May 31, 2023 – These days, artificial intelligence continues to gain steam on a number of fronts. Consider how it has already changed our everyday lives. It’s omnipresent and it’s no surprise that technology leaders such as Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI lead the way. All three recently released groundbreaking AI-powered chatbots that can code, converse, debate, plan, write… you name it. But as exciting as this advancement is, it can also be equally worrying for America’s workforce, according to a recent report from LHH. “The pros and cons can vary based on context, so first, let’s identify ours: It’s the labor market—the blue- and white-collar workers and the companies which employ them,” the study said. “In this context, the list of pros and cons could be painfully long, so LHH sticks to the three most pressing for each.”
1. Accuracy – AI is programmed, and constantly learning, to be accurate. While it’s not perfect—there have been notable errors—it’s close. This applies across the workplace spectrum, from robots welding automobiles in plants to analytics programs providing data in offices.
2. Availability – It’s available 24/7/365, barring any unexpected downtime or major outages. Perhaps the most illustrative example of this is chatbots. While they may not resolve every customer service issue, they are available at every moment to at least help.
3. Creativity – It complements humans by offering new ideas or enhancing existing ideas. Take ChatGPT. Provided with basic information, it can ideate and even create relevant, albeit robotic content, taking some of the legwork out of a difficult process.
1. Cost – AI can be expensive to not only develop, but also to use. Despite the current low cost of the aforementioned ChatGPT (ChatGPT Plus is currently $20 per month), other forms of AI can be expensive when factoring in costs associated with purchase, implementation, and use.
2. Disconnect – It does not offer a human-to-human connection. It cannot build camaraderie with employees or develop genuine relationships with customers. Nor will it ever be an authentic and empathetic voice to represent a brand.
3. Unemployment – While AI will eliminate some jobs, most experts agree that it may create enough jobs to offset the loss. Regardless, it has—and will—take over some jobs. And the jobs it creates could require new skill-sets that don’t even exist today.
What it Could Mean for Workforce Management
“As much as AI is being entrenched in work, it’s difficult to measure its future impact on a macro level,” the LHH report said. “Estimated AI-influenced job gains and losses in America range from hundreds of thousands to millions over the next decade. Wherever we end up, it’s clear that the world of work will change to some degree. What exactly could that mean for employers? Let’s break it down.”
As AI plays a larger role in many jobs and requires new hard and soft skills from humans, finding the right talent could become increasingly difficult, according to the LHH report. For example, the study says that if AI can elevate a complex customer service complaint to a certain point in a process, it may be beneficial to have a customer service representative with a high degree of emotional intelligence take over at said point to resolve the complaint in a personal, empathetic manner. “On the B2B client services side, the client relationship management data that some AI programs produce may need to be interpreted by an analytical human,” the report said. Why did the program identify this data? How can this data be leveraged to help the client? How can we present it with the right context?”
On a positive note, AI is already helping companies to source and upskill the right talent. At LHH, it’s likely that an increasing reliance on AI, paired with a human touch, will help solve any recruitment-related challenges.
Shifting Trends in Technology Recruitment
As the demand for talented leaders in the tech industry continues to grow, search consultants say that recruiting senior executives for the sector has become more complex. So what is going on in the tech recruiting sector today? Katie Fischer of Daversa Partners, Stacy Fitzgerald of Morgan Samuels Co., Tim Baker of Wilton & Bain, Mike Silverstein of Direct Recruiters Inc., Eric Walczykowski of Bespoke Partners, Rick DeRose of Acertitude, Kevin Barry of SPMB, Henry Nothhaft of Alioth, and Sal DiFranco of DHR Global join Hunt Scanlon Media to share their views.
“What is really interesting to me about AI is that if we look at it from an information perspective, the talent space can benefit tremendously,” said Laurie Chamberlin head of LHH Recruitment Solutions, North America. “The last several years, everyone has been talking about talent—scarcity, upskilling, wage inflation, right-sizing workforces, productivity, hybrid/remote workers, purpose, culture, and the list goes on. If we can harness the data we have and predict for companies how to best tackle their talent challenges, we all benefit.”
