AI has long been considered to be a creeping substitute to the labor force. It has been viewed with suspicion and anxiety, as if it was some kind of inevitable disaster waiting to hit blue-collar workers. There is great concern among 18-24 year old Americans about their jobs being stolen by automation, according to CNBC. However, this does not need to always be the case. The truth is that workforce substitution is not the direction that AI-human teams have to go. Workforce augmentation and even synergistic collaboration is in the cards as well, meaning that working with AI doesn’t necessarily mean working with less teammates.
Our previous post discussed how the AI assistant Wing can actually perform synergistic tasks that don’t necessarily replace a singular worker. In this article, the Wing team will zoom out a little bit and present a bigger picture. Specifically, we want to examine the future of AI-human collaboration, and how we can use AI to create “superteams”. These superteams don’t just use AI as a cheaper way of performing human functions, but use it as a way to create even more value and fill in the gaps between human roles.
Our team at Wing has compiled four different ways your business or organization can begin preparing internal teams for synergistic collaboration with AI.
- Implement organizational management changes to understand where AI can fill the gap
- Redistribute responsibilities and jobs to enhance AI usage
- Invest in human capacities paramount to working with AI
- Establish an ethical culture equipped to handle AI’s limitations
1. Reconfigure Organizational Hierarchy
The first step for any leader hoping to get the most out of AI is to redefine the system. Organizational management and oversight is crucial for any new team member, but even moreso for the introduction of AI. If you want AI to be a major point of augmentation for your team members, then you have to know where it can fill in gaps that your workers can’t.
Lack of proper organizational management for the implementation of AI can lead to substitution instead of collaboration. If you narrowly think of each team member’s responsibilities as siloed, you will inevitably start using AI to run responsibilities that overlap with your workers. At this point, your workers will start to lose their core competencies, leading to an organizational overhaul that shrinks the team. This cycle of short-sightedness is why automation has so far been responsible for replacing workers instead of helping.
Overcoming this requires proper foresight. Before moving forward with the implementation of AI, or when reconsidering where to fit an AI assistant into your team, you have to first reconfigure the organizational structure of your team. By reconfiguring, I don’t necessarily mean completely changing up roles and hierarchy. Reconfigurations can take a variety of forms. The main point is that you have to shift the way you view your team structure. Taking different perspectives on how your teams can operate may present small gaps to implement AI into the workflow.
For instance, your organizational structure may currently be very siloed, with departments operating in specific roles.
One way you can reconfigure your workforce is to form more functional, small teams that operate towards very specific goals. This is quite famously known as agile teams, and is widely considered to be a strong transformation for any organization to go through. While there are tremendous benefits to an agile organization, one of them is the sudden flexibility to implementations. Pairing agile transformations with AI integration can be a strong way to insert AI into organizational gaps, thereby supplementing the direction of agile teams without truly sacrificing actual workers.
Like I mentioned earlier, agile workflows don’t necessarily have to paired with AI integration. If your organization isn’t ready for such a structural overhaul, that’s completely fine. The point is that organizational silos such as functional departments have to be viewed differently. They must be examined thoroughly for areas where AI can be a collaborator. Simply by expanding your perspective of your hierarchy, you can evolve AI from a mere substitute to a powerful augment.
2. Redistribute responsibilities and jobs to enhance AI usage
This point builds off of the previous one about organizational hierarchy, although this may be a bit more technical. If you want to successfully implement AI into your workspace, you’ll have to understand that there will be shifts in job responsibilities. While AI can take care of a lot of different aspects, it usually requires human oversight or at least guidance.
This is where the redistribution of responsibilities come in. It may also be a strong way of both retaining and reintegrating talent in your team. For instance, your company may need to increasingly value expertise in data science, algorithm development, and AI system design. IT skills may become more necessary than you expected.
This may mean more external hiring and talent management. If that’s the case, this is a great way for your company to grow human interaction with the introduction of machines. It also allows your company to utilize new hiring processes to enact further changes. These changes include pursuing agile transformations mentioned earlier.
