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AI – An opportunity rather than a threat

AI – An opportunity rather than a threat
Howard Woolf

By Howard Woolf

11 May 2018

The impact of the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs, and more importantly – job security – has played an increased role within political and industry discussions over the last year.

There are predictions of this AI-led workplace threatening one in five jobs across the UK. The CBI has urged the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to launch a commission to look into this potential impact from early 2018.

AI is coming to the workplace, and fast. Technologies that already exist could be used to support half of the activities that people are paid to do today. AI is likely to impact virtually every industry, going far beyond the manual or low skill jobs that are often considered to be more susceptible to technological advancements.

The CEO of Fujitsu EMEIA and Americas, Duncan Tait, says “as a society, we must work together to ensure that artificial intelligence has a positive impact on both our personal and professional lives. Businesses have to act responsibly, and help to upskill existing workers as new technology is introduced. Artificial intelligence can enable us to do more interesting and exciting work, by eliminating routine and repetitive tasks. As a technology, it offers incredible possibilities, from enhanced medical diagnosis to advanced customer service. But we must remember that there is a human, as well as a business, side to the story and take action now to ensure that artificial intelligence works in favour of everyone’s interests”.

Business leaders must take steps to prepare for AI now; both to ensure their own future competitiveness and to protect the interests of their workforce. As with past technological innovations, we know that early adopters will find themselves one step ahead.

Amazon serves as the best example of a company that was initially a forerunner in online shopping but now dominates the world of retail. Traditional stores that failed to adapt to market demand lost customers and even went out of business. Business owners should be considering how AI might impact and be used within their own organisation, right now. That’s not to say that everyone must become an expert in the technology itself. By assessing your current staff resource and talent, you can begin to create a view of how the workforce might change and which roles could utilise this growing technology. By working with experts in the technology you can understand how AI can be applied and the possibilities that this can generate in your business.

We should view the arrival of AI in the workplace not as a threat to people’s jobs, but as an opportunity to evolve. AI technology allows people to be more impactful on the business, giving them roles that can touch customers in a way that a machine can’t. It’s a reallocation – not removal – of intelligence. Tapping into one’s creativity and enhancing ‘soft’ skills can inspire employees and help businesses meet the complex and developing needs of their customers.

It’s crucial that organisations start planning now to upskill their existing employees, investing in robust training programmes that will support ongoing learning, and ensure the capabilities needed exist within the business.

It can be tempting to turn a blind eye to developments such as AI. However, AI will soon fundamentally change how we work. By looking at AI now, we can start to understand how the technology will shape our business, our workforce, and our own careers. Ultimately, those who are prepared will be the ones who thrive.

If you would like to discuss AI further then please get in touch with your usual Gerald Edelman contact, or contact Howard Woolf at, or on 020 8492 5603.


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