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Don’t forget the human side of AI and automation

By Jennifer Cable, PA people and talent expert

AI and automation promise transformation, and more and more organisations want a piece of it. But amid the excitement about lower costs and higher efficiency, it's easy to forget the impact on people and their careers, and your organisation's culture.

Here are six ways to make the most of AI and automation by thinking about, and planning for, the human side of the change.

  • Create a positive vision – from the top

    A lot of leaders are strong on analysis and results, but not so big on emotional intelligence, empathy and communication. Yet these are exactly what they'll need to set the right tone for the change to come. HR can help senior managers think through the impact of that change beyond the balance sheet. They can help set out a vision that's less about 'moving fast and breaking things' and more about people feeling included, and excited. And that could pay off later in loyalty and motivation.


  • Think early about how jobs will change

    Technological change is as old as industry itself, whether it's combine harvesters replacing labourers or robots appearing on production lines. But this change is faster. So don't be caught out. Be clear early on about how any organisation redesign changes people's jobs.

    If a chatbot replaces your front-office staff, will it report to IT or the call centre manager? If AI and automation free up 10% of people's time, how will you fill it? People might want the new responsibilities you give them. Or they might not. Use line management conversations to find out.


  • Anticipate skills gaps

    New technologies mean new ways of working, and maybe new services and markets. That probably means you'll need new skills. You might be able to re-train your current people, or you might have to bring in new ones. The clearer you are about what the organisation will be doing in five to 10 years, the clearer you'll be about what the right combination of people and technology looks like. And the more you'll know about the learning and development your people need.

Make the artificial real - Artificial intelligence and automation

Make the artificial real. Artificial intelligence and automation.

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  • Help people through the change

    AI and automation will change a lot of people's ideas about their career path, because some steps on that path could vanish. Help your people see this change coming. Show them the new opportunities emerging in your organisation, the skills they'll need and the support you'll give them. The more you cushion the impact of change, the more adaptable your people are likely to be.


  • Prepare for the cultural change

    If your colleague is a robot, that's one thing. But if you're the one having to sort out any mistakes it makes, it could challenge your ideas about the give and take of teamwork. Robots are becoming proficient at diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease – so much so that humans could start feeling undermined. Your culture could be strong enough to withstand strains like these, or it might need to evolve, depending on how AI fits into 'how we do things around here'.


  • Don’t forget all the other change out there

    AI isn’t the only change in town – there are many other trends that you need to consider when doing your people planning. For example, the rise of the gig economy. By 2020, it’s going to be bigger than permanent employment. So the full-time worker you want for the next four years might turn out to be a series of stopgap freelancers. Look beyond your own needs and make sure the world can still meet them.

For many, the case for AI and automation is clear. But where does that leave your people? Make sure you think about them alongside the tech, and you'll pave the way for success.

Find out more about our work in IT Transformation.

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