What is the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in an economy that has been hit by worker resignations on the one hand and layoffs and hiring freezes on the other?
As I think of this one-two punch, Batman comes to mind. Listen to me.
For years, AI-powered automation has been seen as a potential job killer. The thought: robots and drones would replace the practical work of builders and operators. We have an idea of this with driverless cars and automated factories.
But it’s possible that AI could have the opposite effect and drive demand for skilled workers into new jobs. In this scenario, mechanical administrative work may actually give way to algorithmic processes, but new opportunities are created for workers in data-intensive companies.
So what is it? Does AI accept or create jobs?
Back to Batman. A perennial favorite in popular culture, Batman is sometimes viewed with caution by those who may not fully understand him. He is both the Dark Knight and a force for good.
AI has its duality, the dark side is its stereotypical reputation as a job killer. But because AI can stimulate new-style jobs and increase efficiency at the same time, business, like Gotham City, will be a better place.
I am convinced that AI will be a distinct boon for today’s workforce, as well as for companies that are trying to find the right balance in a global economy that rewards operational efficiency but punishes those who fail to attract. and retain talent.
AI-based processes and applications drive both of these levers. They can increase business productivity while creating high-value jobs at the same time. Those don’t have to be competing interests, nor should they.
The increase in productivity – up to 40 percent, according to Accenture and Frontier Economics – comes in the form of automation. At the same time, the thing AI does really well is provide the foundation for a data-driven business environment. This is where job creation or what we might call “job metamorphosis” occurs, as even entry-level workers take on a more important role in the data value chain. Instead of work that depends on monotonous routines, or is arduous or even dangerous, AI can allow people to focus on tasks that involve their human wits.
These data-driven, AI-enabled jobs are the ones that will attract and keep a modern workforce, and there are many ways to do it. I worked with a company that had a group of employees whose jobs involved creating routine marketing reports every week, manually compiling incoming data from the company’s multitude of regions and business units. It was repetitive, assembly-line work, without much of a career path.
The company replaced the workbench approach with an AI-based self-service model that gave business units more flexibility to independently crunch data. This enabled the reporting team to pursue more innovative analyzes and intellectually engaging projects. In the process, the company was able to cut costs by reducing its dependence on external agencies it had relied on for the insights that the internal reporting team now had time for.
A force forever
It is understandable that people are not 100% comfortable with the impact AI can have on the workplace. We’ve listened to dystopian predictions: disappearing jobs, AI bias, and even our inability to “trust” AI.
To take the Dark Knight analogy a step further, if CEOs had had a Batphone on their desk during the Great Resignation, many would have asked for help. As of May, there were 11.3 million job vacancies in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In particular, it was the COVID pandemic, not AI, that caused the job crisis. But AI is now seen by many business leaders as a potential solution to all those non-fillable jobs. When talent is hard to find, workplace efficiency becomes a necessity. And AI excels at that.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 shows both sides of this long-term trend. It predicts that 85 million jobs will be replaced by automation by 2025. At the same time, 97 million “jobs of tomorrow” will be created, with a net gain of 12 million jobs.
We open career paths on the data continuum
The types of work involving data know-how are rapidly expanding. We see evidence of this every day in all industries, including automotive, financial services and manufacturing. Farms also use smart sensors and data to grow corn and soybeans.
At the heart of the business are data professionals: data scientists, data engineers, data architects and business analysts. Increasingly, however, workers who may not have a four-year degree are also joining the data continuum. For example, in a data-first retail operation that all employees have access to and are encouraged to participate in, a sales clerk at a sporting goods store may note the growing interest in a new style of footwear. running, providing input for the entire company system.
The career path of these workers can be enriched and made more valuable, to the benefit of both employers and employees, when data touchpoints are among job responsibilities.
As more and more companies move in this direction, it is important to understand that the goal is not simply to accumulate and process more data. Many organizations already have more data than they can handle and continue to grow. Artificial intelligence, by sifting through mountains of data, can enable humans to act on insights into business expansion.
The key to success is creating actionable data, and CEOs don’t need a cloak to do that. Start with a data-driven, AI-enabled culture that includes the entire workforce.
Florian Douetteau is co-founder and CEO of Dataiku.
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