Collaborative workforce: Humans and AI working together

Collaborative workforce: Humans and AI working together

In an age defined by rapid technological advancements, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our professional lives has unlocked a new era of possibilities. While AI is causing a lot of uncertainty, we should not see the AI revolution as a threat, but an invitation to reimagine how we work and collaborate. It will enable workers to use their unique skills to the fullest and spend far less time doing mundane tasks that only bore us and really can be better done using technology. AI continues to revolutionize various industries, with an expected annual growth rate of 37.3% between 2023 and 2030, according to Grand View Research. This rapid growth emphasizes the increasing impact of AI technologies in the coming years.

AI’s impact in the workforce

I spent 25+ years in technology designing, architecting, developing, and leading teams to develop enterprise solutions.  Like most technology people, I always looked for ways to save time and be more efficient.  One thing you learn in software engineering, as you work on a number of different projects, it often required similar functionality requiring sharing segments of code that was used in past projects.  This led to building custom library of routines that were used over and over again.  The goal was  always to work smarter and more efficiently, not harder.  We continuously evolve and push the envelope and began automating mundane tasks, however, the problem we ran into is that we had to code every scenario and some were really difficult to anticipate until they happened.  We classified these as exceptions.  Then came more powerful technology like Machine Learning (ML).  ML – a subset of AI which has the ability to learn from data, allowed more flexibility as developers did not have to program every scenario but the machine could learn from patterns and predict the result desired.  As a technologist, we are always looking to expand what we can do, doing it efficiently and in the smallest amount of time.  

 

Another big change we have seen over the last 10 years is in technology skills desired by organizations.  Let me explain.  For example, 20 years ago Database Administrators (DBA) were such a powerful and critical part of development teams.  They were responsible for managing databases and keeping them running efficiently.  Organizations that were running more of the popular Enterprise databases like Oracle or SQL Server would really benefit from experienced DBAs.  With AI and other advances, the level of experience and demands have changed. It is not solely AI but natural advances in technology that enable some functions that can be self-managed in essence.  

 

Another example is software engineers.  It was common to see the great developers with 5 to 10+ years’ experience in various technologies.  Developers using languages like Java, C#, Pl/SQL, JavaScript and many more really saw the importance of experience.  However, changes to the industry brought on by  things like Open Source, automated code generation capabilities, No Code platforms, and platforms that use AI to generate code have reduced the amount of effort and often expertise needed to build applications. That has impacted job opportunities and diminished somewhat need for the number of very experienced developers. 

 

So what did technology professionals do, we had to adapt. This will undoubtedly continue so technology like AI is here to stay.  We just need to see how it can benefit us.  This may be an optimistic viewpoint but technology advances like AI are typically done to allow people to do more, benefit society but not to harm people. 

 

Likewise, the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has sparked discussions about its potential impact on all areas of the workforce. One of the things that make AI different from other technology advances is that other advances is that technology advances typically are thought as assisting humans.  Yes, it has cost jobs and changed industries but it has typically viewed as for the better in the long run and makes life easier.  But many see AI as potential to replace us!  Many wonder whether AI poses a threat to employees and their job security. Yes, there are many valid concerns.  However, the situation is not as dire as some might fear. What the winners understand is that those who understand and embrace AI and learn to work with it will benefit the most.  Computers should be utilized to quickly process large volumes of data, find patterns and make predictions and humans should continue to capitalize on emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.  Computers cannot replace human skills and those that try will lose out.  Rather than solely focusing on job displacement, consider the creation of new job roles and the enhancement of existing ones. AI will free up employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to concentrate on more complex and creative aspects of their jobs.  Consider a world where AI and humans combine to play up on each’s strengths.  This transition can undoubtedly lead to increased job satisfaction and the emergence of roles that require human-AI collaboration. 

Agile Mindset 

To properly take advantage of AI, individuals as well as organizations have to adopt the proper mindset.  Yes, I said individuals.  It starts with individual contributors.  Think back 20 years ago before Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and so many others were part of our daily lives.  If you look back even further, cell phones were not always a daily stable like they are now.  If you think about it, we adjusted our daily activities to take advantage of these technologies.  For cell phone users, it is being able to make and receive calls on the go.  No need to run home and check answering machines for messages and important calls.  Using navigation systems to safely get to our destinations while driving negating the need to print maps. Being able to text your kids to find out where they are.  Posting updates and pictures from your family vacation on Facebook so family and friends can see and comment. Ability to post and celebrate recognition received by organizations on LinkedIn.  Ability to post thoughtful business insights and share expertise on LinkedIn.  Of course, there are a lot of drawbacks and challenges with all the technology, however, most would say that the positives outweighed the negatives.  So, who wants to go back ? Maybe I should not have asked that because society is not going back, so we all have to learn how to navigate. 

