How Misconceptions about AI, Automation, and Employment Are Holding Businesses Back
Since the introduction of technology, news and media headlines still ask the question, “Will artificial intelligence steal jobs from hard-working people?” The answer is “No.” Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) lead to more efficient work processes that benefit the economy, reduce outsourced roles abroad and create more onshore jobs that prioritize innovation and growth, resulting in higher job satisfaction. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added a record 6.4 million new jobs in 2021, despite technology’s impact and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Combine that statistic with record-breaking numbers of resignations during a period termed the Great Resignation, and pandemic-related shifts in the job landscape, it’s clear the state of employment is being pummeled by a colossal wave of change. Businesses that are taking the lead amidst the shifting sands of today’s employment environment are positioning leaders and workers at all levels who embrace automation.
Common Misconceptions about Automation
Familiar is comfortable, even if what’s familiar to someone is a problem. After all, a familiar issue at least has a familiar solution, right? However, a familiar task or solution is exactly the type of activity that should be automated to provide time and space for organizations to get out of a daily rut and take progressive steps toward organizational growth and innovation.
Not understanding the totality of automation is the leading cause of individuals who still fear that AI and ML will steal jobs from hardworking people, when the opposite is true. Moving forward, workplace training programs and institutions of higher education need to invest more resources in preparing workers with the awareness and skills to both augment and be augmented by AI and automation. By overturning misconceptions, companies and individuals overcome fears, uncertainties, and doubts about today’s state of employment.
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- Misconception #1: Automation means people will lose jobs. This misconception has been unavoidable for decades, both before and after the introduction of computerization. Fear for lost jobs surrounded the printing press, the automobile, and the cell phone, yet jobs, advancements, and human interconnectivity have grown at exponential rates across the globe largely due to these innovations. AI and automation can be equally monumental for organizations that overcome this misconception. Businesses and their departmental teams would be completely overwhelmed if AI wasn’t already helping them to complete daily tasks, especially when it comes to IT. Rather than take jobs away, automation transforms repetitive, low-value tasks into computerized tasks to enable workers the time and energy to concentrate on complex problems that benefit from a personal touch. Tasks like moving data, testing software, or sending cold emails can go from taking days to seconds. Yes, jobs will be lost, but only because obsolete roles are transformed into new positions with more effective, innovative, and solutions-centric roles augmented by AI and automation. A study conducted by the World Economic Forum predicted that AI, machine learning, and automation in the workplace could add up to 58 million new jobs by 2025, clearly demonstrating how automation fuels employment growth.
- Misconception #2: Automation will fully and flawlessly automate tasks. It’s another common myth that AI and automation will magically transform all repetitive and low-value tasks within an organization. AI is only as smart as the experts whose knowledge, solutions, and processes inform its computerized procedures. The reality: people will always be central to business operations at all levels. In most cases, automation and AI operations aim to reduce the constant commotion of data and alerts, detect problems quickly, and identify probable root causes to enable engineers to efficiently find and implement the best solution. Businesses excel with employees skilled in working alongside AI to collate vital data and problem solve. Employers require teams with the expertise to help AI perfect tasks over time, or even solve its own problems if common issues occur regularly. That said, unexpected disruptions are unavoidable. The right people need to be in place to identify issues internal or external to automation, then tackle disruptions and implement solutions so automation can carry on. In addition, ML is vital to enable problem-solving, but these processes do not have the ability or awareness to consider community interests and values. Employers today more than ever aim to position leaders who can respect societal principles and exalt shared values, otherwise, automation won’t thrive.
- Misconception #3: Automation is just about cutting costs. All businesses look for ways to save money, and proponents of automation are no different. Yet, the money saved by investing in computerized processes is often reinvested into employees’ training and development, creating innovative solutions, and striving for greater progress rather than maintaining a status quo. Rather than fear the loss of their jobs, employees who remain open to automation and adaptable to new opportunities and education can maintain a competitive edge. According to WorkMarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report developed in partnership with NYU, 54 percent of employees believe they personally could save 240 hours annually through automation. A number like that can make a staggering difference for employees and employers alike who take advantage of the shift.
- Misconception #4: Automation only benefits big business. It’s easy to see how enterprises and big corporations that perform thousands of activities daily benefit most from automation. Consider that a company like Spotify, with 182 million premium subscribers worldwide, tracks not only what music a user listens to on their platform, but when, where, how, how often, when they stopped listening, and where they clicked next. AI then leverages that data to automate specialized playlists, recommendations, and unique content for that specific user, alongside the other 182 million users worldwide. The larger the scale of the business, the larger the potential scale for automating tasks. This doesn’t mean small businesses don’t enjoy similar benefits. In fact, smaller businesses that invest in automation early can enhance processes on a step-by-step basis, compounding over time. By automating processes on a small-scale first, companies gain insights into their processes and their people to make informed technology investments. Optimizing small-scale processes can have a big impact on leaders, teams, and other stakeholders.
- Misconception #5: Automation is not agile. Despite concerns that personalized automation costs money and resources, many programs have pre-trained ML models that can be adopted immediately. Further, AI and automation are designed with adaptability in mind. Even tools that utilize pre-trained models are flexible to industry, company size, skill sets, and goals. AI, by nature, leverages agile processes to foster learning and an improved understanding of corporate data and processes.
Transformative Automation Benefits Employers and Employees
Automation through AI is already transforming the way businesses operate. By breaking down data silos and tackling repetitive tasks, automation creates new opportunities that allow time, energy, and budget to go toward innovative thinking, creative solutions, and upward growth.
Technology has always been both an advantage and a liability to fluctuating employment. In the current environment, individuals and organizations that focus on advancement and education are more likely to generate more creativity and innovation in the workplace. One reason is that automation enables workers to focus on individual growth that includes more specified and relevant skills to transform roles that are consistent with digital transformations.
Similarly, dramatic labor changes are already underway from external forces outside organizational control. In response to and in anticipation of this, governments and corporations alike are incentivizing education and re-training. Employees and employers benefit by embracing and joining forces to produce greater, more sustainable growth.
About the Writer
Samrat Aich is an IT professional and solutions architect with 19+ years of experience and a proven track record of driving projects from start to finish in enterprise IT Systems, storage, virtualization and Cloud computing and Cloud security. For further information, please email samrataich [at] gmail [dot] com.