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  • Writer's picturePeter Sondergaard

Every Job will be AI-Enhanced.

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

What does that mean to leadership skills and organization structures?

For a couple of years, the public debate about Artificial Intelligence’s impact on job creation has mainly focused on two opposing views: AI kills jobs or AI is a net creator of jobs. While this debate is interesting, as are all good versus evil debates, it evades the obvious point that AI will be part of every job performed. Every job will be AI supported or AI enhanced. I believe that “every job and every task, that is part of a job, will be AI-enhanced” by the end of the 2020s. Humans will not be able to be fully productive in any job without AI support. And for organizations, enhancement in productivity will be achieved only through AI-enhanced jobs. Every job, whether accountants, marketing specialists, logistics workers, CEOs, salespeople, HR compensation specialists, etc., all will have tasks they do today that tomorrow will be done through AI and ML software solutions. Every job tomorrow will be a combination of tasks that are performed by AI and machine learning solutions and tasks that only humans can do. The real focus of the debate around AI should be on how it changes all jobs, and not solely on which jobs are eliminated or created.

Agree with me so far? OK! As a result of “every job is AI-enhanced”, significant changes will happen to leadership skills, organizational structures and the organizational culture. In a world where jobs change will inevitably have to affect the organizational structure, the skills required to be a successful leader or manager and as a result of this, will affect the culture of the organization. It will affect what is regarded as critical elements of a successful organizational culture. Any manager needs to understand how this impacts his or her career. Let’s look at each, starting with leadership skills.

AI changes leadership skills!

Leadership skills for a successful manager will undergo substantial changes over the next 5-10 years as a result of AI-enhanced jobs (note that other factors are also impacting leadership skills). With AI pervasive in all jobs, we need leaders that understand AI, not from a detailed data science, mathematical or programming perspective, but from a leadership perspective. How to lead organizations in which AI support all jobs, define products and services and is pervasive in the organization. AI leadership skills will be on par with financial or people management skills. It will be something every manager will be expected to master. Secondly, managers will need to master the changing “classic” leadership skills such as budgeting or people management. AI will change how we budget and how we do people management, with many of the tasks we do today, performed by AI environments. Furthermore, AI contributes to a changed “clock speed” of the organization which will move classical management activities from annual to continuous, activities. So continuous people management and continuous budgeting. Third and last, pervasive AI will create an increased need for emotional intelligence leadership skills. The need for skills such as ethics, integrity and diversity, as for human involvement, increases in an AI-pervasive world.

AI impacts organizational structures

Secondly, organizational structures will change as new roles emerge in organizations and existing roles disappear or morph as a result of AI deployments. Three major things happen to organizations: 1) automation, 2) new functions and 3) cross-functional teams. First automation with AI will result in entire functions, in areas such as client service, where previous roles are automated. This may create opportunities to change organizational structures. Secondly, new teams or functions, such as data science groups or data-driven teams, will result in different functions being created and existing functions changing in structure. And lastly, AI environments allow for greater integration between functions supporting a trend in agile business of cross-functional teams. AI-enhanced jobs and AI-platforms drive opportunities in creating new organizational structures.

And then lastly culture. With every job changing through AI and changing organization structures, the culture of the organization inevitably will change. A focus on the human will become an important element of the culture for the entire organization. It will especially be important that managers display skills like empathy, emotional intelligence and the ability to put humans at the center of the organization. AI creates the need for an organization and a leadership culture of empathy.

CEOs need to understand the depth of impact that AI has on their organization. They need to ensure that CHROs (Chief Human Resource Officers) make understanding of AIs impact on all jobs part of leadership development programs an element of the organizational planning, and part the recruiting strategy as skills will change rapidly. Equally, in their strategic planning CEOs need to make AI a core element of the organization because every job will be AI enhanced.

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