Artificial intelligence (more commonly known as AI) is making major waves in the workplace.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of programs like ChatGPT-4 and DALL-E 2. Existing businesses are finding opportunities to leverage generative AI, and new businesses like Return and Linguix are implementing AI as a core feature of their product development. It’s clear that artificial intelligence is no longer a thing of the distant future – especially when it comes to the future of work.
As technology advances, businesses are looking for ways to leverage artificial intelligence to streamline their operations and increase efficiency. Integrating generative AI into the workplace can revolutionize how businesses and employees operate, all while giving them back time to focus on making the workplace more connected than ever before.
In this blog, we’ll cover a brief history of AI and innovation in the workplace, how AI will impact the future of work, and our final thoughts on what this means for you.
The Evolution of AI at Work: Past, Present, and Future
To understand the impact of AI on the future of work, it’s important to look at how artificial intelligence and innovation have gradually improved work over time. From assembly line robots to virtual chatbots, we have seen these changes increase efficiency and productivity in various industries. AI is the next step in this evolution, and it’s already making an impact in many areas.
While ChatGPT is probably the AI software you’re most familiar with, it isn’t the first example of AI software being used in the workforce. In fact, artificial intelligence has a long history of being used in the workplace, dating back to the 1950s.
Here’s a brief overview of key milestones regarding AI’s implementation in the future of work.
1950s & 60s:
- One of the first AI programs was created in 1951 by Christopher Strachey, who developed a checkers-playing program for the Ferranti Mark I computer.
1970s & 80s:
- Expert systems were developed to simulate the decision-making capabilities of human experts using decision trees. These systems are used to help humans make tough decisions in a variety of industries, including finance, healthcare, and manufacturing.
1980s & 90s:
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of AI that helps computers understand, interpret and respond using the human language. Based on linguist Noah Chomsky’s theories of syntax, NLP was used to develop speech recognition software and other applications.
1990s & 2000s:
- Robotics became more advanced, allowing for greater automation in manufacturing and other industries. Robots are used to perform tasks such as welding, painting, and assembly. They remain an important part of automation today.
- Machine learning, a subset of AI that involves training algorithms to learn from data, rose in popularity in the 2010s. Machine learning has become widely used in industries such as finance, healthcare, and marketing.
In recent years, chatbots and virtual assistants (like Zendesk’s Answer Bot) have become common in the workplace. Productivity software companies like Notion are now implementing AI into their software to help users speed up their work. AI’s widespread implementation into business softwares helps employees organize and streamline their projects while freeing up their time to focus on higher-level tasks.
The future of AI in the workplace is bright, with opportunities for automation, real-time insights, and enhanced decision-making capabilities.
With advances in generative AI, companies can unlock new opportunities for innovation, productivity, and cost savings, enabling them to stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.
In our next section, you’ll learn how AI can affect the way you work in the future.
Navigating the AI-Driven Workplace
It’s clear that AI will play a major role in the future of work. This is why it’s crucial to comprehend its influence on leadership, middle management, and individual contributors. Employees can better adapt to these changes and leverage the benefits of AI to enhance their productivity, decision-making, and performance.
Below, we’ll explain how AI affects each tier of your corporate structure (and why you should care).
What AI Means for Leadership
The widespread use of artificial intelligence means that leaders will need to adapt to a new way of working.
AI adoption has skyrocketed over the last 18 months, with 37% of organizations now using AI in some capacity. And 72% of business leaders believe that AI will be fundamental to the future success of their organization.
Rather than simply managing departments, leaders will need to learn how to manage data and algorithms, using AI to make data-driven decisions that will help drive their organizations forward. This seismic shift will require a deep understanding of AI and its capabilities, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with those who are not familiar with the technology.
At the same time, AI presents new opportunities for leadership to focus on the future of work, which centers on building strong work cultures that prioritize human connection. As more tasks become automated, leaders will have more time to focus on higher-level tasks. This could be developing and nurturing relationships with their employees, promoting teamwork and collaboration, or fostering a sense of purpose and engagement in the workplace. By focusing on the human side of work, leaders can create a more meaningful and fulfilling workplace for their employees. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, increased productivity, and better business outcomes.
