Method to madness: Artificial intelligence, closing the global organizational skills gap

Method to madness: Artificial intelligence, closing the global organizational skills gap

Eat or be eaten. Like nomads, with no permanent resident, sitting in an open air, camped around a bonfire to ward off the chilling air and gazing upon a wishing star in hopeful anticipation for the next green pasture for its flock, technological advancement is herding humanity to grazing points through the plains and valleys of the tech world.

The dominant way of life for mankind has always been that of a “wanderer” who, having an insatiable drive and relentless proclivities for growth, bellied in an unbridled and almost rebellious mode of optimism and belief in the future where an utopia of ease, comfort and convenience reside never knows STOP! There really isn’t a destination to man’s odyssey into the quest of finding a perpetual and inexhaustible pasture of opportunities.

Habitation. Truly, people’s dwelling place by no means philosophical or mythical has always been housed in the thoughts and heart of transition. The flock of ideas which drive people to the point of revolution not just to self but a global agenda of transformational growth has been embedded within the fodder of technological advancement. More than just milking convenience and industrialization from the udder of modernization, there isn’t a permanent cap on the vast expanse of people’s need for supremacy, dominance and progression, particularly in an era where the organizational corporate strata is experiencing such rude infiltration by the ‘tech bug’ leaving befuddled and laggard employees out in the cold of unemployment.

Accomplishment. Until the core of earth has been dredged by man’s advancement in the technological space in its bid to improve life, work and utility inherent in organizational operations, the intention remains to scaffold ideas which are curiously crafted in the laboratories of our imagination to create that ‘perfect’ tower. Whether that tower will be a ‘Babel’ in disguise, waiting to disrupt lives permanently, can only be watched with bated breath or perhaps a long pause of apprehension. It may not have the popular vote, poll high numbers but election of ideas are always balloted with test runs in hopes the biometric imprint isn’t rejected or validated.

Humans versus robots

Scenes of 80’s movie the ‘Terminator’ with its subsequent sequels readily comes to mind when the mere mention of robots is earnestly discussed as an option in a work environment. Indeed, there is the palpable fear and unease anchored on expert’s development of a tech effigy which has the possibility of either toppling, competing, leveraging or razing down the deliverables of businesses and operations. The notion of machines being able to simulate human beings and the ability to do intelligent things, for doubters, may go rogue and end up at the apex of the ‘food chain’.

Quite sublimely, humans and robots are competing for space in most businesses and organizations; with the latter’s win arguably imminent. This has become more evident with the big reveal from the pandemic announcement and as such, the  “replacement of humans with machines may pick up more speed in coming months as companies move from survival mode to figuring out how to operate while the pandemic drags on”.

Economists at MIT and Boston University insists that robots could replace as many as 2 million more workers in manufacturing alone by 2025. Daniel Susskind, a fellow in economics at Balliol College, University of Oxford, and the author of A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond, opines that, “this pandemic has created a very strong incentive to automate the work of human beings. Machines don’t fall ill, they don’t need to isolate to protect peers, and they don’t need to take time off work.”

The blizzard of artificial intelligence in altering business

Artificial Intelligence has permeated very cracks and crevices of the globe in a desperate attempt to survive at all cost. In its efforts to satisfy a parched desert of needs with its flowing creek of fresh supply, it may as well be corked shut by the steering control it might have in navigating and dictating the pace of progress for humanity. Candidly, Artificial intelligence is certainly not a new concept. What was once just a figment of the imagination of some of our most famous science fiction writers, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking root in our everyday lives. We’re still a few years away from having robots at our beck and call. That notwithstanding, AI has pretty much had a profound impact in more restrained ways. Weather forecasts, Face Detection and Recognition, Google’s search predictions, voice recognition, Digital Assistants such as Apple’s Siri and a throng of other AI influenced gadget have surreptitiously invaded homes, organizations and the culture of life. Now, what these technologies have in common are “machine-learning algorithms that enable them to react and respond in real time”. “There will be growing pains as AI technology evolves, but the positive effect it will have on society in terms of efficiency is immeasurable”- Mckinsey Global Institute.

Talent Trends Report for 2020 released by Randstad Sourceright indicates that, as AI continues to disrupt the world, upskilling and reskilling will be crucial in developing workers’ competencies to complement technological innovation. However, only about a fifth of businesses around the world, approximately twenty two percent, are currently training existing employees to help them adapt to AI.

Futuristically, ‘talent fluidity’ and employees ability to reorient their skills to aptly suit   organization’s changing needs especially with the surge of AI and digitalization. This, will be critical to the future of work. “Of the 800 senior executives and HR leaders surveyed, as many (66 percent) plan to provide training and reskilling in AI as those who plan to develop workers’ soft skills (60 percent). This is reflective of the company’s 2019 research, which suggested the most sought-after skills included both technical capabilities grossing 43 percent with soft skills like communications raking in some 41 percent. Yet, while 91 percent of those surveyed believe that it is their company’s responsibility to provide reskilling to meet business needs, nearly one-third of respondents who intend to offer reskilling said they aren’t sure how to do so”.

