Today’s workplace is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence. This technology is not merely automating tasks; it is ushering in a new era of human-AI collaboration, where AI augments and enhances human capabilities, creating a new breed of empowered employees – the AI-enabled employee.
While the concept of an AI-enabled employee might sound like a futuristic notion, it’s becoming a reality as we speak, in organizations across industries and geographies. So let’s take some moments to explore what this concept means for both workers and businesses, and how we can all prepare for this rapidly evolving future of work.
Why the future of work belongs to AI-enabled employees
The adoption of AI in the workplace is at an all-time high, as businesses recognize its potential to enhance productivity, improve decision-making, and create new opportunities.
According to McKinsey's 2022 report, "The Future of Work After COVID-19: Adapting to a New World of Work," 54% of companies are currently using AI technologies to enhance employee productivity, and 43% are using AI to automate tasks. The expectation of business leaders is to see a 10-15% increase in productivity and 20-25% increase in employee engagement by incorporating AI into day-to-day processes and workflows.
Although we’re still in a phase where companies are drafting their AI implementation strategies and figuring out the best use cases of AI-powered tools, there is no doubt that the future belongs to workers who can use AI systems to drive business growth. Thus, it’s safe to say that becoming AI-enabled is the only way forward for employees who want to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving job market.
From a business point of view, the growing adoption of AI - and, as a consequence, the move towards hiring AI-savvy employees for their new roles - is a no-brainer. This technology has immense potential to benefit both businesses and employees.
For businesses, AI can:
- Improve productivity: AI automation can take over time-consuming, repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more strategic, high-value work.
- Enhance decision-making: AI can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and trends that would be difficult or impossible for humans to detect, providing businesses with data-driven insights for better decision-making.
- Reduce costs: AI can automate routine processes, reducing labor costs and improving efficiency.
- Create new opportunities: AI is creating new jobs and opportunities for employees with specialized skills in AI and data analytics.
But what does the adoption of AI mean for employees? And what exactly is an AI-enabled employee?
The impact of AI on the employee roles and responsibilities
While there was a time when people feared that AI would replace humans in the workforce, HR teams are still looking to hire human professionals, and employee satisfaction and retention are still high on the agenda of priorities. However, it is true that artificial intelligence is reshaping the work environment and changing the nature of work, reducing the demand for some jobs and creating new employment opportunities.
For example, the creation and development of AI systems require machine learning engineers, data scientists, and specialized researchers. These types of professionals are increasingly in demand and well-compensated, and we expect the trend to continue with the introduction of new technologies. Additionally, implementing AI algorithms into current processes requires support from AI ethics and cybersecurity specialists. With the growing awareness of the ethical implications of AI, there are opportunities for ethics experts to ensure that decisions made by AI systems align with moral and social principles.
But AI’s influence isn’t reduced to new hires. Businesses are already adopting AI-driven processes and artificial intelligence tools, and AI is already being used in a variety of ways to augment and enhance employee capabilities.
To give just some examples of AI use cases in the workplace:
- Automating repetitive tasks: AI can streamline workflows by automating routine, mundane tasks. This frees up employees to focus on more strategic, high-value work. According to a recent report, 62% of employees say that AI helps them optimize operations and processes, and 34% are using AI to make strategic business decisions.
- Providing real-time insights: AI can analyze vast amounts of data and provide employees with real-time insights, enabling them to make better decisions and improve their performance.
- Personalizing learning experiences: AI can personalize learning experiences for each employee, providing them with the content and support they need to develop their skills.
- Facilitating collaboration: AI can facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing among employees, breaking down silos and fostering a more connected workplace.
- Empowering creativity: AI can be used to generate new ideas and approaches, fostering innovation and problem-solving.
- Predicting future trends: AI can analyze past data to predict future trends, helping businesses make better strategic decisions.
- Providing customer service: For instance, AI-powered chatbots are helping businesses serve their customers better than ever. Such tools are built on top of ChatGPT or other generative AI technologies and enriched with company data, to give contextually-relevant answers and provide a seamless customer experience.
On top of these use cases, AI-powered learning platforms are used for reskilling and upskilling the workforce. Such platforms enable employees to access customized learning experiences and training programs tailored to their unique needs and goals. At the same time, AI is used for onboarding and knowledge-sharing initiatives, often within self-service applications.
Overall, AI is playing an increasingly important role in the workplace, and AI-enabled employees are becoming essential for businesses that want to stay competitive.
