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AI could improve worker productivity

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could boost workforce productivity, but organisations need to build employees’ trust and upskill staff appropriately to take full advantage of the benefits, says recruitment firm Hays.

Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand said AI already being used to complete vital tasks in workplaces across a range of industries, but it could be used to boost productivity for the workforce generally.

PwC analysis suggests that AI could contribute US$15.7trillion to the global economy by 2030, with US$6.6trillion of this figure coming from increased productivity. These gains are expected to come from the automation of processes, coupled with AI technologies augmenting their existing labour force.

While some basic positions are likely to be taken over by machines, AI is also creating a need for more highly-skilled professionals.

“With AI taking over routine or repetitive tasks, employees can focus on the more exciting aspects of their job or even move into other areas of the business,” Deligiannis said.

“Upskilling will be essential to ensure people become more highly-capable experts in their field.”

HR must build trust and alleviate fears

While AI will undoubtedly make some jobs easier, it can also increase fears around career security within the workforce.

Yet a 2018 study, Is automation labor displacing? Productivity growth, employment, and the labor share by David Autor and Anna Salomons, found that AI has had a positive effect on aggregate employment.

“HR will need to support the implementation of AI and ensure it is used responsibly while alleviating the perceived threat that many workers see it posing to their livelihood,” Deligiannis said.

“Part of this will involve talking about the rationale behind it, and explaining how it can help individuals perform their job, and potentially develop their career through learning new skills.”

This is supported by Owen Tebbutt, marketing leader, Cognitive Process Transformation, for IBM Global Business Services, who says: “The more open an organisation can be about why and where it’s using these technologies, the less concerned employees will be. It’s got to be based around this idea of empowerment. It’s not there to replace jobs but to make your job more impactful, enjoyable and productive. HR needs to be very positive about some of the things this technology can do to make people more productive, happy and fulfilled.”

In the longer term, there can be little doubt that AI will play a more significant role in how organisations are set up and run in the coming years.

“A human being is only capable of taking in so much, so we are going to need help sorting through that, and that’s the biggest area where AI can help organisations or people,” Tebbutt said.

“The choice is quite stark; we can either drown in data or find a way to benefit clients and the workforce.”

According to Hays, the latter is possible so long as employers are open about the introduction of AI and offer training to employees where needed. In this way, AI will ultimately create a more engaged and productive workforce.

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