A pair of new studies announced today show how the impact of artificial intelligence into the workforce will affect employees, their jobs, and what companies are doing to prepare for this new world.
The first study, from the MAPI Foundation, said that the introduction of AI into the manufacturing value chain will create new hybrid roles, where humans enable machines, and AI augments human capabilities. The second study, sponsored by Genesys, shows that jobs in the manufacturing, retail, telemarketing, and data entry space are most likely to shrink due to AI expansion, yet most respondents said they are not afraid that AI/bots will replace their own jobs within the next 10 years.
In the first study, “How AI Will Transform Manufacturing and the Workforce of the Future“, authors Robert Atkinson and Stephen Ezell from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) said that within the next five years, manufacturers will see significant growth in AI through machine vision, intelligent products, machine learning, and cobots – both within factories and throughout the supply chain. They said this will lead to “a myriad of new types of AI-related jobs in manufacturing.”
In a survey of U.S.-based manufacturers, almost three-fourths of them have not introduced new types of AI-related jobs into their companies, and only 20% have comprehensively re-evaluated job roles, titles, levels, and pay scales, in recognition of the need to attract employees with AI skills. But the authors note that this is changing quickly.
The study said more than 40% have created “data scientists/data quality analysts” in their workforces, and 35% said they expect to do so within the next five years. Manufacturers are also creating “machine learning engineers or specialists” (33% today, 70% within five years), “collaborative robotics specialists” (29% today, 27% within five years), and “data-quality analysts” and “AI solutions programmers/software designers” (26% today, 40% within five years).
“Manufacturing is already facing a working shortage, and advanced technologies create additional technical and workforce challenges to find and retain talent with the necessary digital skills,” said Stephen Gold, president of the MAPI Foundation. “Companies that acquire and cultivate new digital-related skills will have a distinct advantage as AI reshapes the industry, including identifying new roles for AI-focused jobs, such as leading AI strategy and supervising implementations.”
The report offered six recommendations for business leaders as they integrate new AI-related strategies and technologies:
- Create teams to drive digital transformation in the enterprise.
- Define an “AI governing coalition” for AI transformation.
- Evaluate AI and workforce transformation readiness.
- Set measurable objectives for digital and AI transformation.
- Redefine digital and physical product innovation processes.
- Overinvest in communication for change management.
“Most manufacturing companies are only beginning to realize the opportunities possible with AI”, said Ezell. “Businesses that want to remain on the cutting edge of manufacturing innovation need to implement policies that support and enable the use of the technology throughout their organizations.”
AI and jobs impact
In the Genesys opinion survey, 1,001 employed Americans were asked about the current and future effects of AI in the workplace. Participants across industries were asked to select the three jobs most likely to be replaced by AI from among the following options: Accountant/Tax Preparer, Data Entry, Food Service, Insurance Underwriters, Manufacturing, Paralegal, Pharmacist, Retail/Checkout Clerk, Telemarketer, Transportation/Driver, and Other.
The results showed that U.S. employees working in education/training and doctor/nurse/caregivers were the least afraid that AI/bots would take their jobs within the next 10 years. Meanwhile, those in the media and those with assembly line/manufacturing jobs were the most afraid.
Human resources employees identified data entry and retail/checkout jobs as the most likely to be replaced by AI, and equally at risk. Employees working in customer service, which tend toward pessimism, the study said, chose the jobs of retail/checkout clerk and telemarketer as the most likely to suffer from AI.
While just over half (52%) expressed confidence in their skillset for competing in the AI-enabled workplace, an equal 52% said they don’t feel that AI has impacted their jobs yet.
“The American employees we surveyed have a generally positive view of technology in their workplaces, with 86% affirming its benefits,” said Merijn te Booij, chief marketing officer for Genesys. “However, that doesn’t make them blind to how artificial intelligence could impact particular industries. The key is that humans and technology must work together. When implemented strategically and balanced with the human touch, AI can elevate the workforce by enabling employees to be more productive, accurate, and fulfilled as they are positioned to enjoy the more complex aspects of their work.”
Additional insights from the survey included:
- Across age groups, U.S. employees believe that paralegals (4%), insurance underwriters (5%), and pharmacists (7%) have the best chance to survive automation;
- More part time employees (25%) fear that AI will take their jobs within 10 years compared to full-time workers (18%), although there is no significant difference in attitudes on the specific jobs they think are likely to disappear.
- Employees at the largest companies (with more than 20,000 staff) are slightly less afraid (17%) than the overall group (19%) about the effect of AI/bots on their jobs, possibly because they have already experienced its negative impact (10%), and see a more stable future.
Genesys said that it plans to release additional insights in the coming months from both its employee and employer survey. In July, the company released results from a survey that showed that 70% of workers “have an upbeat attitude toward new workplace technologies involving AI, such as chatbots, robots, and augmented reality.