How to manage an AI workforce

| November 29, 2019

Traditional management techniques aimed at directing and controlling an organisation towards its operating goals and targets may no longer be appropriate in a faster changing world. As artificial intelligence (AI), and even robots, emerge it may no longer be possible for management to work through the process of written structures, processes and delegations each time the organisation needs to adapt to new changes.

The new age of change is hard to predict, fast paced due to the interconnectivity from globalisation and social media, so resulting in greater risk and uncertainty be the change occurring from presidential tweets, new online markets, technology or trade wars. AI, as one of these changes, is emerging across a range of industries due to faster computer hardware, software advancement and new algorithms.

New management challenges

AI has already emerged in social media and marketing, where it can already propose useful or interesting information and advertisements for potential customers. Further advancement in AI will be more than just speed, as it will soon likely learn from experience and create new solutions to problems that were previously unthought of by humans. So AI will soon be more than merely a tool to replace human work that involves mundane and repetitive tasks, it is likely to advance with capabilities well beyond the human capability, over time. New emerging technologies may soon enhance

AI, where it is already apparent that the new 5G will have immensely faster communication speeds that enable location accuracy and other features. With the advancing technology it is already possible to imagine driverless cars, drone deliveries and facial recognition for use in a few short years. The emerging AI may also be the base for robots, where they will be able to perform human physical work rather than merely human thought.

AI may soon emerge with lower costs, productivity and efficiency, yet there are potential issues that arise for the manager of the future.  As AI is adopted, the manager of the future will have to integrate work between humans and AI, yet ensure that the job losses and changes do not affect the broader organisational targets. Despite the faster and superior logic, AI solutions may be poor at empathy, ethics and social consciousness. It is possible that optimized solutions of the AI may be sub-optimal in terms of society, staff or customer. It is possible that, without other skills, AI solutions could potentially improve productivity or profits and yet come at the expense of the poor, disadvantaged or even harm society more broadly. Management overview of AI may be required to monitor and override AI advances if their solutions potentially harm staff, society or organisational value.

New skills

It is unlikely that AI will emerge and replace millions of human jobs in a single change, rather AI will likely emerge through waves, each change related to incremental advancements in AI capabilities. AI advancements will likely only be adopted once they have been shown to be capable, reliable, safe to humans as well as being wanted customers. This prolonged ongoing change that will erode human work over time has the potential to result in staff feeling threatened, stressed and worried about their future employment. It is likely that some staff will be confronted or find it unbearable to work in a work place with high AI integration, of if it is devoid of human contact. Staff may be disgruntled, complain and even leave if their employers are not able to create satisfactory work places, with new pay structures or employment conditions post AI adoption. Whilst managers may restructure their organisations now, it will be the ongoing sudden and uncertain nature of change that will create new challenges for managers of the future.

Preparing for the future

Management in this new age will likely require excellent communication skills, negotiation skills and flexibility if they are to find acceptable staff solutions. Future managers are advised to make decisions with genuine staff involvement, opinions, feedback and options, as the new age will require collaboration and understanding to achieve new solutions. Those hiring or promoting management should commence assessing for these new skills of the future, as the skills may be hard to attract and retain once competitors understand how the new age has changed with AI.