Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer, IPsoft

Every year, the global elite flock to Davos to discuss the world’s most pressing issues at the annual World Economic Forum to collectively devise solutions to solve the world’s trickiest problems. If you take a look at the news headlines, the prevailing mood appears disconsolate. Oil prices are dropping, stocks are falling, China’s economy is slowing, Europe is amidst a refugee crisis…the list of worrisome concerns weighed heavily on the minds of our global delegates.

But what does the World Economic Forum really mean, when executives fly out of Davos and the week-long debates come to a close? Davos has been often criticized as a function that is restricted to the political and corporate elite, out of touch not only with the real world, but even with the real business world. Even further, the perception of previous Davos themes, such as last year’s topic of “The New Global Context” can be construed as vague and far-reaching for the average citizen.

However, this year’s agenda at the World Economic Forum, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” leaves very little doubt as to what this means for broader society. The overarching theme, which is heavily centered on the rise of Artificial Intelligence, proved to be a thought-provoking and fascinating topic at Davos in comparison to years past — one that directly involves today’s citizens at every socio-economic level.

Artificial Intelligence at the Core of Today’s Agile Workforce

The debate around “man versus machine” seems moot now. Artificial Intelligence in the workforce is already allowing businesses to scale at an unprecedented speed and a fraction of the cost. The promise of cheaper goods and services is already driving a new wave of economic growth. But as with any technological disruption or revolution, there will always be a level of pessimism around the perceived threat of mass unemployment, and a growing rift of mistrust between corporations and its workers.

Across the varied geopolitical and socioeconomic concerns being discussed in real time, the tectonic shifts of the global economy in the face of rapid innovation has brought all attendees at Davos to agree on an imperative call-to-action — stronger leadership. With the intense challenges ahead, leaders at Davos have personally committed to the need for better leadership. But talk is cheap, so how can today’s business leaders successfully help guide this change now?

At IPsoft, we believe that the most successful business decisions lie outside of the C-suite, and instead are gathered amongst its workforce. Future success will be driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know. Current, future and even former employees must be given the tools they need to succeed in the future economy, and this starts with education.

Yesterday, Accenture released its Technology Vision 2016 report, stressing the top two emerging technology trends shaping the world: “Intelligent Automation” and the “Liquid Workforce.” An astounding 70% of today’s executives are making significantly more investments in Artificial Intelligence technologies than they did in 2013. More importantly, the research stresses the most critical factor in driving success in these investments — an agile workforce that can harness this technology to enable the right people to do the right things in an adaptable, responsive and fluid manner.

For companies of all sizes, transformation begins with CIOs and business leaders who can help mitigate the risk of transition. It is up to them to recognize the gradual shift towards automation. In order for the transition to be successful, it must be completely supported from the top-down within the organization. Businesses need to view AI as a critical operational layer that directly impacts the entire organization’s architecture.

As these disruptions mount, enterprises must react quickly with smarter business tactics.

The Growing Need for Better AI Education

Accenture’s findings also reveal that the qualifications for leading employees are changing. Only a few years prior, “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was ranked as one of the most important hiring factors for IT and business executives. Today, this was only the fifth most important characteristic required for employees, and it is now being led by a new set of skills: Ability to quickly learn, ability to multitask, and the willingness to embrace change. This strongly indicates that leaders are placing a premium on candidates whom they believe will evolve with their business and have the aptitude to learn quickly, which can only be done through proper education and training. The report states that, fortunately, “as well as driving these workforce disruptions, technology is also at the center of creating the solutions: massive online open courses (MOOCs) for scalable training; collaboration tools such as Slack that foster collaboration; and predictive workforce analytics that allow vast organizations to make better decisions.” These efforts in educating today’s liquid workforce are what enable flexible businesses to solve their challenges.

This education must also go beyond the four walls of the office. Corporations should invest heavily and align their CSR initiatives with STEM organizations in order to integrate futuristic technologies into the education of our youth in order to better prepare them for the future. This includes exposing them to robotics and AI at a younger age and giving them opportunities to experiment with emerging technology. With AI already entering the workplace, we must prepare the next generation of the workforce to work seamlessly with these technologies as a partner, rather than seeing them as a threat.

What will happen if this change is not embraced? The worst case scenario is that a business fails to adapt and dies. If the business dies, then there will be no jobs to protect. Failing to embrace change and undertake automation can affect revenues and hinder competitiveness, which can both have a huge impact on an organization.

IPsoft is constantly researching and reinventing best practices for the industry in order to drive the overarching policies that will improve human wellbeing and mitigate impending labor shakeups, allowing our customers to achieve responsible short-term gains while still driving long-term growth. The time is now to educate our global leaders, but most importantly educate our current workers and future generations to create a better, more unified digital economy.