The white collar ‘digital workers’ are here, and they’re eager to get on with the job.
Officially known as Intelligent Automation, these ‘bots’ are expert at processes. They can be trained by the key stroke to autonomously take care of routine tasks, from email responses, to paying invoices, to answering customer calls, and more.
These smart computers will top performance reviews. They’re speedy, efficient, and cost effective. They don’t complain or book a week off for cocktails by the beach.
So there’s of course talk that jobs for humans are on the way out.
“Uber with autonomous vehicles may mean no drivers,” says James Mabbott, Partner, Innovate, KPMG. “A single instance ERP system in a digital enterprise may mean no human auditor is required. Self-coding code may mean no coders.”
On the positive, in KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook 2018, two-thirds of CEO’s believed that Intelligent Automation will create more jobs than it replaces.
“Perhaps we need not be too alarmed,” Mabbott says.
Can companies and staff create an environment where the bots aren’t a threat but an advantage for everyone?
Mabbott thinks there could be an opportunity to create a “mixed intelligence environment” where mundane and low value jobs are automated, and humans provide the creative flair, imagination or empathy currently out of reach of artificial intelligence.
In some savvy workplaces, this is happening already. Machines are part of the ‘head count’, they have human-like names, employee numbers, a boss, team members, and their own KPIs. Meanwhile human staff can focus on solving the more complex issues, or learning new skills for the future.
Organisations need to develop transition strategies to manage any disruption this new approach could bring to their workforce, says Stefanie Bradley, Partner, People & Change, KPMG.
“The early movers are already learning lessons about the best way to deploy Intelligent Automation,” she says. “One lesson is the importance of preparing the workforce and enabling them to re-skill themselves for new roles.”
Bradley says building a more agile way of operating is essential to making a mixed robotic and human workforce succeed. This looks like “a structured yet agile approach to determine the appropriate shape and size of the workforce incorporating all elements – e.g., employed versus contingent, human versus digital, career ladder versus career lattice, etc.”
The bots are already set to team up. The key challenge is – are we?