In fact, HR professionals are listing AI knowledge as one of the most important among all employee skills going forward, and AI builders are the most sought-after professionals. And although at the moment we’re still dealing with an AI adoption gap, as more and more companies are starting to understand how to make use of AI and to implement artificial intelligence into their daily operations, the skill gap between AI-savvy workers and laggards will become even bigger.
Which means that for workers it’s imperative to become AI-enabled sooner rather than later. But what does this actually mean?
The AI-enabled employee: Characteristics and skills
AI-enabled employees are individuals who work alongside AI systems to enhance their capabilities and improve their performance. They possess a unique set of skills that enable them to work with AI systems, including data analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
AI-enabled workers have embraced the integration of AI into their work practices, and are not afraid of AI, but rather see it as a tool that can augment their skills and capabilities.
So let’s look at the profile of an AI-enabled employee, to understand what workers should focus on and what HR departments will be looking for going forward.
Key characteristics of AI-enabled workers
How does AI improve employees? And what are the characteristics that make AI-enabled workers stand out?
- Enhanced autonomy and broader knowledge - The hallmark of an AI-enabled employee lies in the amplified sense of autonomy. With AI lending a helping hand at every turn, these individuals transcend the limitations of a conventional skill set, having always-on access to infinite amounts of information. This means that their knowledge is no longer limited to a specific skillset. Instead, the employee of the future is able to go from “T-shaped” to “rectangular-shaped” by expanding their knowledge and acquiring a skillset that’s evenly wide as it is deep.
- “On-demand” creativity, both conceptual and applied - AI is democratizing creativity, opening up the realm of innovative thinking to a wider pool of individuals. AI-enabled tools can assist employees in generating new ideas, exploring unconventional approaches, and create assets in various formats with a few clicks. This democratization of creativity ensures that every employee, regardless of their innate creative prowess, can contribute meaningfully to creative initiatives and ideation processes.
- Optimal efficiency - AI-enabled employees can achieve remarkable levels of efficiency by leveraging AI's ability to automate tasks, analyze vast amounts of data, and provide real-time recommendations. AI can streamline workflows, identify bottlenecks, and optimize resource allocation, leading to significant gains in productivity.
- Multi-lingual across domains - Being multi-lingual takes on a new dimension in the AI era – not just in terms of language but also in job-specific jargon. AI-enabled workers possess the ability to navigate and communicate seamlessly across various domains, breaking down silos and fostering a collaborative, interconnected workplace.
Essential skills for AI-enabled employees
In addition to these key characteristics, AI-enabled employees need to have a strong foundation in the following skills:
- Technical skills: AI-enabled employees should have a basic understanding of AI concepts and technologies, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. They should also be comfortable using AI tools and applications.
- Business acumen: AI-enabled workers should have a strong understanding of business principles and practices. They should be able to identify business problems that can be solved with AI, and they should be able to communicate the value of AI to other stakeholders in the organization.
- Soft skills: AI-enabled employees should have strong soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, to compensate for the limitations of AI Workmates, and collaborate effectively with their AI counterparts.
Emerging skills for AI-enabled employees
As AI continues to evolve, new skills will be required for AI-enabled employees. Some of the emerging skills that will be in demand include:
- Data ethics: AI-enabled employees will need to be aware of the ethical implications of AI and be able to use AI in a responsible and ethical manner.
- AI explainability: AI-enabled employees will need to be able to explain how AI works and how it arrives at its decisions. This is important for building trust with stakeholders and for ensuring that AI is used in a fair and transparent manner.
- AI governance: AI-enabled employees will need to be able to understand and apply AI governance frameworks. These frameworks help organizations to manage the risks associated with AI and to ensure that AI is used in a responsible and ethical manner.
Over to you
In conclusion, AI is not a threat to the future of work; it is an opportunity. AI-enabled employees will become increasingly common in the workplace going forward, and it’s important for both workers and organizations to prepare for this change. By embracing AI and developing the necessary skills, employees can become AI-enabled and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
Businesses, at their turn, that foster a culture of AI adoption by embracing this technology and using it to augment the their workforce and the employee experience. Companies who support their employees' continuous learning and upskilling will be well-positioned to succeed in the AI-driven workplace.
As we move forward, let us embrace AI not as a replacement for human workers, but as a powerful tool to augment our capabilities and enhance our productivity. Together, we can create a future of work that is more productive, efficient, and fulfilling for all.