While AI can automate certain tasks and support leaders as they build company culture, it can’t fully replace empathy and human connection. Leaders will need to find ways to balance the use of AI with the need for human connection in the workplace. Creating a positive work culture is essential for the success of any business.
How AI Reshapes Middle Management
Artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on middle management, reshaping the way they work and the skills necessary for their success. In fact, workers believe robots are better than their managers at providing unbiased information, maintaining schedules, problem-solving and budget management.
As AI takes on the more routine tasks a manager might complete (like handling budgets and work schedules), middle managers will need to focus on strategic thinking and soft skills.
AI can’t do everything, though – the same study found that workers saw managers as superior to robots when it came to coaching, creating work culture, and understanding their direct report’s feelings. AI isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a tool that gives managers the ability to focus on the things that they are better at.
Understanding AI’s capabilities and limitations, while also knowing how to collaborate effectively with other managers and employees, will be key to succeeding as a middle manager in the future of work.
AI will also change the way that middle managers interact with their teams. With remote work becoming the norm, managers will need to be skilled at leading virtual teams. This could mean leveraging AI-powered tools to keep track of employee performance, provide feedback, and ensure that everyone is working effectively together. Middle managers will need to develop stronger communication and culture-building skills, while also learning how to leverage AI to optimize their teams’ performance.
AI’s Effects on Individual Contributors
AI will have the most profound effect on individual contributors. With more tasks becoming automated, individual contributors can begin to focus on developing new skills that are more difficult to replicate, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, and complex decision-making.
Increased productivity is one of the most significant benefits individual contributors can experience with AI. AI-powered tools can automate routine tasks, allowing individuals to focus on more complex and valuable work. For example, chatbots can handle customer service inquiries, freeing up employees to work on more strategic projects. According to a study by Accenture, AI-powered automation has the potential to increase productivity by up to 40% by 2035, enabling workers to focus on higher-value tasks that require human skills such as creativity, empathy, and critical thinking.
AI can also improve decision-making by providing individuals with real-time insights and data analysis. By analyzing large amounts of data, AI can identify patterns and trends that humans might miss. For example, AI-powered tools can help marketers identify customer preferences and behaviors, allowing them to create more targeted and effective campaigns. A McKinsey study found that AI-powered decision-making can increase productivity by 20-25%, demonstrating the significant impact of this technology on individual contributors.
Another way in which AI will impact individual contributors is by changing the nature of work itself. As routine tasks become automated, individuals will need to develop new skills and adapt to new roles. This shift will require continuous learning and upskilling to ensure that individuals remain relevant in the workforce. A World Economic Forum report found that by 2025, 50% of all employees will need reskilling due to the adoption of AI and other advanced technologies.
Ethical Risks and Concerns of AI
While there are many benefits to AI for individual contributors, there are concerns about the potential negative effects of this technology. One of the most significant concerns is job displacement, as automation and AI-powered tools may replace entire jobs or tasks. However, studies have shown that while AI may replace some jobs, it will also create many new ones. According to Medium, AI will create 97 million new jobs by 2025, although certain industries and regions may experience job losses.
Reduced autonomy is another major concern that AI skeptics may have. AI-powered tools may make decisions or recommendations that override human judgment. However, it is essential to remember that AI is a tool, not a replacement for human decision-making. Artificial intelligence can help employees improve their outcomes while maintaining control over the final result.
AI has the potential to significantly impact individual contributors in the workforce. By automating routine tasks, improving decision-making, and changing the future of work itself, AI can provide significant benefits to individuals. However, it is also important to recognize and address concerns about job displacement and reduced autonomy.
So why does understanding the benefits and risks of AI matter? Because it empowers individuals to adapt and leverage its power and enhance their contributions to the workforce.
AI isn’t anything to be scared of, and if anything, should be embraced in the workplace. Generative AI won’t fully replace employees, but it will help your human workers reach new heights of success and productivity. Encourage your employees to leverage AI and experiment with tools to optimize their current workload.
So what does the Future of Work look like? It’s one where robots and humans work together to create a happier, more productive workplace.