As LHH previously said, AI will inevitably lead to some layoffs. The report points to how we have already seen this in automotive manufacturing, food production, and supply chain and logistics when robots were ushered in. “In the future, it could potentially happen with more professional services positions,” the report said. “To what degree and at what time remains an educated guessing game. Regardless, this puts employers in a difficult position. For any company, layoffs are difficult to navigate. They can damage reputation, drain resources, and trigger unrelenting worry about the people whose lives changed at the drop of a hat.”
If AI increases productivity at a lower cost, making certain jobs redundant and a layoff possible, LHH says to ask these questions first: Is there a way these employees can complement the AI? Can we move them to different roles? Is a layoff necessary? If so, how can we help them with their careers? Which type of outplacement services and upskilling can we offer them during their transitions?
“We have an opportunity to harness a plethora of data and predictive analytics to better understand what transitioning individuals want, need, and value to allow us to make the LHH individual experience more customized,” said Russell Williams, SVP, North America, career transition and mobility. “Nothing will ever replace the value of the 1:1 career coach. It’s the top rated element of our career transition and mobility programs. That relationship between individual and coach cannot be replaced by AI, but it can certainly help dial up a much better LHH experience for our candidates and customers.”
Speaking of skills, LHH notes that AI will continue to demand more. “Whether they know it or not, almost every worker has a first- or second-degree connection to automation or predictive analytics or robotics,” the report said. “They may have already developed skills because of this connection. They may have even lost their job because of this connection. Either way, there’s been a paradigm shift. It’s becoming insufficient to have a single razor-sharp skill; It’s now necessary to have that skill and develop new ones.”
LHH provides this example: Take a warehouse worker, early in their career, as an entry-level employee; they could be hired and retained based on work ethic alone. They’re consistently on time, productive, and loyal. But gradually, their work environment has changed. First, inventory software grew increasingly complex. Then, some forklifts were automated. This person has two options: continue as is, relying exclusively on their work ethic for job security or evolve, learning how to leverage the software and maintain the forklifts. The option this person chooses can be the difference between unemployment and advancement.
“Employers should play a part in this,” the LHH report said. “They can nudge an employee down the path of advancement, creating a win-win for both parties. Companies invest in employees, which is often less costly than replacing them with someone with the right skills, and employees are more likely to reciprocate in the form of loyalty and productivity. The good news is this is happening, partly based on the demand from workers.”
Per LHH’s “Global Workforce of the Future” report, 31 percent of workers state that the primary reason to quit is a lack of progression and re- and upskilling opportunities, while 44 percent of those who want to stay at their current company want to progress/upskill for a new job. Today, employers have many upskilling options, from internal training programs, to third-party courses, to leadership coaching and development.
“We can use AI to predict skills that our candidates need to acquire in our service to make them more marketable given the supply and demand of the job market,” said John Morgan, president of LHH. “We are currently working on an algorithm to help candidates understand skills needed, jobs that are likely to be automated, new adjacent jobs that will emerge within their career track, and how their personal brand matches available jobs they are targeting.”
The Responsibilities of Business Leaders
AI is having a profound effect on the world of work, and in turn, workforce management. As a leader—particularly those in HR—LHH explains that it’s imperative that you’re a part of this evolution, familiar with the latest AI developments that could affect your business. Are you listening to your colleagues in finance, marketing, operations, production, and other departments? Better yet, are you proactively asking them about automation, robotization, and other technology that could enhance and/or replace jobs? The report notes that you need to know what’s on the horizon so you can plan accordingly.
“More importantly, remember your people,” the LHH report said. “Over the past few years, there’s been talk about work-life balance, and work and life being one, more than ever. Not being equipped to capitalize on AI-induced changes can literally be life altering. Consider the efforts your company is taking to upskill employees and offer them career mobility, especially when new technologies are being integrated into their roles, even if there’s a chance their newfound mobility could take them elsewhere. And consider what you would do for them in the event AI does replace their role, whether it’s reskilling and moving or laying off with the support of a severance and outplacement.”
“You’ve probably already been faced with these challenges, and if you haven’t, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” the LHH report said. “The more you prepare today the better off you’ll be tomorrow to strike the right balance between artificial intelligence and authentic intelligence.”
Related: Using Analytics for Executive Search
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media