- Machines have the advantage in the workplace when it comes to performing routine, automatable tasks according to an explicit set of rules.
- Once the need for social and creative intelligence in a given task grows, humans have the advantage.
- AI continues to accelerate as a result of the pandemic as 68% of companies increased their investment in AI technologies during COVID-19.
- When implementing AI in the workplace, organizations need to focus on developing the skills, expectations and employee experience that will support a successful human-machine partnership.
According to a survey by Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, there’s a good chance that artificial intelligence (AI) will do a better job than humans at all work-related tasks by 2063. They also predict that in 120 years, AI will automate all human jobs.
Covid-19 may have just shortened that timeline as AI applications are accelerating in the areas of touchless technology and the automation of roles that previously involved human interactions.
Throughout this evolution though, humans and machines will need to work together. That means it’s up to leaders, HR and L&D teams to figure out how to maximize that human-machine partnership to get the combined benefits of both sets of strengths. To do that, it’s important to first understand where each has the advantage.
Finding the Balance Between Artificial and Human Intelligence
Machines are generally quite good at performing routine, predictable tasks according to an explicit set of rules. This includes things like data collection and processing, manufacturing assembly work, and supply chain optimization and management.
Routine tasks like coordinating and controlling work are not only easy to automate, but they’re also often performed more effectively by machines than humans. Fortunately, humans are generally okay with handing over this mundane, “back-office” work. When we surveyed more than 3,500 employees around the world about their expectations and attitudes toward AI, 70% said they’d feel positive about offloading those kinds of tasks so that they could focus on more meaningful work.
In broad terms, machines have the advantage when the need for creative and social intelligence are low. Social Intelligence refers to the ability to deal with challenging social contexts effectively; understand others’ concerns, feelings and emotional states; and know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it in order to build and maintain positive relationships with others. Creative Intelligence is the ability to frame what’s known in new ways, find meaningful connections and generate innovative solutions.
Once the need for social or creative intelligence in a given task grows, humans have the advantage. Work that involves flexibility, creativity and judgment calls for considerable degrees of creative and social intelligence and, as a result, human beings. For now, at least.
AI Is Increasingly Replacing More Tasks
AI is already making inroads into areas that were once considered human mainstays. Assembly lines are highly automated. Financial institutions are using AI to collect and process huge amounts of data to establish credit risk. Retailers use AI to recommend future purchases.
Some domains, like those involving unpredictable physical activity or interfacing with stakeholders, are harder, but AI is even impacting these areas. Chatbot technology, for example, has completely changed the contact center business. AI-based decision-making has been embraced by asset management firms, with many companies using it for investment analysis. And now it’s showing up in soft-skill-dependent and people-driven areas such as hiring, development and performance management.
As technology advances, AI will continue to replace certain tasks and, in some cases, entire jobs. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s replacing all the people. But in the near term, it is changing the kinds of skills people need to be successful in an environment where humans and machines are partners in getting the job done.
The Human Contribution in the Human-Machine Partnership Equation
Maximizing this partnership requires understanding where humans come into the equation and then preparing them for their shifting responsibilities. Here are 5 areas that demand the high social and/or creative intelligence of humans:
- Interpreting AI decisions in context. A human can evaluate an AI-generated decision with a broader perspective, asking, “Does this make sense given the big picture?”
- Providing governance to prevent mistakes and bias. Humans play an important role in making sure outcomes from AI are fair and appropriate—and giving other people trust in those outcomes as a result.
- Communicating decisions with clarity and empathy for the people affected by them. With an AI-interpreted CT scan, for example, a radiologist can spend less time diagnosing disease and more time talking with patients.
- Adding creative intelligence to AI-generated insights to solve problems and innovate. Humans bring the wisdom, expertise and creativity to turn insights into solutions.
- Building relationships and collaborating. Effective teams will require human collaboration, relationships and the psychological safety that allow innovation and value creation for external partners and customers.
As Forrester Research points out, “Smart companies know that AI investments must include concurrent investments in education on the impact of AI in their business and employees and how expectations, skill sets, and experiences will evolve.”
And smart companies aren’t waiting, because for many employees, the impact is already here. In our survey, conducted before the pandemic, 31% of U.S. employees told us AI and automation are already affecting them in their roles, and 40% expect it to affect their role in the next 1-5 years. Those numbers would be even higher today given how AI has accelerated throughout the past year. According to one study 68% of companies increased their investment in AI technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic with 48% investing in new AI technologies and 46% investing further in AI technologies already in use at their companies. For a successful human-machine partnership, make sure your people have the skills and a supportive culture to see them—and your business—through this transition.
Download our research report, Beyond Technology: Preparing People for Success in the Era of AI, for an overview of key skills as well as leadership steps necessary for creating successful human-machine partnerships.