Workforce transformation, not attrition, is likely to be one of the big challenges to emerge from the rise of intelligent machines, according to many delegates at the recent annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
It’s time for big business to rewrite the popular public narrative that pits human beings against intelligent machines. The specter of smart robots stealing the jobs of human workers has dominated debate about automation in the workplace for too long.
Advances in digital technology, particularly recent developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, will undoubtedly impact workforces around the world. Insurance will be no exception. This was one of the main talking points at the recent World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland. Estimates differ widely about the number of activities currently performed by workers that are going to be automated.
What many of the Davos delegates agree on, however, is the enormous demand for new skills and expertise that is going to result from the widespread use of intelligent systems. Successful organizations, and indeed successful nations, will concentrate on using intelligent machines not primarily to replace workers. Instead, they’ll apply this technology to enhance the effectiveness of employees. Collaboration between humans and machines, not competition, will be the focus of top performing organizations and countries as we venture further into the digital economy. The improvement in productivity from this closer partnership is going to be enormous. It will enhance insurance and other financial services, health care, manufacturing, transport, education and a myriad of other activities.
Take a look at these figures presented at the Davos conference:
- Artificial intelligence has the potential to double the annual economic growth rate of some developed countries, and boost their labor productivity by up to 40 percent, by 2035.
- Around 40 percent of employers already report talent shortages. This shortfall is likely to increase substantially in the next few years as demand for new digital capabilities, as well as design and social skills, rises.
- About 92 percent of workers expect that the next generation will work very differently because of changes caused by advances in technology. And 87 percent believe these changes will improve their experience of work during the next five years.
- Close to 85 percent of workers surveyed by Accenture said they would invest their free time in the near future to learn new skills.
It’s clear that artificial intelligence is going to be a big driver of economic growth and business revenue in the next few years. The many new skills that workforces will require to harness this technology are going to be in short supply. Far from resisting this transformation, most workers are keen to acquire the new skills that will help them, and their employers, succeed in the future.
Workforce transformation, not attrition, is going to be one of the main challenges facing insurers. Organizations that move quickly to address this challenge, and enhance the skills and capabilities of their employees, will secure a significant advantage over their competitors.
The time is ripe for insurance leaders to step up to the challenge of workforce transformation. They need to shift the popular humans-versus-machines lament to a far more fruitful discussion about the prospect of people working and living better and more safely with the help of intelligent systems. To initiate successful workforce transformation, the following steps will be essential:
- Insurance leaders need to recognize that workforce transformation is their responsibility. It shouldn’t be delegated to human resources departments.
- Corporate strategies and workforce transformation must be closely aligned.
- How and where work is performed needs to be redefined to accommodate greater employment flexibility, changing worker aspirations and growing collaboration across and between organizations.
- A culture of constant learning and personal development should be fostered throughout the enterprise – and demonstrated by senior leaders.
A responsible and responsive approach to insurance workforce transformation, that puts people not technology first, will go a long way to overcoming widespread fears about the advance of intelligent machines.
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