Business leaders might have it tough today, but it’s about to get a whole lot tougher. Except this time there won’t be any faking it until you make it. Leadership will truly come into its own in the next few years and it won’t be for the faint of heart.
We’re leading up to a technological inflection point that increasingly includes AI as part of any digital transformation. In less than a decade the skills required to effectively keep the “wheels on the bus” rolling for organizations will look very different. The workplace itself will look and feel different.
Are you looking for an opportunity to step into the role of leader? Prepare yourself now to pivot into a leadership role—opportunities will surface where and when you least expect them. Now is the time to take action if you’re currently leading a team, business unit or an organization. Waiting until this transformative storm has breached the levee will require serious crisis management capabilities, and although all leaders want this skillset in their portfolio, why put your teams through last-minute disruptions and risk major setbacks that can be avoided with advanced planning and preparation?
Here are five takeaways to consider as you prepare your workforces for the monumental shifts coming their way.
1. Design Workforce Impacts with Communication in Mind
Ensure that any workplace strategy that includes the adoption and implementation of substantial technological changes to the business incorporate a solid communications plan from the beginning. Your communications plan would include a timeline for rolling out any large-scale transformational changes. The risk of waiting to communicate your plans right before you implement them may be the single biggest reason why so many workers distrust their leaders. Don’t lie. People know it or will intuit that you’re not telling them the real truth. You want your workforce to be part of your AI and digital transformational journey from the get-go.
2. Set-Up an HR Task Force on Organizational Impacts
A seismic shift associated with the implementation of transformative technologies will generate emotions--fears and general anxieties--that you'll need to address as part of any larger strategy for preparing workers impacted by AI and automation. Setting up a task force to tackle the complexity of these technologies in the workplace might begin by looking at the cultural and social impacts associated with the proposed strategy, transfer of knowledge (human to machine), and implementation timeline. Temporary task forces can be set up to perform research and to make recommendations to a larger body--perhaps a standing committee that would likely have the resources to act on any proposed recommendations.
3. Educate Your Workforce
People tend to fear what they don’t understand. So why not share—formally and informally—general information about artificial intelligence, smart robotics and automation. More specifically, this is the time to share the technology strategies that the company is exploring and how implementing these strategies will keep the company competitive, improve existing products, and reduce costs. Do not shy away from communicating what this could look like in respect to disrupting the status quo. Introduce the players who are setting the strategies and path forward for the company. Program managers, project leads, and change professionals should also be introduced. Ongoing education seminars, lunch-time sessions, and informal knowledge sharing could be set up. Perhaps, an internal website is created that includes event announcements, strategy updates, implementation timelines, and workplace stories. Invite outside experts and practitioners on AI and automation to inform the workforce about trends and innovations in areas that pertain to your industry.
4. Pilot Training Programs
Results from the HR task force will have identified workforce training, re-training, and upskilling needs and opportunities. This training will also want to incorporate “soft skills” that continues to be in demand even as automation grows. Whether this training is managed in-house or outsourced, these pilot programs will want to address the emotional side of workplace disruption and personal change, while also educating the workforce on innovative ways for collaborating when work teams could just as easily include robots as well as other humans. What would a successful cobot (collaborative robot) interaction look like? Include your workforce as SMEs (subject matter experts) so that situational experiences ring true in the training.
5. Get People Excited for the Future of Work
Excitement is the opposite of fear. This is where your change leaders, early adopters, and transition catalysts will support your efforts. Generally, people don't enjoy change. However, if you can assist your workforce in visualizing a future where they have control of the decisions that lead them to a more empowered place--even though their job may certainly look different--positions them ahead of the curve in their ability to reinvent and transform themselves. In a future where lifelong learning will become the new reality and where skillful transformations become a necessity, bravo for preparing your workforce for the new world of work.