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Workforce Enablement

AI’s Massive Employment Shift Isn’t the One You Fear

The clash between AI and the workforce is coming--we're just not sure yet what that will look like

Everyone is aware that the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is coming, and the impact will be big. But we’re not very sure of the ultimate nature of that impact and how it will be big. How will it impact the nature of work? We recently covered how, per Gartner, AI implementations rose 37 percent, as well as the debate over whether AI will prove to be a workforce foe or friend. The most likely outcome may very well prove to be both depending on the nature of the business, overall industry, and specific job function.

“The story of AI’s transformation of the software industry is a classic example of how the technology is forcing a rethink of the fundamentals of every business,” wrote Brian Peccarelli, co-chief operating officer at Thomson Reuters. “With more analytical power than ever before at our fingertips, new ways of accessing information, and virtually limitless growth potential, today’s business leaders need to get comfortable with letting go of legacy processes and restrictions and embracing change.”

Peccarelli is right. And he’s right to point out that AI predictions are rife with predictions foretelling the ranks of the conventional workforce being flattened. Perhaps. Or, perhaps, the future impact of AI isn’t as dire.

“The fact is, for every fearmonger’s forecast that robots will soon replace humans, the technology firms at the centre of the robo-revolution can’t hire human technologists fast enough,”  Peccarelli wrote. “For example, in my business, we have an average of 34 technology roles open at any given time. On an industry-wide basis, there are currently four open positions for every technologist currently employed in the US.”

Still, Thompson Reuters announced last month that it would reduce its workforce 12 percent by 2020. That’s about 3,200 jobs. Certainly, the news and information industry has market challenges of its own, far beyond the dynamics around AI and automation for now. But it is about doing as much or more with less. As a Reuters spokesman told CNN business, “Thomson Reuters is routinely looking at ways to run our global business operations more efficiently and effectively.”

And so are all enterprises seeking ways to use machine learning, AI, and, more broadly, automaton to make themselves more effective and efficient.  The question will be how to strike the right balance between human and machine and understand how both can provide maximum value together.

As you can see below in “The Jobs Landscape in 2022” chart, the World Economic Forum expects the top 10 emerging jobs globally to produce 133 million jobs, while declining roles will be reduced by 75 million.

 

The years ahead are going to be turbulent as business and the workforce come to grips with the rise of intelligent software and machines and how they relate to their organizations and work. Those deeply affected, or even dislocated, by these trends will need to find new ways to provide value, and society will have to create ways to help people retool and retrain to remain in the workforce.

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