With 2019 rapidly drawing to a close, we’re examining trends and topics that will be at the forefront of the AI industry next year with a new blog series running throughout December: The IPsoft Top 5 in AI 2020. This is the second post in the series.

For years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace has meant a foreboding future where robots take over most people’s jobs, leaving humans with fewer employment options. More recently, however, that fear appears to have abated, as more AI use cases emerge, and the hybrid workforce takes shape across various industries. 2020 is poised to be the year people realize AI is not going to take their jobs, but actually make their jobs better and more satisfying.

This trend will put pressure on enterprises to demonstrate that they’re ready to offer reskilling and new job opportunities for employees impacted by AI implementations. Employees, meanwhile, can stay ahead of any AI-enabled changes in their companies by identifying how they can adapt and change their roles and skills for the Future of Work.

In this series, we previously examined the ways in which Digital Colleagues will become more adept at conversation during the coming year. This will lead to enhancements in current enterprise AI technologies, including: faster access and implementations of solutions, quicker use case creation and refinement, more rapid terminology comprehension and usage, and prompt application of new learnings to real-world skills. Due in large part to these forward leaps, employees from all lines of business will begin to take advantage of AI systems to make their jobs easier and more enjoyable.

In this post, we’ll examine the year ahead and how roles will continue to change because of enterprise AI, engendering greater acceptance and understanding of AI’s impact among the overall workforce.

New Lines of Work to Make Use of AI Systems

As we’ve written in the past, when you think of AI and jobs, think of the impact the advent of email had on society. Email undoubtedly led to the need for fewer mail carriers, but think of the seemingly endless opportunities the improved speed of communication created for employees. Productivity at work has dramatically improved, which has led to the need for more workers to handle an ever-increasing volume of tasks.

Depending on the company, this increased productivity has led to new types of products, services and revenue. Technology companies like Google and Microsoft have had to hire workers to oversee the delivery of massive volumes of Gmail and Outlook messages sent each day. Marketers whose sole focus is the email channel have been tasked with luring you to online stores to buy their products. Technology vendors such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot launched companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars whose main focus is helping businesses ensure marketing emails find the right customers.

What does this have to do with AI? Next year, workers will begin training to move from roles that were primarily focused on responding to mundane and repetitive problems or requests. Instead of helping employees reset passwords or gain access to Wi-Fi networks, AI systems will be trained  to automatically reset passwords for human colleagues. Human Resources professionals will train AI to field and respond to benefits administration questions rather than spend hours responding manually themselves. All of this results in time saved that can be devoted to other, more valuable projects and tasks that cumulatively can make a business stronger and more profitable.

Training Staff for More Advanced Systems

Staffers who traditionally spend more time improving existing processes than handling day-to-day tasks will be happy to learn they’ll also have more interesting work to do next year. Not every task will be able to be fully automated. Digital Colleagues can learn enough of a process to help automate bulk requests, and ask for human assistance if and where automation takes a process as far as it can go.

For example: If a Digital Colleague is attempting to onboard a new employee from a new geographic region, it will be unable to complete the task unless it has been programmed for this exact scenario. Rather than abandon the task entirely, the AI system will handle all of the legal documentation, insurance, pay information, benefits, etc. The process is 95% complete. The Digital Colleague will then ask a human for help, monitor the steps that person takes to solve the issue, and the Digital Colleague can now onboard an employee from this new region, armed with the knowledge it learned from its human co-worker.

In that example, the AI system is learning to automate automation-creation, which brings new levels of speed, efficiency and innovation to a company’s operations. This can only happen with participation from employees with the correct business process knowledge to design, approve and refine new automations.

Quick Results and Easier Access to Information

You’re probably wondering: What happens to workers who do not necessarily repeat mundane tasks but aren’t business process experts? 2020 will be the year their jobs improve the most.

Today, back-office employees and their tools function independently. To file expense reports, they open System A. To take a day off, they open System B. To file an IT request, they open System C, and the list goes on. As AI systems scale due to dialogue-based use case creation and faster skill comprehension, Digital Colleagues can then take action on a worker’s behalf, whether the action is information-based or transactional.

For example: A Digital Colleague can answer questions, such as, “How many days off do I have left?” or “What is the company’s policy for paid paternity leave?” AI can also help back-office workers collect and process expense receipts. It can send reminders to colleagues about specific deadlines when financial information must be submitted.

Back office processes will be consolidated under one information system interface, and employees can work directly with a Digital Colleague to resolve basic tasks. These changes, when combined, improve productivity and employee satisfaction.

The First Step to Building a Successful Hybrid Workforce

AI will continue to be disruptive and transformative in 2020 — and companies must prepare their workers to embrace this change.

The best way to facilitate positive experiences is to clearly communicate how AI will change worker roles in the short- and long-term. By making it clear that you’re not hiring Digital Colleagues to remove a workforce, but rather to augment it, you’ll immediately address your workers’ biggest fears. By offering reskilling opportunities and training for new roles to employees, you’ll demonstrate how AI can increase workers’ value, not diminish it. And by explaining the many ways in which Digital Colleagues will improve their day-to-day tasks, you’ll build a workforce ready and willing to welcome automation and the Future of Work.

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