 

Individual contributors should adopt the mindset of how can AI be used to my advantage.  How can it make my job easier?  How can I remain flexible and in a continuous learning mindset?  What things about AI adoption can risk my job or customer satisfaction and how do we mitigate that.  Organizations have to really rethink their business processes and merge AI with Human capabilities.  Will enable jobs to be done faster, more accurately, focusing on more value-added activities, with enhanced productivity and hopefully less burnout, and ultimately better quality to customers.

Collaborative workforce: Humans and AI working together

How can Humans work with AI?

Working effectively with AI in a business setting requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to maximize its benefits while aligning with the organization’s goals. For each opportunity, organizations have to really think about what the opportunities for improvements and what are the risks that could hurt the organization.  Yes, there are always risks.  For example, in customer support, have AI generated assistants answer calls from customers could lead to poor customer support ratings and lead frustrated customers to other vendors.  Today, it is not uncommon to call a support number and spend 5 minutes trying to surpass AI assistants to speak to a human. Customer Support in some organizations will not let you speak to a human until after you have gone through and tried all the suggestions of AI generated assistants. However, here are a number of ways that AI and Humans can work together and lead to better outcomes. 

  1. Data Analysis and Insights: AI analyzes large datasets to identify trends, patterns, and insights. Humans interpret these findings, make strategic decisions, and develop actionable plans based on the data.
  2. Customer Support: AI-powered chatbots handle routine customer inquiries and provide quick responses, while human agents handle complex issues requiring empathy and nuanced understanding.
  3. Supply Chain Optimization: AI predicts demand patterns, optimizing inventory management and supply chain logistics. Humans make high-level decisions and adjustments based on broader business goals.
  4. Sales and Marketing: AI analyzes customer preferences to recommend personalized products. Humans use these insights to refine marketing strategies and build stronger customer relationships.
  5. Financial Decision-Making: AI processes financial data for accurate forecasting and risk assessment. Humans use AI-generated reports to make investment decisions and manage financial portfolios.
  6. Product Development and Innovation: AI generates design concepts and prototypes, which humans refine and adapt to align with brand identity and customer needs.
  7. HR and Recruitment: AI screens resumes, shortlisting candidates based on qualifications. Humans conduct interviews, assessing soft skills and cultural fit.
  8. Content Creation: AI assists in generating drafts of articles or reports. Humans add context, creativity, and emotional resonance to craft compelling final content.
  9. Cybersecurity: AI detects and mitigates cyber threats in real-time. Humans analyze advanced attacks and devise countermeasures that involve strategic thinking and ethical considerations.
  10. Market Research: AI collects and processes market data, highlighting emerging trends. Humans use these insights to make strategic decisions about product positioning and market entry.

These scenarios showcase the dynamic partnership between humans and AI in business settings. And by acknowledging AI’s strengths and limitations and collaborating effectively, humans can harness AI’s power to streamline processes, provide valuable insights, and amplify their own abilities to create a more productive and innovative work environment and to drive informed decision-making and strategic planning. 

To thrive in an AI-affected job market, employees must embrace continuous learning. A survey of 1,075 companies across 12 industries found that companies that embarked on AI initiatives that reimaged business processes, experimented, used data to drive innovation initiatives using AI experienced a savings of cost and better revenue outcomes.  Upskilling and reskilling are crucial to remain relevant and competitive. By acquiring skills that complement AI, employees can pivot into roles that involve human-AI collaboration, data analysis, AI system management, and more. This adaptability is key to mitigating the potential threats of AI.  AI may excel at data processing, but it struggles with nuanced human interactions and tasks that demand emotional intelligence, creativity, critical thinking, and ethical decision-making. Roles that involve empathy, communication, leadership, and complex problem-solving remain firmly in the realm of human expertise.

We can expect growing pains that are already being experienced.   Think about Uber drivers or anyone that follows driving directions that send drivers the long way or through unsafe areas.  A recent story had a drivers following driving directions that drove into a body of water.  Even AI used in Call Centers to handle easier cases can lead to frustration either by customers who prefer to speak to humans or workers whom feel that they only deal with difficult cases. 

Another aspect to consider is the ethical dimension of AI. Ensuring AI systems are transparent, unbiased, and aligned with human values requires human oversight. Ethical concerns surrounding AI’s impact on society, privacy, and job displacement should be actively addressed by individuals, organizations, and policymakers.

Ultimately, the narrative should shift from AI being a threat to AI being a collaborator. The synergy between AI’s analytical capabilities and human creativity can lead to transformative solutions. Employees can leverage AI as a tool to enhance their work rather than fearing it as a replacement. 
AI is not a replacement for people. It’s just a tool that can help you do your job better. AI can automate tedious tasks, make better decisions and improve customer service, which will allow humans to focus on what’s most important: improving the overall health of your company.

You should embrace AI if you want to reduce costs while increasing productivity and quality control at the same time.

 

Sources

https://hbr.org/2018/07/collaborative-intelligence-humans-and-ai-are-joining-forces 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/04/26/combining-intelligence-how-people-and-ai-can-collaborate/?sh=166ea328143d 

https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/insights/topics/talent/human-machine-collaboration.html 

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