The future of work is more human – thanks to AI

From robotic employees to behind-the-scenes AI, our human workforces will simply have room to be more human

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

The robots are coming. In fact, they’re already here. But they aren’t the malicious beasts we believe are here to eliminate our workforce.

Automation is actually being used to make our jobs easier, so we can focus on doing them better and in a more meaningful, human way. The workforce landscape is revolutionizing, and it’s up to every business to prepare their leaders and employees.

“In 2011, about 50% of our technology managers had STEM backgrounds and STEM experiences," says Jenifer Robertson, senior vice president of technology strategy at AT&T. "We knew that by 2020, 95% of that workforce needed to have these technical skills.”

Don’t fear the robots, but prepare for change

Automation seems to be feared because it’s misunderstood.

More than 70% of workers in the U.S. are afraid robots will take over their jobs — on the surface, this scenario seems likely. But we can blame lack of education for this, as not enough of the workforce knows exactly how these robots will be introduced into their companies and their lives.

“As we see artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing, robotic process automation — these very powerful cognitive technologies come into the workplace — we’re seeing the beginnings of the fourth industrial revolution,” says Peter Miscovich, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle.

So how do we compete with artificial intelligence? We don’t. But we can work alongside it.

Automation is less about replacing people and more about making people’s jobs easier so they can perform work that is more meaningful — and more human. Yes, in an unexpected way, robots will allow us to perform more creative, more emotive, more human work.

They’re here to do the jobs we don’t want to do

Automation gets the job done without emotion. And that’s precisely why companies will need more people in their workforces than ever before.

The menial but necessary tasks employees currently do can be given to AI and specialized software. What’s left is our natural human instinct to elevate the human condition. When we are able to omit the parts of our jobs we don’t like, then we will have an extraordinary amount of room for more meaningful work.

“These human-to-robotic, collaborative ecosystems are the future," Miscovich says. "People are in greater demand today than ever before. And digital talent is in greater demand today than ever before.”

In the movie “Hidden Figures,” Dorothy Vaughan and her team faced the automation “foe.” She accepted that evolution and transformation are a necessary part of the workforce; she had her entire team learn the coding language of the machine. Then they could use it, and their jobs were saved.

What survives in automation’s wake?

Creativity and human connection. Even before robots or industrial revolutions, it’s all we had, anyway: cave drawings, Egyptian sarcophagi, operas. The dynamic of the workforce also shifts, where employees are careful to seek out good leaders and leave the bad behind.

“Today, when people are looking for places to go to work, they think about the company they are joining, " says Michael Bush, CEO at Great Place to Work. "The future is, people are going to be choosing where they work based on the leaders. People work for leaders. They quit leaders. They don’t quit the company.”

Leaders should be feeling the pressure of automation

The leaders of now can, and should, start preparing and empowering their workforce to become a workforce of the future. Being left behind is only a reality for those who are hesitant to evolve. Here are three ways leaders can enhance the human capabilities of their employees:

  1. Become experts in the art of storytelling
  2. Boost creativity by encouraging walks or reflective breaks
  3. Learn how to persuade by increasing emotional intelligence