Or, you may be able to retrain and retool your current base of workers to fit the bill. This would provide you with the opportunity to make your team more AI-friendly, as well, and teach them how to operate now with this new tool.
Either way, however, you are adding a more human element to your roster, which is the main goal. It allows you to implement AI in a way that builds upon the human nature of your organization, not detract from it.
3. Invest in Uniquely Human Capabilities
One important reminder to keep in mind when implementing AI, especially within a system that may seem like it will end up pushing team members out of the workforce, is that there are still many human capabilities that AI cannot replicate. Uniquely human traits such as critical thinking and observation, cultural sensitivity, and conflict resolution cannot yet be replicated by tech. In fact, these human qualities may be able to keep internal biases of tech in check. Different uses of AI would require different human skills to balance it out. If you want to value human workers in a technological revolution, it’ll be important to lean into these traits.
Valuing and weeding out these traits isn’t too difficult. Like the other suggestions in this article, it mostly is a matter of perspective. A specific action you can take is to implement skills like conflict negotiation and social intelligence into reskilling curriculum. Ensure that your workers are trained in and reminded of these unique skillsets, especially when there is great anxiety over the implementation of new technology.
Besides creating a training program that emphasizes these important qualities, your organization would do well to incorporate these humanistic elements into your talent outreach system as well. For example, you could set the demonstration of these qualities as criteria in your hiring process. To ensure this, teams should move forward with understanding how to identify workers with these capacities.
Finally, it is important that your teams’ leaders and managers be completely trained and selected for these capacities. Organizational values are very much decided from the top. Make sure that each leader understands the humanistic lens that the organization has to view technological implementation through. It’s a strong way to trickle down these values to the rest of the teams.
Centralizing processes around the human characteristics necessary to collaborate with AI is a must-do. It’s a strong way of making sure your organization doesn’t fall into the standard track of automating your current workforce. Instead, you continue to place emphasis on humans, leveraging them as the main unit by which to improve the technology you’re integrating.
4. Establish an Ethical Culture Surrounding AI
Lastly, and in a similar vein to the previous point, leaders should ensure that they develop a culture of doing the right thing. This would, in turn, enhance workers’ abilities to anticipate AI’s ethical impacts on the workforce.
The integration of AI can be the cause of much philosophical debate. Certain technologies can be seen as invasive or arbitrary. Of course, this is not to mention the earlier mentioned anxieties surrounding automation of jobs.
Successful integration of AI will have to acknowledge and respect the ethical dilemmas that it brings. Leaders who take the charge on technological implementation must be ready to address these concerns. They must immediately establish a strong culture of doing the right thing when it comes to AI.
Like with our earlier point about organizational values, an ethical culture for AI starts with the top. Leaders must actively anticipate, starting with the workforce, any ethical complaints that may arise from AI. One must strive to be transparent, constantly communicative, and considerate of how this tech may affect team members.
One specific way to make sure that ethics surrounding technology becomes widespread in the organization is to communicate the positive impact that a piece of AI can have on team members. Another is to have a demonstration of the internal workings of a piece of technology for all the workers.
Undeniably, the world is moving towards an era of ubiquitous technology. Each and every organization understands the need for continuous technological improvement. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that each organization must begin to phase out its workers. Instead, there are many different ways that leaders can implement technology and AI in a way that leads to collaborative “superteams.”
All of these suggestions are quite high-level, and especially centered around technological implementation in general. Understandably, many other risks with implementing AI abound.
Luckily, your business’s AI assistant doesn’t have to be such a headache to figure out. In fact, Wing for Business can provide the benefits of AI, while taking these implementation headaches off of your shoulders. In designing how Wing operates (as a AI-operator hybrid app), our team has ensured that these four principles were integrated into the way that Wing’s personal assistant features would interact with your business. So, these values are important to know, which is why we’ve written an article about it. However, you don’t necessarily have to implement these to integrate Wing. This app was specifically made to have internally already created a collaboration between AI and humans.