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October 13, 2017

How Will AI Influence Management Roles?

The World Economic Forum predicted the loss of five million jobs in 15 developed nations by 2020 due to technological advancements, and up to 137 million jobs in South-East Asia. The impact will be higher on low-skilled workers performing repetitive jobs, but is the management department safe from this trend?

From an economic perspective, it would not make sense not to embrace the advantages of AI in all areas of an organization. Therefore, no job is protected against the bot revolution. Starting with front-line managers up to the C-suite, every step of the corporate ladder will feel the impact.

Future management directions

This is the perfect time for managers to reconsider their roles and come to the essence of their function, which is strategy and innovation. This will be possible by delegating all time-consuming activities to AI and investing the newly recovered time in soft skills and creating meaningful connections.

Delegate administrative tasks to AI

A survey by Accenture uncovered that more than half of the managers’ time is wasted on administrative issues, while only 10 percent is dedicated to strategy. These percentages need to be changed to achieve real progress. The good news is that organizational tasks could be easily delegated to machines due to their pattern-like nature. Most are governed by clear rules and are related to supervising the achievement of some targets or creating a staff schedule.

Not only is AI competent in supervising and correcting, but it can easily create reports and documents that are a time burden to humans. The machine is also highly unlikely to make mistakes; the only concerns being related to the accuracy of the data fed into the system, as a representative of artificial intelligence vendor InData Labs explains.

Focus on creative thinking and networking

Ironically, AI gives managers the power to become humans again, by taking on the responsibility of the daily grind. It is up to the people to use their time for a better purpose, and there are enough areas that could be improved.

Although big data and AI can suggest decisions and action courses, it is up to the manager to assess the coherence of the machine’s solution to the logic and corporate culture of the business. Breaking the rules and acting counter-intuitive is sometimes a great asset.

Another area that could benefit from a manager’s attention is creating meaningful connections both inside the company and with external partners, stakeholders, and the economic environment. Soft skills are currently undervalued in corporate life. Releasing some of the pressure associated with daily tasks could give managers the opportunity to create meaningful connections with employees, boosting morale and increasing retention rates.

Prioritize innovation

Managers can’t hide behind desks anymore and do busywork for their salaries, since AI can do that for a fraction of the cost, 24/7. It is now time to create systems, to come up with ideas, create new ways of training and design new business models.

The new achievement will not be creating reports and PowerPoints to accompany them, but creating new ideas from existing ones. It requires thinking out of the box, or, as Osterwalder calls it, Design thinking. It will be scary at first, but it will be a rediscovery of what mindful work is.

Your new boss, the robot

By delegating some tasks to an AI system, the manager could put workers in a situation to be verified by a robot. Although the situation is no different than taking an automated computer test, the psychological implications are much deeper.

Most people have a difficult time in complying with the requirements of a human superior. Work compliance to a robot is currently insufficiently studied so the negative outcomes cannot be assessed, but a simple study showed that although half of the participants would listen to a robot, 80 percent would comply with a human.

This proves that although, in the long run, middle managers are expected to become an extinct species, for now they are safe. Once the generation switch is made, and Baby Boomers are retired, the obedience toward automated systems is expected to grow.

Collaborative, not competitive

The most important lesson to learn from this new work paradigm is that technology is an enhancer, not a replacer. Employees are not competing with AI any more than they are competing with their work stations or the coffee machine. AI is a technological advancement that needs to be integrated into the existing workflow in the beginning. After a while, it will generate new ways of working as the synergy between man and AI grows.

The best news is that current AI technologies can look, act and interact much like regular colleagues. Their natural language processing abilities allow them to have real conversations, removing the technical barrier.

The World Economic Forum predicted the loss of five million jobs in 15 developed nations by 2020 due to technological advancements, and up to 137 million jobs in South-East Asia. The impact will be higher on low-skilled workers performing repetitive jobs, but is the management department safe from this trend?

From an economic perspective, it would not make sense not to embrace the advantages of AI in all areas of an organization. Therefore, no job is protected against the bot revolution. Starting with front-line managers up to the C-suite, every step of the corporate ladder will feel the impact.

Steps toward AI acceptance

Employees perceive changes are happening around them and know that AI’s intrusion in corporate culture will be inevitable at some point, but some of them hope this moment will not be too close. Studies show that older and lower level managers are the most afraid. They perceive AI as a threat and are scared of losing their jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, younger and high-ranking managers are excited about the new technology because they know they are not competing with it, it’s just another tool. Until now, the defining word can be “cautious.” As soon as they are able to compare results and be sure about privacy assurance, the same study predicts the automation of 10 out of 11 tasks.

Augmented management

Making a comparison with sci-fi movies, we can predict that managers will get through AI a powerful exoskeleton that will transform them into workplace superheroes. This is, in fact, the role of the humanized AI, to enhance workers’ powers, not to replace them. A smart manager will be able to identify tasks that are better suited for the machine from those that require human judgment and divide them accordingly. The most significant barrier they will face is changing employees’ perceptions about being led and evaluated by a piece of software and overcoming ethical problems that might arise.

Employees perceive changes are happening around them and know that AI’s intrusion in corporate culture will be inevitable at some point, but some of them hope this moment will not be too close. Studies show that older and lower level managers are the most afraid. They perceive AI as a threat and are scared of losing their jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, younger and high-ranking managers are excited about the new technology because they know they are not competing with it, it’s just another tool. Until now, the defining word can be “cautious.” As soon as they are able to compare results and be sure about privacy assurance, the same study predicts the automation of 10 out of 11 tasks.

 


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Emilia Marius is a senior business analyst with eight-plus years of experience. She focuses on IT solutions for retail and eCommerce, has applied her skills to such projects as a sales analysis system for a retail company, a mobile payment solution for an e-shop and more.

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