Is AI Really A Threat To Jobs?

Artificial Intelligence | The HR Tech Weekly®

Has the future obliteration of jobs by automation been over-exaggerated? At the end of last year Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned that up to 50% of UK jobs could be wiped out by automation. A recent report suggests that so far the AI-jobs apocalypse has yet to materialise.

Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) together with CV-Library found that two thirds of businesses had not yet witnessed job losses due to automation. Over a third believed that automation had actually increased the number of jobs available.

This is a view broadly supported by Deloitte. In 2015, it highlighted the benefits of automation and its ability to create better quality jobs by removing tedious and dull work which increases the potential for errors due to boredom and distractions. Its research also noted that as a result of automation:

  • 3.5 million low risk jobs have been created since 2001, compared to 800,000 high risk jobs lost.
  • Each new low-risk job pays a salary £10,000 higher than the high risk job it replaced.

This does not alleviate concerns over automation. The CIPD’s Employee Outlook Survey also notes that nearly a quarter of employees are concerned that their job – or parts of it – may be automated within the next five years. Similarly, PwC’s UK Economic Outlook predicts that 30% jobs in the UK are at risk from automation by the early 2030s. Like Deloitte, however, it notes that the nature of available jobs will change. Sectors at highest risk of job losses through automation include transport, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail. Education and health and social work and education are at the lowest risk of being replaced.

Ongoing resistance to AI

The CIEHF/CV Library survey reports a ‘resistance’ among employees to automation as employers are failing to communicate its benefits effectively and HR remains one of the most reluctant to positively embrace automation within talent management strategies. Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Survey found that progress towards people analytics in the last year remains stubbornly slow. This is perhaps unsurprising as nearly half of recruitment professionals are still not using applicant tracking software in hiring processes.

HR must first acknowledge the advantages of automation in recruitment to communicate its benefits more effectively. In hiring processes, this means the automation of mundane procedures, including personalised e-mails to job applicants, effective, streamlined screening to reduce unconscious bias and insights into key hiring metrics that impact your ability to hire. It also enables hiring teams to create a more effective onboarding processes to improve retention of new hires.

But why is HR so reluctant to embrace technology?

An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the resistance to AI is twofold. To accept and take advantage of automation, consumers must trust both in the technology and in the business delivering the innovation. In recruitment that means HR must have confidence in the supplier of recruitment software and its ability to deliver benefits to its hiring process.

The article also highlights three key points which are essential to gaining that confidence:

Cognitive compatibility : In other words, make it easy to understand. The more complex the nature of the technology, the less likely consumers are to trust its ability achieve desired goals. For HR, that goal is to streamline hiring processes to ensure not only faster hiring but a better quality of hire.

Trialability : A trial of potential new technology helps to understand the benefits and reduce any reluctance to embrace technology.

Usability : To encourage buy-in among tech-resistant hiring teams, technology, especially HR software, must be easy to use.

Recruitment software aside, as companies continue to invest in technology it is vital to maintain employee buy-in and foster trust by investing in upskilling employees to equip them to use digital skills in the workplace. The UK faces a significant digital skills crisis in addition to a wider talent shortage but employers are failing to invest in the necessary training to equip employees with vital skills. Training and development is essential for businesses that wish to not only retain but to continue to attract talent to their brand. It will also go some way to overcoming ‘resistance’ to technology in the workplace.

Ethical concerns

Overcoming ethical concerns is an issue that HR must consider in the future.

The EU[1] has proposed the creation of a European agency to provide technical, ethical and regulatory advice on robotics and AI, including the consideration of a minimum income to compensate people replaced by robots and a ‘kill switch’ for malfunctioning AI systems. A similar concern was recently expressed by the International Bar Association which warned that AI could ultimately lead to the introduction of legislation for quotas of human workers in the future[2].

While the debate over the benefits of AI at work continues, there is no doubt about the struggle that employers face to hire and retain qualified candidates. HR software is HR’s first step towards embracing the benefits of automation and creating more effective talent management strategies.

[1] MEPs vote on robots' legal status - and if a kill switch is required

[2] Rise of robotics will upend laws and lead to human job quotas, study says

A version of this article first appeared on Advorto’s website.

 

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