Of late, I have read a lot about the future of work and much of it foretells doom and gloom scenarios related to the disastrous impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it progressively moves from assisting humans, to augmenting humans, to autonomously taking over many types of patterned human work. This is certainly not good for consumer based companies because the mass consumer market upon which these companies depend on, will shrink rapidly since there are no just-in-time, one-for-one replacements for lost jobs.
There is also the threat of accelerated income inequality. The past shows that during periods of major technological disruption, displaced workers take years to find new work, with unemployment rising in the short to medium term. Although the labor market adjusts over time and unemployment falls, average growth in wages slow down considerably until the next jobs boom cycle.
In addition the market for jobs has become more transparent due to social media. So too are companies coping with uncertainty and drive profitability by encouraging part-time contractual work. Workers are placed under increased uncertainty and stress and respond by constantly positioning themselves to shift to other jobs. Not great for companies because they lose the ability to build a deep bench for their core competencies. Not great for workers because making long term commitments- both personal and financial are more difficult.
Much of the discussion focuses on the need to changing people- what skills they have, where they should go, how they should behave.
As an alternative, organizations can and should make conscious choices and commitments about their purpose and what they stand for in relation to these threats. What role do they want AI to play besides boosting productivity? If there is a lag in skills and subsequently wage growth due to technological disruption, what should companies commit to apart from displacing workers and/or training?
The future of work is still being written and companies with the right foresight and organizational commitment will continue to be around to strongly shape the future that they want instead of the future that they fear.
Roland Ruiz, Senior Consultant at Consulus
Roland has over 30 years of multicultural business leadership, general management, board advisory and consulting experience across Asia. He has had over 15 years of business leadership across Asia for Mercer and HayGroup and has provided advice to senior executives across Asia on people & organizational issues which involve managing in rapidly emerging markets and dealing with the impact of new technologies and internal organizational pressures for higher performance.
Roland’s articles have been published in Business Times (Singapore), Workspan magazine, The Edge (Singapore). He also writes regular articles on LinkedIn related to management and emerging markets. He has also been invited as a speaker for major international conferences such as Employer’s Provident Fund (Malaysia), People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), World at Work Conference (New York) and World at Work Conference (Singapore)