Tomorrow’s Workplace: Humans and AI co-existing as colleagues

By Anna Tan, Head of Applications, Oracle Philippines

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over the way we live, work, and do business. Specifically, in the Asia Pacific region (APAC), businesses are adopting advanced AI faster than their counterparts in the rest of the world. According to a recent study, 22% of companies in APAC are at advanced stages of machine learning deployments against just 7% in Europe and 11% in North America. Clearly, companies in the Asia Pacific are ahead in driving business improvements by integrating AI technology in their functions.

AI-generated innovation is fostering optimism across the region. In the workplace and across departments, it has matured into a catalyst that has helped improve employee efficiency and wellbeing. It’s establishing a new work atmosphere where human capital resources co-exist with robots or digital assistants and where the primary benefits encompass improved productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

Have you read “Putting the power of analytics in the hands of finance”?

Growing positivity for AI in the workplace

For decades AI has aroused both fear and excitement. Mostly, there has been widespread fear of the possibilities of increased unemployment on account of workplace automation. However, in reality, APAC perception towards AI in the workplace has shifted more positively as more and more people developed a better understanding of AI and its applicability in the workplace to manage productivity.

According to a study conducted by Oracle and human-resources advisory and research firm, Future Workplace, 80% of APAC countries surveyed said more than half of their workers are currently using some form of AI in the workplace. More specifically, 77% of workers in China and 78% of workers in India have adopted AI, which is more than double the 32% in France and 38% in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, 64% of people surveyed said they trust robots more than their managers, with geographic findings ranging from as high as 90% in India, 88% in China and 84% in Singapore. The study also revealed that APAC markets are approaching the future of AI in the workplace with readiness and excitement, ranking these attributes higher than feelings of concern, fear, uncertainty or indifference.

Delivering smart, intuitive, informed HR to support the business directly

The rising affinity toward AI has increased its adoption in specialized business functions – take Human Resources (HR) for example. As businesses become more complex and the need to hire resources with sophisticated, modern skills grows, the war for talent is mounting. HR departments have begun to use AI to optimize both their recruitment functions and back-end processes, thereby boosting higher levels of efficiency and performance.

In APAC specifically, 76% of talent acquisition professionals cite they are already using AI as a sourcing tool since it generates higher-quality candidates in order to stop unconscious biases and ensure an equitable hiring process. For example, HR departments are now starting to deploy AI in their recruitment processes, to help them screen candidates by assessing copious data points objectively while even being programmed to ignore candidates’ demographic information. In fact, the Oracle and Future Workplace study found that in APAC, up to 53% of people think robots can provide unbiased information and feedback – better than managers.

Furthermore, the automation of manual tasks through AI allows HR managers to focus their time on more strategic assignments such as attracting, developing and retaining top talent. By employing AI-powered human capital management technologies, HR managers can harness valuable data-driven insights on employees and their training and career development needs. This enables HR practitioners to execute faster, smarter business decisions and keep up with fast-paced market demands and changes.

Let’s take a look at some examples. Save The Children, one of India’s leading independent children’s rights non-profit organizations, is using Oracle HCM Cloud to maintain a database of global resources, which can be used to enable Save The Children to deploy the right resources for projects and to support children beneficiaries. This capability is most critical during emergencies when there is an urgent need for a resource, like being able to identify a health specialist in a city plagued by floods using the AI-enabled database.

Then there is Japan’s Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC) that deployed Oracle HCM Cloud to address their struggling inefficiencies in HR operations. Today, the company is able to successfully manage the employee goals, assessments, and incentives of over 10,000 employees. They have been able to standardize and streamline HR processes better, such as managing personnel information, career development, manpower planning, and ultimately improving employee performance and productivity.

Preparing the workforce for the future AI world

Given AI’s multifarious benefits to the workforce and HR managers, AI is here to stay. However, according to the study by Oracle and Future Workplace, 76% of employees and 81% of HR leaders find it challenging to keep up with the pace of technological changes in the workforce. These numbers are higher in China (96%) and India (93%). One way to bridge the gap of the rapid advancement in technology with employee preparedness is to support the upskilling and re-skilling of employees. It’s important for organizations to acknowledge the need to invest in new skills development so they remain relevant in the workforce.

As AI continue to change the role of employees and managers at work, one of the most critical ways that managers can upskill to remain relevant is by fostering stronger relationships with their staff and excelling in areas where technology falls short. By embracing aspects of emotional intelligence, such as personalizing the experience to reflect their reports individually, providing coaching for employees and creating a conducive work culture, while simultaneously striving for objectivity, human managers can work in tandem with their AI counterparts, without becoming “obsolete”.

Fully embracing AI as a job augmenter

In today’s digital economy, AI is becoming so prevalent that the MIT Technology Review predicts it will impact one in five jobs in APAC by 2024, eliminating one in eight, but more importantly, enhancing many as well.

Denying the impact of the AI revolution in the workplace is no longer an option. Everyone across an organization — be it entry-level associates or managers and senior executives, and HR professionals — should welcome AI as a vital tool that will enhance business productivity, employee wellbeing, and recruitment processes.

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