The Chief Executive Officer of Randstad global businesses and executive board member, Rebecca Henderson, once stated, “Digitalization has changed the way we work and has redefined the skills that are most important for employees to possess. Yet, while employers have acknowledged that it is crucial for their businesses to reskill staff to keep up with changing technology and bolster the soft skills that only humans can possess, it is troubling that so few companies are currently offering this necessary training.”

Companies are earnestly grappling with the addition to AI and soft skills, companies also “plan to train existing employees in analytics skills (59 percent), technical capabilities (57 percent) and cloud computing (54 percent). Nearly two fifths of respondents (38 percent) view reskilling as an important measure for redeploying employees who are at risk of losing their jobs due to automation”.

AI, “the second coming” of software

Amir Husain, founder and CEO SparkCognition clearly categorized AI as the “second coming of software”. It's a form of software that makes decisions on its own, that's able to act even in situations not foreseen by the programmers. Artificial intelligence has a wider latitude of decision-making ability as opposed to traditional software." Those traits make artificial intelligence highly valuable throughout many industries, whether it's simply helping visitors and staff make their way around a corporate campus efficiently or performing a task as complex as monitoring a wind turbine to predict when it will need repairs.

Before the pandemic, McKinsey Global Institute estimated 375 million workers will have to transition and change occupations by 2030 because of automation and AI. Highlighting the importance of reskilling and retraining as a result of the revolution fast-tracked by the pandemic, North America managing partner, Liz Hilton Segel emphasized that organizations should identify the skills their recovery business model depends on, then develop and scale tailored resources and programs to close any skills gaps among their employees. “Every organization needs now to recommit to reskilling as a competency of their organization. I am surprised by how many organizations still don’t have a reskilling competency, and I’m hopeful this moment will change that.”

The Internet of Business is here to stay

According to McKinsey, nowhere has AI had a greater impact in the early stages of the 21st century than in the office. “Machine-learning technologies are driving increases in productivity never before seen. From workflow management tools to trend predictions and even the way brands purchase advertising, AI is changing the way we do business. In fact, a Japanese venture capital firm recently became the first company in history to nominate an AI board member for its ability to predict market trends faster than humans.

“Big data is a goldmine for businesses, but companies are practically drowning in it. Yet, it’s been a primary driver for AI advancements, as machine-learning technologies can collect and organize massive amounts of information to make predictions and insights that are far beyond the capabilities of manual processing”.

 With the toppling of jobs and displacement of employees imminent, it is apparent not even morphing skills to suit business update can save the neck of workers from the AI ‘guillotine’. Not only will this technological beast breeze through the park in increasing organizational efficiency, “it dramatically reduces the likelihood that a critical mistake will be made”. Among other things, “AI can detect irregular patterns, such as spam filtering or payment fraud, and alert businesses in real time about suspicious activities. Businesses can ‘train’ AI machines to handle incoming customer support calls, reducing costs. It can even be used to optimize the sales funnel by scanning the database and searching the Web for prospects that exhibit the same buying patterns as existing customers”.

Undoubtedly, there is much vested interest and boundless potential for AI development and the stakes are high as it has become almost impossible to imagine a future of work without its presence. “We’re already seeing an increase in workplace productivity, thanks to AI advancements. By the end of the decade, AI will become commonplace in everyday life, whether it’s self-driving cars, more accurate weather predictions, or space exploration. We will even see machine-learning algorithms used to prevent cyber terrorism and payment fraud, albeit with increasing public debate over privacy implications. AI will also have a strong impact in healthcare advancements due to its ability to analyze massive amounts of genomic data, leading to more accurate prevention and treatment of medical conditions on a personalized level”.

Fellow feeling, goodwill and intuitions are certainly traits that cannot be aptly learned by machines to completely yank out human participations in the work environment. With constant experimentations, test runs, regulations on the extent of machine infiltration in our work spaces, it will certainly take to warm up to its presence, so for those holding their breath on this one, an exhale is in order. “As easy as it is for machine-learning technology to self-improve, what it lacks is intuition. There’s a gut instinct that can’t be replicated via algorithms, making humans an important piece of the puzzle”. Be that as it may, it has become imperative for not only employees but organization, corporate institutions and businesses at large to redefine, recalibrate and reorient their way of operation to remain relevant and man these machines instead of forcing them to redundancy.

It is safe to say that telecommunication companies in Ghana are cashing in big time as data has become a staple cash cow.

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