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September is almost here in Cambridge, MA and this signals a new year of serious learning and mind-blowing innovation. We are heading toward a workforce that integrates artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, machine learning and virtual and immersive reality with people; a new kind of workforce diversity. And how we define the term work itself is going to shift as well.
This should be the year we all truly comprehend the way our workforce and work processes are changing. If we don’t, we’ll be behind the curve and dealing with the consequences, which is a disengaged and frustrated workforce, workplace anxiety, a lack of clarity over who’s in charge of what, and more. With big data, the cloud, mobile and social, we still have the certain luxury of just dealing with people. We are adapting to massively expanded functions across multiple channels, while getting used to remote and virtual, and coming to respect the power of social and the opportunities in data. We have learned new best practices and embraced change, and for that we can pat ourselves on the back. But let’s not get complacent: that was child’s play compared to what’s coming.
As AI, cognitive and virtual joins our workforce, here’s the question: how we can best leverage this new reality for the benefit of people? The onus is on leaders and managers to anticipate changes and get ahead of them. So, put down your copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and let’s get real. Here’s what we need to do:
We once believed eclipses were caused by dragons. We still love dragons. But no more indulging in fantasy. Instead of considering the future, think of the now. Given the rapid change work is undergoing, it makes a lot more sense. So, as you head out to work after Alexa locks the house, Siri locates the morning’s meeting, and the GPS tells you the quickest route in a soothing Brit accent, accept that the future is now.
Create support systems.
To get in front of the transformation to a mixed workforce to better mitigate its affect on our people, we need to build some solid scaffolding. Don’t be so concerned with perception versus reality: we’ll all have our opinions. Concentrate on communicating. In terms of recruiting, that means anticipating confusion and setting better expectations. We may start to see job postings where there’s a human side — such as innovating or adding knowledge — and a machine side — such as repetitive administrative tasks. And managers can use mobile apps to take employees’ pulse can keep lines of communication open without interrupting the workday. Teams can create surveys to compile key data on workforce readiness or reservations. On the leading edge there are often more people who feel than people who know. That will change, but not as fast as we’d like.