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Guest Blog – How AI Will Change Jobs Forever (And What To Do About It)

Adrian Dixon

August 20, 2019

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Have you been wondering how AI will change your job and what you could possibly do about it?

If there’s one word that strikes fear in the heart of many employees, it’s “automation”. People fear for their jobs and livelihoods, visualizing robots doing their jobs while they toil in poorly-paid work. The reality, however, may be far more bright. According to research from CourseCompare, which interviewed tech executives at more than 100 public companies across Canada, many firms will actually need to hire more people due to AI. A large chunk of other companies don’t see job losses or gains coming at all – it will be business as usual with technology to help, at least over the next 24 months. Instead of fear, people should greet AI technology with the same resilience and critical thinking that are increasingly necessary in today’s job market. 

The changing landscape of work

Less than 5 percent of jobs can be fully automated, according to the report. But that doesn’t mean things won’t change, potentially drastically. In 30 percent of jobs, upwards of 60 percent of tasks can be automated, leaving some employees worried for their jobs. But while some fear job loss, which 35 percent of executives said is likely to be the case, most see either no change or positive change. In the report, 30 percent of executives don’t expect any change. Nearly a quarter of executives (24%), expect to hire more people because of AI. 

The real change will be in the basket of tasks that make up a job. We’re likely to see jobs we’ve never heard of before and see familiar job titles fall by the wayside, similar to how technology innovations brought an end to the job title “Elevator Operator”. But that doesn’t mean those people are out of a job. In many cases, they’ll just be a different one. In the report, 39 percent of CTOs expect to see job descriptions change due to AI. It’s no wonder tech executives are focused now more than ever on how to “redesign” jobs and restructure workplaces to prepare for the future.   

But the questions on most people’s mind are what will the jobs change to, how will companies recruit for them, and what skills will be required to land one?

How AI changes recruiting priorities

With increased automation of routine tasks, recruiting priorities change in two ways. One change is that companies will look up the human skills ladder even more for candidates. The second is that technology operations will become the new blue collar work. 

CTOs reported non-technical skills as the most important skills to recruit for, with 71 percent saying critical thinking and problem solving skills are in high demand. The next largest skills categories – creativity and communication skills – had 68 percent and 61 percent of executives, respectively, saying they were in-demand.

These skill sets are notoriously the hardest to measure and hire for, leaving room for bias and incomplete decision making to creep in. Perhaps ironically, AI helps here as well. Just as AI brings automation to marketing and sales, it also has a large impact on recruiting. AI analysis can identify these ‘softer’ skills in candidates in ways that humans can’t, helping human recruiters make better hiring decisions. 

When finding technical people, a big shift will be to hiring people who understand how to build and manage AI technology. Because AI needs to be customized and built on top of, candidates that know the right languages to manage and build AI will be in high demand. While CTOs did not have a unanimous vote on which technologies were important, the majority cited training in Python, R, and SQL as crucial technologies, with 68 percent, 60 percent, and 49 percent of CTOs, respectively, casting their vote. Technical leaders further emphasized machine learning courses, and training in data science, logic and algorithms, probability and statistics, data modelling and evaluation, as critical ways in which to make the most of AI in the workplace. 

Working with AI, not against it

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that so much AI has already been adopted in the Canadian workplace. AI for security surveillance, smart personal assistants, chatbots, and language recognition, among others, are already being used by many enterprise companies and startups alike.  

While AI is no doubt automating routine tasks, it continues to increase the value of critical thinking, communication, agile teamwork and problem solving in the workplace. Companies need to focus on upskilling their people, particularly around data analysis and reporting, as one CTO suggested. 

Candidates, on the other hand, should focus on critical thinking, creativity, adaptability, and continuous learning. Clearly, these skills are not only necessary for those working with AI but also for those building it. The key will be to understand the changing role machines play on your team — and to learn how to work with them, not against them. 

Stefan Palios is an entrepreneur and writer passionate about the people behind tech. He’s written for BetaKit, Tech Daily, and more. He’s the founder of digital publication PulseBlueprint.