With the ever-growing reach of artificial intelligence (AI), the fear that many people hold is that they will be sacrificed for the cheaper, faster and more efficient AI. But are these fears relevant? It is true that AI will make many day-to-day activities a lot easier, but will that mean fewer jobs for the people? What is true throughout history and whenever a revolution occurs, though jobs were lost, people still had work. As some jobs get replaced, we find other and usually more productive uses of people’s time in new roles that may not have existed before. That is how progress tends to happen and how we coexist with new technology.
One of the dilemmas that is on many business leaders’ minds is in finding the balance between adopting the latest technology and saving jobs. It’s difficult to make decisions that may look like the results will be to sacrifice members of staff. However, the hard truth is if business leaders don’t make those tough decisions, other companies will make progress before them; at which point the issue will not be about workforce reduction, it will be about whether the “doors can remain open” at all.
In this new frontier, nothing is in black and white. It’s not the best of ideas to place all the eggs in one basket. It would be exceptionally dangerous to think that AI can replace an experienced team of employees and taking that approach may also end up being the thing that puts you under. AI is a learning technology, and learning from an experienced workforce not just in one hit but over extended periods of time, can be a potent combination.
An excellent example of that is how an AI will be able to improve lawyer workloads by 200 times and accuracy by 80%. AI is able to read through much more text and look for evidence with much higher precision, allowing the human lawyers to focus on the more difficult points. AI still makes mistakes and humans can focus their time on the errors left after AI has done the initial review. Speed of work is therefore improved and is of better quality.
The Government of Malaysia is also looking at ways to make the transition towards a collaborative coexistence between the two entities become a reality.
Ybhg Dato’ Vignaesvaran, Chief Executive, Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) Malaysia, shared that he hoped HR heads will play a proactive role in making sure their staff are given the skills and training required.
The HRDF themselves use analytics to find the most effective training that is productive and gives money back value. This, he said, will show companies the true value of the training they send the staff for, and training companies at the same time get to adjust their capabilities to improve their syllabus.
Dato’ Vicks shared an example of how improving workers’ skillsets can actually benefit both the company and the staff. “There was a company that was upgrading to use AI in place of three employees and asked me if they can let those three staff go. I said don’t let them go. We sent them for training, and now their salary has tripled,” he shared. That’s the value the company is able to gain from those employees. The point he made is that by training and enabling your staff and combining their skills with AI, the combination is better than just thinking that it’s an either/or decision.
The critical issue here being that HR needs to be the catalyst and start thinking how to address the soon-to-be power struggle between what technology can offer and what humans can offer. Even lawyers and doctors will need to rethink their roles as AI and machine learning become better adept at those specialised jobs than humans.
Individuals and companies need to become digitised. One cannot go without the other. By integrating the two, it will allow the business and the workforce to learn to grow together and improve on workflow and deliverables from the ground up. AI is here to stay and set to transform every aspect of the business world. Therefore, it is necessary to build the bridges between human and machine that accentuates each other’s abilities for a better overall organisation.