Transparency 4.0- Why AI in the Workplace Will Force Us to Tell the Truth

Are we ready for AI and robotics in the workplace? First, we need to be more aware of its presence and power in general, and then we probably need a major adjustment in our natural survival instinct to shade the truth when it suits us. We may be heading into the Workplace 4.0, but we’re still thinking in terms of us and that. But that has a binary relationship to facts: either it happened or it didn’t. It’s one aspect of the transformation we need to prepare ourselves for a lot more; we’re going to have to tell the truth.

I was considering this as I self-checked out of a big box store the other day. In front of me was a man wearing a Fitbit who was busy multitasking. He was coaching his kid on his smartphone on how to use Alexa, and without paying attention, he double-scanned a bottle of milk. When the clerk came over to cancel the transaction, the man claims he didn’t swipe it twice. “The scanner says you did,” the clerk said.

While we’re nearing the functional tipping point in using AI and automation, are we ready for the honesty shift? Recently, a fitness tracker and Alexa were involved in solving murders, surely an unintended consequence — at least from a consumer standpoint. A Connecticut woman’s fitness tracker gave police the evidence that backed up their hunch about the lying husband. He said they were struggling with an intruder, but the tracker proved him wrong: it had tracked her on that fatal day walking around the house. A man in Arkansas mistakenly asked Alexa some very incriminating questions about cleaning blood off an object after committing murder in a drunken rage. Alexa doesn’t just listen; she gathers the data. And the data doesn’t forget or lie.

The point is the devices are smarter than we think. They are designed not to lie — so while we can, let’s get better at telling them the truth. This is where the workforce is going to have to adapt the most. We’re going to have to get used to being honest, or we may lose our jobs in more ways than one.

According to McKinsey Global’s recent report, some 60% of occupations and 30% of tasks could be handed over to robots. The kinds of jobs we’ll likely see automation taking over from humans will be those that entail physical tasks in structured, predictable environments — such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and food service as well as those involving data collection and processing. Of some 2,000 job tasks we do globally, McKinsey found that nearly half — about $16 trillion in wages worth—could be automated using technology that already exists.

That probably means that certain single-skill jobs are going to go out the virtual window. It also may mean we will finally start to appreciate the other skills we tend to have, our soft skills — our social perceptiveness, empathy, and communication. We’re need to start understanding the value of natural intelligence differently. Same as we want organic produce, we may post job descriptions that specifically require “NI” versus “AI.” But certain ways we operate will be incompatible. The more interdependent we are with cognitive machines, the more exposed we are.  AI and robotics may free us to be “more human” in our jobs, and enable us to flex our soft skills more frequently, but it’s not going to give an inch where we live.

The new workplace is going to shift the concept of transparency to reality, whether we want it to or not. And this may change our work culture in ways we don’t yet understand, forcing some interesting management approaches.

Let’s think about this. Not only do organizations need to reconsider how they design jobs, structure work, and strategize for the future, they also should have a transparency policy that understands we’re only human.

Photo Credit: jillpostema Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on fowmedia.

AI: 5 Ways to Reenvision the Workforce Before the Next Big Wave

What do you do when you’re not ready? Either get ready or wing it. So, imagine that waiting outside that door is your brand new team. They’re nice and shiny and, per the paperwork, each is extremely well qualified. In fact, they are specifically qualified to do their job. Because they are robots.

Let’s not get all I, Robot here. But I’m watching a new wave of artificial intelligence (AI) heading towards today’s world of work, and you’re probably watching it too. You may be wondering when we’re going to have to face this new trend. “Trend” is not actually the term I’d use to describe such a profound and inevitable shift, but that’s what Deloitte calls it in their 2017 Human Capital Trends study. They’re certainly not wrong, but the reason this is more than a trend is that it’s not going to go away.

We’re now in the early stages of adoption — including denial, curiosity, and a whole lot of “not ready.” As Deloitte reports:

  • 41 percent of companies report they have fully implemented or have made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies within their workforce.
  • 34 percent are in the midst of pilot programs.

Well, I recommend graduating to acceptance. And here are five ways to prepare for the world of work 4.0, or as we like to call it, Here Come the Machines:

  1. Get leadership and managers in gear. Deloitte’s study also found that a mere 17 percent of global executives believe they’re ready to manage a blended workforce of people, robots, and AI. (Remember when a blended workforce meant multigenerational?) That’s the lowest readiness level for a trend in the five years of the Global Human Capital Trends survey, according to Deloitte. The first blind spot is how to actually run things with this new shift — tasking, decision making, workflow, time to execute, who checks what, and the analytics to track how it’s all working.
  2. Leverage its strengths to fix your weaknesses. Jobvite’s CEO, Dan Finnigan, has an interesting take on AI. A Jobvite survey found that 56 percent of the job seekers it polled are concerned about being outsourced or replaced by robots. Instead, as he says, AI and machine learning can help us be better recruiters, and help job seekers find positions that fit. Chatbots are already used in sourcing and hiring that (or, who) can answer potential applicant questions, and increase the odds of their turning in a resume. Chatbots can also screen for skills, measuring responses and engagements in ways humans may overlook. What we need more of, as we know in this era of Big Data, is intelligence. What we need less of: bias. AI can offer a bias-free, objective layer in recruiting and hiring: there are a lot of interesting takes on that.
  3. Seam it into existing functions. This is related, but not entirely the same thing: how can you tap into AI, robotics, and cognitive tech to augment your existing processes? Use AI in your L&D (learning and development) to capture meaningful employee data, and better tailor the learning experience to each user. In terms of work functions, if you can shift a battery of tedious tasks to machines, you not only free up your people, you may also be able to leverage machine learning to find out how to make these tasks far more efficient, with a better outcome.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of humans. You can free your workforce from some of the mind-numbing busywork, enabling them to take on more supervisory roles. And, raise their skill levels in the process. Another byproduct may be better work/life balance — since people are freed from in-house tasks. As Deloitte’s 2016 report on millennials found, 16.8 percent of those surveyed listed work/life balance, and 13.4 percent listed the opportunity to grow, as key factors in assessing job opportunities. The two will remain a key concern as the workforce becomes even more dominated by this generation.
  5. Bolster the people side of your organizational culture. It’s critical that companies be transparent and positive about what’s happening here. Some in the workforce will see clear benefits to letting machines take over certain jobs, while others may feel downright devalued. At the cusp of change once again, focus at your workforce: Do you recognize them on a regular basis? Are you soliciting and taking their feedback? If not, get on that. Yes: the best recognition software is actually made possible by AI. But it’s going to help: We want to be appreciated, praise has a direct correlation to engagement, and whatever can make it work, I say go for it.

Our view of work is going to change in ways we still don’t understand. As the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported, some 65 percent of children entering primary schools today will likely work in roles that don’t even exist yet. Certainly, we can anticipate how AI and cognitive technology will change office and administrative functions, manufacturing, and production roles. But we also need to envision learning instead of simply data; tasks instead of jobs. And it’s happening soon. According to WEF, by 2020, there will be a new normal. Get ready.

Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

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