There’s been no shortage of panicky headlines in the mainstream media about how artificial intelligence will eliminate jobs. But the nuance is that AI will influence many, if not most jobs, in some way, rather than replace them wholesale. Those who will succeed and advance in their careers are those who embrace AI and understand its potential — as previously demonstrated with the shift to the internet and digital processes.
“Almost all jobs will be affected by AI because the core tools of the business world are going to be AI-enhanced at some point, if they aren’t already,” says John Behrens, Ph.D., professor and digital technologies leader at the University of Notre Dame. “This will increase productivity across the board and eventually change what work looks like for most of us.”
With jobs focused on AI, ‘organizations are not just pulling from computer science backgrounds,” says Diane Gutiw, vice president of analytics, AI and machine learning for CGI. “Nurses are being brought in as data analysts to help understand the implications of AI on healthcare. Accountants and financial analysts are able to provide specific insights into how AI can be utilized to make the organization more profitable. Having a wide range of backgrounds is useful because there is such a wealth of understanding in the data of how people actually work and helps bring in a more focused, human element to yield the best results.”
However, there’s a twist to this. While the internet led to replacing manual processes with digital ones, the incorporation of AI into jobs means rethinking ways of working as many tasks are eliminated — while new ones are created. “AI will bolster decision-making and automate repetitive chores thereby altering work roles and responsibilities,” says Vrinda Khurjekar, senior director at Searce. “Professionals and managers ought to learn how AI may be incorporated into their workflow and how it can improve their productivity and judgment. This might require changing their professional objectives to positions that can benefit from AI, such as emphasizing the development of strategic thinking, creativity, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.”
The skills that will matter in the emerging AI era consists of “organizational leadership skills of excellent cognition, creativity, communication, and collaboration,” says Behrens. “Managers must provide vision and stability for teams navigating the social and business disruption AI will bring.”
There are many flavors to AI, and many potential business use cases. “If you’re looking at adopting AI, I recommend focusing on real business problems first, rather than just generally saying AI is being implemented,” says Gutiw. “Managers should ask themselves questions about whether AI is something they want to support resource management, contact centers, or getting information to people through conversational AI.”
This means “a real shift in how we work,” says Gutiw. “It’s changing how our vendor partners are designing their technologies to support that. And high-functioning analytic organizations are teaching their employees how to capitalize on it regardless of their background.”
Such abilities will be essential “for managing the complicated and dynamic commercial landscape and cannot be easily copied by AI,” Khurjekar elaborates. “Routine manual and repetitive work that can be automated by AI, on the other hand, may be less in demand for certain abilities. Professionals should concentrate on acquiring abilities that complement AI and can enhance their jobs.”
The bottom line is that “it comes down to understanding how AI can help do things like reduce risk, decide on an investment, make sure machinery and assets have less downtime and extend their useful lifespan,” Gutiw says. “Successfully implementing AI can take away the menial tasks so that people can do more interesting work focused on their capabilities and expertise.”
Managers and professionals need to prepare for what Behrens calls “the biggest shock” coming with AI — that is, “replacing entry and low-level white-collar activities,” he explains. For example, knowledge worker roles will be impacted by “first-draft automation,” in which AI is used to “write the first draft of genre-specific materials such as press releases, job descriptions, marketing materials and legal documents.”
The latest versions of AI “can do things that earlier software could not, that the business value of text and image data has dramatically escalated, with strategic implications for their industry,” says Behrens.
First-draft automation is already advancing to the next stage, which includes “writing drafts of 3D models and computer code — where it is already having a big impact,” says Behrens. “First-draft automation will increase the need for those who can use AI to rapidly generate text, code and models, while also knowing how to evaluate it and fit it into a larger software or knowledge ecosystem.”
Gutiw also points out that companies are “headed into a resource shortage with the baby boomers retiring. If AI is able to generate things that were onerous to write, like proposals or documents, it has to be expected that we’re going to shift how we work with those things.”
This doesn’t mean non-technical business professionals need to understand the intricacies of building or deploying AI apps. That’s because it’s becoming easier and easier to work with AI, just as it has been with mobile and no-code and low-code apps. “They should have a rudimentary awareness of how AI functions, its potential, and its limitations,” says Khurjekar. “This will help them to work with technical teams efficiently, embrace AI solutions with knowledge, and find ways to incorporate AI into their business plans.”
AI may be disruptive, but disruption equals opportunity and industry watchers feel positive about the future of management careers in the age of AI. “Professionals and managers need to embrace the opportunities that AI can provide, be proactive in evaluating the possible influence of AI on their career goals, concentrate on building complementary skills, have a fundamental understanding of AI ideas, and be aware of the risks that AI may present,” says Khurjekar. “Professionals and managers can succeed in the age of AI by navigating the changing business landscape with the proper mentality, abilities, and collaboration with AI technologies.”
Behrens is also optimistic, noting that this “is an extremely exciting time for leaders who are tech savvy, forward looking and open to change. The rate of innovation will increase exponentially, leading to great possibilities and challenges. The key for success will be to shift one’s perspective from ‘how do I use this’ to ‘how do I reimagine my business and my customer?’ We will see a whole new generation of life-changing companies.”