective communication and creative problem solving. The World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, highlights creative thinking as a crucial ability that will help workers prosper in an increasingly digitalized workplace. It’s worth remembering that AI is still just another tool (albeit a powerful one). Sure, robots could make us smarter faster, but doing what’s necessary will require human judgment.
Managing pay and workplace flexibility
AI is already helping to shape a workplace that will not only be more efficient and vibrant, but also much more flexible. Those who are on board with the paradigm shift can expect to see radical changes to the compensation and benefits structure. And many will likely push for more variable pay and flexible benefit platforms to replace traditional schemes.
There was a time when variable compensation was widely accepted as a seasonal reward for employee recognition and talent retention. Nowadays, going above and beyond the job description is rarely a feat, and much more the norm. Employees now deal with ever-expanding realms of responsibilities. Rapid changes in the global economy require a perpetual state of flexibility. This mindset will find across-the-board salary programmes outdated and unacceptable. If more is always expected from workers, then it will only be fair to expect the same in return from their compensation and work arrangements. Offering a personalised package tells your employees that their personal needs are as valid as your company’s business goals.
Without digital technology, these custom arrangements would be next to impossible to implement and manage. But with AI’s tireless computing power, compensation professionals will be able to efficiently administer flexible compensation and leverage company analytics to predict employee trends and identify workforce challenges that would otherwise be overlooked. This will give organisations invaluable opportunities to address employee needs and optimise pay and benefits for critical talent groups.
AI has advanced dramatically over the last 10 years, but there’s still a lot to be harnessed and understood before digitalization can fully and safely integrate with our business systems. The unavoidable truth is that this might lead some jobs to become obsolete. That said, we also know it can supplement others and even invent new industries and opportunities far beyond what we can imagine, just as technology has done with previous industrial revolutions. Exciting times are ahead. We have the advantage of seeing this new industrial transformation as it develops and anticipating the changes it will bring.