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The human advantage: How AI can create opportunities in the world of work

By BSI | |9 minute read

As a purpose-driven organization, BSI believe AI can be a force for good, changing lives, making a positive impact on society, and accelerating progress towards a sustainable world.

New technology can create new job opportunities across society. For example, the innovation of the Industrial Revolution transformed the world of work in many countries, creating new industries, new working patterns and new jobs. Now, as society finds itself amidst the digital revolution, there are concerns about what this means for jobs, but there is also scope to be optimistic about what the future holds and how AI can be a force for good. Roles that emerge from technological advances have the potential to drive progress and have a positive impact on society overall – provided we prioritise the people in them and ensure they have the skills to succeed.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2023, technological advancement through increased adoption of new technologies is expected to drive job growth in more than half of companies, which could help offset expected job displacement in a fifth of them. There is a clear opportunity for people to partner with technology and leverage the benefits of AI to shape a positive future for work.

The digital transition is already shaping the workplace

According to BSI’s Trust in AI Poll, 38 per cent (vs 23 per cent in Australia) of people polled by BSI say their job already uses AI, and 40 per cent (vs 36 per cent in Australia) of those who say it does not expect that to change by 2030. 62 per cent expect their industry to use AI by 2030. It is not only starting to shape how we work, in some areas, it is already creating opportunities to make work better.

In recruitment, for example, AI can help organisations to spot talent and to enhance the diversity of shortlisted candidates. As set out in the recent UN Global Compact CEO report, this can bring benefits; currently, over half of chief executives are increasing workforce diversity to build resilience, so an AI-enhanced recruitment can help achieve this.

AI tools could be used to help deliver effective leaders. Researchers at Fisher College of Business in the US compared the use of machine learning in hiring directors with human-selected boards, finding that the latter were more likely to be male, had larger networks, and had many past and current directorships. By contrast, the machine algorithm found directors who were not friends of management, had smaller networks, and had different backgrounds than those of management, with these candidates more likely to be effective in the role.

Healthcare is another area where AI is augmenting the human role – for example, by giving MRI scans a preliminary review so doctors can prioritize patients. AI is also able to relieve knowledge workers of menial work, such as extracting information from volumes of data – something which is proving useful in sectors such as law and finance. Meanwhile, in combination with advanced robotics, it offers the opportunity to fill key skills gaps and to improve safety for humans; for example, by performing high-risk tasks in the nuclear industry or construction roles like bricklaying.

New skills for a new digital era

It is no wonder then that the WEF also found organisations expect to invest an estimated nine per cent on AI and Big Data. Alongside financial investment, an important initial step for organisations is looking at the advantages that could be created for employees by using AI and then preparing them with the skills they need to adapt.

Freed from mundane or risky tasks, AI offers the opportunity to give people the space and ability to excel where technology alone cannot – in skills such as critical thinking, in empathy and in the creativity that could, ultimately, unlock even more innovation for organisations. Support and guidance throughout their careers – and earlier, in education – can help people develop those skills. Indeed, 55 per cent (vs 55 per cent in Australia) of people globally polled by BSI said we need to be training young people now for working in an AI-powered world.

Call centers are a case in point. These have traditionally offered high-turnover minimum wage jobs, but the sector is changing. 58 per cent (vs 52 per cent in Australia) of us now communicate with a service provider online via an automated chatbot, according to our poll. A BCG survey found that 95 per cent of global customer service leaders anticipate that their customers will engage with an AI bot at some point in their customer service activity within the next three years.

According to Dr Nicola Millard, BT’s principal innovation partner, AI chatbots can take on the easy questions and leave the more challenging queries to humans, something that is designed to boost productivity. She says chatbots “are great for ‘triaging’ customers,” and if they can’t immediately help, “they can quickly identify someone with the appropriate skills to help.” This means people working in call centres will now be required to have higher value empathy skills, as well as good psychosocial support, as they deal with the customer challenges AI cannot address.

