Experts in the field have been telling us for some time that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come to stay, that it is the new great revolution and that we are going to have to adapt. And yet, there are people more or less optimistic about the impact of the changes that its fully adoption will bring to the workplace.
Artificial Intelligence has come to stay
Almost all the articles, books and conferences on the subject point to Artificial Intelligence as the technology that will make digital transformation a reality for many companies. Also, almost all of them indicate that it must be made reliable for people and organically integrate it as a workforce so that the impact on the organization does not reduce its competitive capacity.
A recently published study (SAGE) states that an ethical and governance framework should be created for the introduction of AI in companies based on transparency, trust and the adaptation of employees to the changes that will take place.
A framework should be created for the introduction of AI in companies that takes into account the adaptation of employees to changes
What I really like that people start talking about adapting employees to changes is the awareness risen because otherwise no productive model will work.
And yet, this change of mind is limited to the recruitment process (new hires must have the necessary skills) and to reskill the current work force (depending on AI new needs). Very little, or almost nothing, is said about the impact on each one of us. We will need to make some questions, so we won’t feel lose in this new future.
All things considered, this situation is very reminiscent, from the point of view of the people, of the introduction, at the beginning of the 20th century, of mass production in factories.
This mass production began in the Ford factory, with the Ford Model T, which marked a before and after in industrial organizations.
Ford Model T marked a before and after in industrial organizations
Before this Ford Model T, each car was built by hand by a fairly large group of workers who had a multitude of manual skills (craftsmen, mechanics …) and worked in a very decentralized organization. The production of each car took an indeterminate time that ranged from weeks to months according to the preferences of the customer and, therefore, its price was so high that it was within the reach of a few.
First thing to introduce mass production was redesigning the car’s parts, reducing them. Also, production processes changed. Cars were the ones moving in front of each worker who also stopped having to go to find the components to assemble them. These components were completely ready so there was no adaptation, cleaning or adjustment to do.
These changes resulted in the fact that cars were no longer machines within the reach of a few and their use was democratized, which had a huge impact on 20th century American society.
Changes in the work’s design and production’s processes that brought changes in society: sounds very familiar.
If you don’t take people into account, any model change will have a greater impact than expected
And people? Nobody took care of them (certainly the concern for workers more than 100 years ago was not the same of today’s). Moreover, no one was concerned about the impact on people of this new production model.
From a decentralized and highly autonomous organization, it became an absolutely hierarchical and dependent one (each operator had a specific assignment of tasks on the production line and a few shifts); before high skilled craftsmen and mechanics were needed. Now, the productive force was expanded with other types of profiles and different skills.
The employees’ management model was affected mainly because workers did not like the repetitive work of the new line and as a result of that, the company had to hire 53,000 people in a year to keep 14,000 jobs filled. Ford managed to stop this abandonment rate by doubling the average wage of factory workers. So it did have an impact.
Change is not something of recent times
It seems that the increase in turnover due to the changes is not something of recent times. And the palliative measures when there is already an impact on the business, either.
Let’s go back to the present. Because just as mass production revolutionized all industries and made things change forever, AI is, by all accounts, the new revolution that will make our future change again.
AI is synonymous with change: changes in production models; changes in relational models; personal changes and changes in society.
How does the human being invariably react to changes? Fearfully.
And how does the human being invariably react to changes? Fearfully. Or at least very suspiciously.
New profiles with new skills are now going to be needed and new generations of professionals who come to companies should be chosen according to these new skills; Maybe, subjects taught at universities are going to change to adapt to what this new job market is asking for. And, above all, it seems that working people are going to have to adapt. And that makes us very, very afraid.
No man should be forced to do the work that a machine can do. Henry Ford.
Henry Ford used to say that “no man should be forced to do the work that a machine can do” and I am going to add that it is also necessary to create the awareness that there is still space for human work, because it is essential. But we all have to adapt.
Several questions arise:
How are we, qualified employees who, generally, have achieved professional success many times, are going to cope with these changes?
What can we do if what we have learned is of little or no value in the environment in which we are going to be?
We need to develop a different set of skills
We need to develop a different set of skills and, no doubt, stop avoiding our part of responsibility in what happens to us anb to be an active part of the change and consciously lead ourselves. This is, from my point of view, key in our adaptation.
Leadership (self-leadership) adapted to these new circumstances should focus on the value of what is different (what is differential in my contribution?), cooperation (instead of competition) and on the review of the paradigms that have governed us until now (what truths do we need to review? What are the new truths?).
Developing our leadership skills on three fundamental pillars:
• Decision-making capacity. Path is not set talking about change. We are going to encounter difficulties that must solved. You need to be courageous to make decisions and take the risk of the consequences.
• Critical thinking. Get used to ask questions and look for answers. Critical thinking helps avoid unfounded or irrational judgments: involved in an ever-changing environment, being easy to get carried by fear, critical thinking is a big ally. Ask yourself questions that pose scenarios, look for debate, opinion and analysis.
• Creativity. Develop creativity as a way of growth and adaptation to changes. Strategies that have worked for us in the past and with which we have achieved success could not be what we need now. We must anticipate events, and not only react to what happens, to avoid being late. Our learning and, especially, our ability to adapt depend on it.
For leaders in any organization, these three pillars become even more important, because their impact will lead results.
Any change can be a threat or an opportunity
AI, like any change, can be a threat or an opportunity.
There is a great opportunity if we each learn to adapt and make the organizations we work for take into account people as the fundamental change’s axis. Because no change, no matter how smart, will be successful without counting with people.
The good news is that we own what we do. It’s in our hands. One last question: What do you need to develop to be successful in this new environment?