1st March 2018

Artificial Intelligence and the future of work: Survey data helps replace unhelpful speculation with sensible debate


The impact of coming technologies on the workplace

Over recent years we have seen quite a lot of speculation about the impact that coming technologies are going to have on the workplace.
Machine Learning and its more powerful stable-mate, Artificial Intelligence (AI), are set to unleash a revolution. We are already seeing this now as software automation and systems integration at the API level is reducing the need for laborious processes and manual intervention across numerous technology platforms.
As an overarching principle, software automation eliminates paper-based processes and manipulates electronically stored information to achieve the desired outputs. Take the example of back office automation from ETZ. Digital timesheet information is manipulated through a process to produce a payment to the temp or contractor and an invoice to the client, all within a digital workflow that doesn’t require a shred of paper.
Similar improvement in process efficiency is being seen across industry and commerce. Of course, the real ‘fun’ with automation happens when you connect it to the physical world. Computer controlled machinery in manufacturing – ‘CNC’ – has been with us for a number of decades.
The ultimate expression of computer controlled machinery is the robot, which brings us to the brink of sci-fi and the age of cyborgs, synthetic organisms or artificial people – call them what you will. For some, this signals the beginning of a Dystopian future, like Orwell’s 1984 or the war against the machines, as in James Cameron’s Terminator. Well, maybe…
However, we’re not quite there yet… Before all of that, we’ve got to see how the next wave of workplace automation driven by AI is going to develop.

Sensible debate replaces pointless speculation and scaremongering

Research from The Workforce Institute suggests that while AI is set to revolutionise the way companies work in every sector, businesses need to more clearly communicate their plans for implementing new technology to the workforce.
The survey, Engaging Opportunity: Working Smarter with AI conducted by The Workforce Institute with Coleman Parkes Research, explores how employees believe emerging technologies should be used to improve the future of work. The survey elicited responses from  3,000 hourly paid and salaried workers from a variety of industries in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S..
This research is to be welcomed. So far, much of the debate about the future impact of new technology in the workplace has been framed as scare stories, a tactic used by the mainstream media and shameless self-promoters to sell printed media and get people clicking on their online content. This has loud resonances with both the politics of fear and disaster capitalism.
This is actually one of the big problems with unmoderated user generated content and media platforms that operate without true editorial control. Serious messages get broken up and diluted by unhelpful comment and endless inaccurate regurgitations that misrepresent the facts and obscure the real meaning of reportage. It gets hijacked by those few that seek to rabble-rouse and prosper from chaos, uncertainty and upheaval.
The result is that the debate around the future impact of AI in the workplace is cloaked in something of a polarised narrative. The fact is, technology creates winners and losers. The subtext that is in play here is that workers need to be on the winning side because being a loser is going to have serious implications for your future prospects and prosperity.
Hopefully, the survey is going to help reset the tone and allow for sensible, reasoned debate rooted in reality and based on facts derived from the opinions of the silent majority.

Some key survey findings

Areas where employees want AI to make work better
Employees want AI to:

Better communication is required to combat fear

Rather than sitting on the side lines, recruiters should more actively participate in the communication process. As the bridge between the employer and temp and contract staff, recruitment firms occupy a unique position in the economy. Recruitment firms can be an important interface with the workforce helping employers to articulate their thoughts and plans as they develop.
For many organisations, it may well be too early to be specific. However, the direction of travel is clear. For larger businesses the race is to see who can leverage Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to gain competitive advantage.
There is a real emphasis on not getting left behind, because to miss the boat may be to fatally disadvantage the business in the future. In many ways this is an echo of the subtext that workers need to be on the winning side. The urge to gain an advantage may be causing organisations to be somewhat cagey about their intentions.

A little taste of tomorrow’s technology today from ETZ

ETZ’s recruitment back office automation and integration provides a little bit of tomorrow’s technology today. Recruitment firms reduce back office costs by up to 85%.
ETZ delivers process efficiency which eliminates time-consuming manual tasks with automated processing. ETZ is a hub technology which joins up existing technologies to enable a seamless work flow from end-to-end.
To find out more about how we can help your recruitment agency towards a more efficient back office, simply get in touch.

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