The advantages of a human-centric approach

AI can also be a force for good because as it takes on simpler tasks, focus can shift to human traits AI cannot replicate. This could make a huge difference, in particular in people management roles, which research suggests is vital to an organisation’s success. Gallup has found that people do not quit their job, they quit their manager – concluding that globally, poor management costs around $7 trillion. With AI taking on routine tasks, organisations will have the opportunity to create a new managerial model focused on developing an environment where their team can perform at their best.

Organisations can plan for tomorrow today by considering the training they offer. How are they creating learning opportunities in areas such as empathy, critical and creative thinking? How are they ensuring that people understand at a fundamental level what AI is – and what it is not? More than half (53 per cent) (vs 50 per cent in Australia) of people say if they had the right training, they would trust AI to do some parts of their job, including the most menial aspects. Equipping people with a greater understanding of AI gives them the chance to successfully apply it to their work, while also knowing its limitations.

Work smarter, not longer

In the future, people could be released to work less or work smarter, without reducing an organisation’s overall productivity. Nearly a fifth globally (18 per cent) (vs 16 per cent in Australia) say they would like AI to make working a four-day week possible for all. In trials of this model in the UK, the positive impacts are consistent; productivity is maintained, or increased and workers are happier and healthier. By addressing workloads, AI could allow a much wider working population to access these benefits.

Juliet Schor, a Boston College economist, told the Guardian it would be far better if employers, instead of laying off people because of AI, trimmed employees’ work time, perhaps to three or four days a week, instead of five. “Work-time reduction is really the far better way to respond to labour-displacing technological change,” she said.

The dawn of AI as a real player in the workplace offers the potential to both enhance productivity and improve people’s quality of life with better work-life balance. As with the Industrial Revolution, the AI transition could reshape society. By prioritising people and putting them at the centre of that change, the opportunity is there to drive progress and make work better for everyone.

BSI has been at the forefront of developing best practice for health, safety and well-being since the creation of OHSAS 18001, the world-renowned health and safety management system, which was developed by BSI in 1999. Read more here about BSI’s Prioritizing People model, which supports organizations to create a culture of trust for long-term resilience.

The above article was taken from BSI's Shaping Society 5.0 Essay Collection. In these essays, BSI’s experts look at the real-world impact of AI and share insights from the BSI Trust in AI Poll, which brings together the views of 10,000 people in nine countries. Learn more here.

Kate Field will be running a series of workshops on health, safety and well-being as well as presenting on Digital Trust during the Innovator Showcase at the 23rd World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Sydney, Australia, 27-30 November 2023.

About the author

Kate Field is an Award-Winning Thought Leader, Author, Keynote Speaker and expert on health, safety and well-being. With over 20 years of experience across all sectors, from Regulator to consultant, Kate uses her experience, knowledge and expertise to drive BSI's global strategy for creating safer, healthier, fairer, and more inclusive workplaces.

Kate uses her voice and work to reach global audiences to champion cultural change, which puts trust, engagement and well-being at the forefront and inspires colleagues and stakeholders around the world to make a difference. Kate’s work includes working with NGOs including the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and research institutions to drive insight and policy change.

Kate has developed the first global training and certification programme for ISO 45003 on psychological health and safety management and authored the best practice framework on workplace trust, engagement, inclusion and well-being - BSI’s Prioritizing People Model©, which has reached 8000 organizations across 119 countries and a global audience in excess of 4 billion.

About BSI

BSI is a business improvement and standards company and for over a century BSI has been recognized for having a positive impact on organizations and society, building trust and enhancing lives. Today BSI partners with more than 77,500 clients in 195 countries and engages with a 15,000 strong global community of experts, industry and consumer groups, organizations and governments. Utilizing its extensive expertise in key industry sectors - including automotive, aerospace, built environment, food and retail, and healthcare - BSI delivers on its purpose by helping its clients fulfil theirs. BSI provides organizations with the confidence to grow by partnering with them to tackle society’s critical issues – from climate change to building trust in digital transformation and everything in between - to accelerate progress towards a better society and a sustainable world. Learn more here.

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