AI & Automation: Not Just a Fortune 1000 Problem

How companies of every size might be impacted by trends in AI and Automation

A professionally-dressed woman leans up against a technology stack 

Many people may assume that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are only going to make big sweeping changes to the largest of companies. However, in a survey of more than 500 human resource leaders across every company size, it’s clear that the impact will be widespread.

There is no escaping the reality that AI and automation are here to stay. Consider how often purchases are made online, or how much that people depend on technology to go about their daily tasks. The age of automation has already begun. The question now is how do businesses of every size continue to adapt and evolve so that we all keep up?

What Might Happen

There was a time when AI and automation were thought to only have a place in technology companies and the manufacturing industry. It is now known that AI and automation will likely affect every industry in some way within the next 5 years.

Technology and telecommunications is the industry likely to be affected the most, because, after all, this is a field that has always had its pulse on technology. Manufacturing will also be largely affected by AI and automation because it, in particular, has a high degree of rote tasks that can be automated.

However, all industries will be affected by AI and automation in some way, many for the better. Retail, hospitality, and medicine are fields that have been commonly thought to be automation-proof, yet recent research is showing otherwise. Even the building trades and the public sector will be affected by AI and automation in some way. While experts may not always agree with how these career fields will change, they do predict that change is most certainly coming.

Bigger companies will be affected by AI and automation the most because they can best afford to invest in technology upgrades, and because they have large numbers of staff who will be affected as new change is implemented. However, even though smaller companies typically have fewer staff who are less specialized, changes in technology will affect everyone.

The good news is that, across all aspects of the business world, the predicted influx of technology will make more staff members available for more meaningful work, instead of doing jobs that involve rote, routine functions. Jobs won’t necessarily all disappear, but many of them will morph into new versions of old positions, requiring a new set of skills.

How Can Companies and Employees Best Prepare?

The best way for companies and employees to prepare for inevitable changes in the workforce is to upskill. Upskilling, at its simplest, means to train for and learn new skills. Considering that as much as 25% of the current workforce will need new skills to remain competitive in the workforce as AI and automation takes hold, companies big and small would do well to incorporate a plan now to prepare for assisting employees with continuing education and skills development as their business evolves.

There are a number of ways that companies and employees alike can prepare for anticipated changes in the workforce.

  • Career counseling and mentorship programs are effective, low-cost ways for companies of every size to offer opportunities for training and upskilling to employees. This will help prepare staff for potential changes in the industry while keeping the business competitive at the same time.
  • Companies big and small would do well to help prepare their workforce for potential changes in the technology landscape by continuously identifying new positions that might be suitable for existing employees within the company. This would help employees change along with the needs of the organization.
  • Providing tuition assistance or reimbursement for college classes or additional training is also beneficial. Additional college level coursework, either to earn a new degree or to complement an existing one, will best prepare workers to be competitive in an increasingly automated world.
  • Both companies and employees alike should seek opportunities to offer or earn badges or other non-degree, alternative credentials, often known as micro-credentials.
  • Above all, employees should be prepared to be flexible. Take care not to overspecialize, instead remaining strong in skills, such as writing and communication skills, that cross-over into every career field. Continuing college level coursework will help with this as well.

Looking Forward

While it can seem challenging to know where workers might fit in when there is a predicted disruption of up to half of the jobs in the technology and communications field alone over the next five years, there are positives to the influx of AI and automation.

This predicted change positions companies and employees alike to reimagine what it means to conduct business and be part of a team. Human resources professionals in particular have an opportunity to consider how they might restructure hiring and benefits practices. Every company, big and small, would do well to consider how they might incorporate continuing education programs, micro-credentials, and overall upskilling opportunities to their benefits programs and their workforce.

This is also a time to remember that it’s important not to shy away from the AI and automation revolution. Every career, including customer service and hospitality, medical, legal, and even public service will be impacted by AI and automation in some way. Change is a good thing for the health of most businesses. Change can be a great thing for individuals prepared to continuously improve their skills so they stay on the cutting edge of the workforce for years to come.

Read more about predicted trends in AI and automation, and how these trends are likely to affect businesses of all sizes and across all industries.

Workforce Development

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