Change is unavoidable in a world in constant evolution. In addition, the nature of change includes also the emergence of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. The emergence of these new technologies disrupt our world: the way we live, we work and thus raise a lot of questions. Inherently, society perceives these evolutions as threat more than as an opportunity. These new trends mean plenty of challenges for companies to embrace these new technologies, and especially in terms of change management: obtain the adhesion of their employees, and eventually follow –and create – the evolution.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) appeared in 1950s with John MacCarthy. Artificial Intelligence could be defined as “set of theories and techniques used to produce machines capable of simulating human intelligence”. Although controversial, this new technology becomes ever more a reality and transforms our manner of working. 31% of companies have Artificial Intelligence project on the agenda for the next 12 months. Indeed, in 72% of case, leaders identify Artificial Intelligence as key for the development their companies in the future.
Artificial Intelligence is going to genuinely remodel our social and professional environment and will mainly impact the productivity, which is anticipated to increase by 40%. No one can ignore the consequences that AI will bring to businesses and how deep it will modify the way we work bringing along new major changes, new challenges that will require companies to have a solid Change Management plan.
Change Management (CM) aims to prepare and support the organisational change. It means providing support to the teams, to the organisation and to the people during these times of transformation. Change Management is, more than ever, crucial if we want that adaptation to AI opportunities becomes a success. Embracing the emergence of opportunities that AI can offer implies potentially reviewing the processes, the working behaviours, the organisation as well as technological transformation.
Many employees feel worried about their job while talking to use AI in the company. Only a few of them recognize it as an opportunity for their activity and their company. This is where change management has a role to play and becomes challenging, even more when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, Artificial Intelligence aims to be able to mirror human intelligence. Does it mean that Artificial Intelligence is a direct competitor? Yes and no. Today, AI is booming but is not yet able to replace humans. There is still a long way to go despite the hopes. And this is exactly what you need to tell your colleague when moving forward to AI.
New technologies will replace more and more tasks with lower added-value, leaving people more time to focus on what really brings profitability to the company. On the other hand, it will require people to gain higher qualifications and competences to work on higher value added or more complex tasks. Whether we like it or not, this is a clear trend. To follow that trend Change Management needs to work on three different axes:
– First of all, companies need to internally communicate on the reasons they are using Artificial Intelligence: ensure the durability of the company and to step up against competitors. Using new technologies will allow the company to remain competitive and therefore to maintain employment. Indeed, more than 80% of high executives identify Artificial Intelligence as a strategic opportunity. This is important that your co-workers understand that the world is changing and the company can only survive if it is part of it. This is only if people understand that they will be more inclined to change.
– Secondly, companies need to show that people’s work will evolve towards a job with more added value, and consequently, will better assess their real contribution to the firm. Management needs to highlight the fact that their jobs are not simply vanished but will evolve with emergence of new technologies which will result in an opportunity for employees to constantly learn and develop new skills to preserve their employability.
– Thirdly, while the employees understand the two above points, companies need to offer relevant training paths and catalogues to their employees to make sure that they are always up-to-date with the new trends and perform at the state of the art in their own field.
Some numbers illustrate these facts. As mention above, 72% of business executives believe in AI and consider that is going to be one of the next business advantage. 67% identify opportunities to optimize business efficiency and labour productivity, 70% automate proactive communications and 59% improve big data analytics.
Currently, Artificial intelligence is essentially used to ease repetitive and unskilled tasks such as paperwork (82%), scheduling (79%) and timesheets (78%). The purpose of leaders by using Artificial Intelligence in their companies, industry is essentially to alleviate the work of their employees while increasing productivity and competitivity. The ambition is clearly not to reduce the number of employees but rather optimize the resources. This is sustained by a research of Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) which reveals that contrary to popular belief, people who work with robots mention more the support that robots bring to their daily work than the loss of jobs.
Thanks to the efficiency brought by AI, employees may free up time and develop their creativity, notably through the development of innovative products and solutions. AI is also a key tool to provide more tailor-made services and to be more focused on the relationship with the customers rather than on repetitive and menial tasks. Indeed, AI gives the tools to learn more and assess better the customers’ needs.
The use of robot advisors in the Private Banking industry is a good illustration of what AI can bring to employees and customers. Artificial Intelligence facilitates the investment decisions to build the client’s portfolio. The results are that, on one hand, bankers have more time to invest into the relationship with their customers and tailored advice and, on the other hand, investors can benefit from realistic costs. Another application of the above can be seen in the automation of the treatment of emails.
Implementing new technologies at work is not new and does not necessarily go along with decreasing the number of jobs. There are a lot of example that can illustrate how new technologies can support the employees in their operations rather than being a job taker. For instance, taking a look at the work of an accountant, this activity has been almost reinvented over the last three decades. In the 90’s, accountancy was all about manual work and treatment of paper work. Nowadays, most of the paper work is dealt with automatically thanks to digitalisation and automation. Does it mean that accountants disappeared? No. However, their job evolved towards a higher level of expertise resulting in more added-value for the companies and themselves. Another example is in the financial sector, traders and analysts are no longer working as 20 years ago but they are still there. The scope of their tasks just evolved over time but they are still operating. Same in the insurance industry, where new technologies helped to implement an automated treatment of insurance claims. The result are additional facilities for the employees and more efficiency for company but also led to a faster treatment of the claims.
New technologies are not only applicable to the financial sector but also to commercial companies and into the industry. In the medical sector, technologies are also strongly promoted and help everyday surgeons to save more lives, but this position has still a bright future.
In conclusion, change is unavoidable. If companies want a sustainable growth, and remain competitive, they need to embrace new trends and technologies. However, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence is radically remodelling our professional environment and will make people feared of losing their jobs. Some might be desperately resisting this evolution, but AI lies clearly ahead. .
As explained above, getting the most out of new technologies is the best way to overcome this transition. It signifies that people need to accept the upcoming evolution and get prepared for it. To reach that state of mind, companies need to communicate the necessity to adapt, and train their people around it: this is where the challenge stands. The good news is that the majority of the jobs will stay but will however evolve to new and more interesting tasks with higher added value for both employees and their companies.
Humans need to capitalise on what makes them different from robots. Today, Artificial Intelligence remains a support to human’s work. People need to make the best use of these new tools instead of fighting against them unnecessarily. Humans will keep to play a role as they will never be replaced entirely by algorithms.
By Jean-Richard Audin, consultant at Initio