Dispelling the Myth of Job Displacement: AI and Transformation

While AI can automate certain tasks, it should be seen as a tool that complements human capabilities rather than replacing them entirely.

Shyam Sundar , Executive Director, CTO office & Transformation Office

April 15, 2024

5 Min Read
Woman looking at Data Screen
Vision via Lenovo

The business landscape -- regardless of industry -- is undergoing a fundamental transformation with the rise and rapid adoption of generative AI (GenAI). Every company is sitting on a mountain of data that can be analyzed in new ways. Companies are now rethinking how, when and where they integrate GenAI to streamline their operations. 

But much like the expansion of PCs in the late 1990s -- or robotics before then and smartphones since -- this shift has created a common misconception in the workforce that AI means job displacement. However, what we learned from these previous evolutions is that the initial fears of job upheaval were largely unwarranted. Rather, each of these technological advancements paved a long path for economic growth, new jobs in the technology sector, and increased productivity in various industries.

This also remains true today. Integrating AI presents new opportunities for businesses to operate faster, smarter, and more efficiently. Leaders will play a crucial role in providing team members with the skills and tools required for business task transformation to ensure the promise of AI comes to fruition.

Nurturing a Mindset Where Employees Are Not Threatened by AI

Many business leaders are excited about the potential prospects around GenAI. However, that optimism does not necessarily carry through entire organizations as headlines prevail around the impact AI has on job security, and fears are further fueled by rising uncertainty across industries. Employee angst is high, and it is leading to questions about the acceptance of the technology, spurring a potential threat as this could lead to a larger resistance to change and AI adoption. To avoid the stalling of AI developments, businesses need to shift their thinking from a defensive attitude to a more people-centric approach.

In my role, I can learn from and talk to many customers about how to reframe the AI narrative in their respective workplaces. I encourage them to start by positioning the “A” in AI as augmentation rather than artificial -- meaning that there’s always a human in the loop, as people generate better outcomes. This view strikes a chord with the greater workforce because it shows the value of the worker, and it also helps people realize that every job can be disaggregated into bundles of tasks. Some tasks are more suited for enhancing with AI while others are suited for eliminating or handing over.

When you look at it this way, AI doesn’t replace a worker’s responsibilities. In fact, it drives efficiencies across some parts of the job, which in turn frees up employees’ time to be reinvested in other areas that require more strategic skill sets.

Any company looking to or already starting to integrate AI technologies into their business, needs to be effectively communicating the demand for human-AI collaboration and importance of adaptability in the modern workforce to give employees a reason to embrace the technology, rather than fear it.  

Developing Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling the Workforce

Companies have come to realize the importance of cultivating a culture of continuous education and learning and development (L&D) programs have become table stakes in today’s most successful companies. Now in this new world of AI, businesses that can scale their L&D programs will not only address the AI skills gap but will also position themselves to achieve more while attracting and retaining top talent.

As companies build out their approaches for connecting employees to AI technologies, leaders need to identify tasks suitable for automation and then establish clear guidelines for how employees should work jointly with AI. Here are some key considerations for developing an AI task delineation strategy:

  • Demonstrate human strengths that complement AI: To maximize an employee’s impact, it’s important for managers to put more emphasis on soft skills such as creativity, communication, critical thinking, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence. In doing this, job responsibilities and objectives need to evolve and map back to how these skills contribute back to the business.

  • Underscore the need for human oversight in decision-making: In addition to potential ethical risks of enabling your workforce to interact with AI without ensuring a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations, there are also business implications associated with the misuse of AI. From possible IP threats to AI hallucinations, it is critical that all employees receive proper training on how humans must remain in the loop on all decision-making processes.

  • Continue to adapt to new AI advancements: The relationship between humans and AI in the workplace is rapidly evolving. As a result, businesses need to be able to adapt to new developments with ongoing human-AI business task transformation strategies.

Separating the Headlines from Reality

Despite some of today’s hype, AI is not coming for people’s jobs. Rather, it will transform the tasks of the workforce -- just as the introduction of the PC and smartphone did. AI is a fantastic assistant, and this has to be harnessed well. From productivity gains and job creation to economic growth and new industries, the excitement around the possibilities of AI is warranted. But winners of the AI era will be the companies who prioritize employee readiness at the onset as they will harness a competitive edge through the harmony of humans and automation.   

Getting Started and Learning from AI Deployments

At Lenovo, we’re addressing the needs of complex and fast-moving markets that we serve by drawing upon AI and machine learning. We’re using Lenovo technology, resources, and intellectual capital across 200 global markets to transform our business. We call this approach, “Lenovo Powers Lenovo”, and we’re already seeing real results of embracing AI throughout our business:

• 98% acceleration in production scheduling

• 60% faster supply chain decision-making

• 24% increase in manufacturing production line capacity utilization

About the Author(s)

Shyam Sundar

Executive Director, CTO office & Transformation Office, Lenovo

Shyam Sundar is an Executive Director at Lenovo, where he leads the Transformation Office, & the CTO Office, shaping the strategy, offerings, technology architecture infusing AI and enable the platform to realize the Services Led goals. He has over 25 years of experience in delivering IT solutions that adapt to dynamic business needs and ensure user satisfaction across diverse regions and cultures.

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