C-suites are hopelessly under-prepared for AI

Of course, some executives will always be a step ahead. Picture: Jeff Bezos/Twitter

  • Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2018 report says 1 in 4 organisations using AI and robotics
  • Another 42% expect AI to be ‘widely deployed’ at work within 5 years
  • Survey of 1,500 senior executives reveals only 17% are familiar with concept of AI

First, the stats.

Deloitte’s latest Human Capital Trends report states that almost half (47%) of this year’s respondents say that their organisations are deeply involved in automation projects, with 24% using AI and robotics to perform routine tasks, 16% to augment human skills, and 7% to restructure work entirely.

Pick any of those out and think about it. Let’s go with one in four organisations are already using AI and robotics to perform routine tasks.

The future is now. And according to Deloitte’s report, the people who most people will be relying on to navigate it properly aren’t anywhere near prepared for it.

While 42% of respondents expected AI will be widely deployed at their organisation within three to five years, a 2017 survey of 1,500 senior executives found that only 17% of them were familiar with the concept of AI.

Deloitte said that was “consistent” with its own results this year, taken from a survey of more than 11,000 HR and business leaders around the world.

Here are some more numbers from the report:

  • More than $US6 billion has been pumped into over 1,000 AI start-ups in the last three years.
  • AI tools are projected to create nearly $US3 trillion in business value by 2021.
  • Amazon now has 100,000 robots in operation, and 16,000 Morgan Stanley advisors automate rote tasks with machine learning algorithms.

Don’t panic. This is not yet another “robots are coming for our jobs” post.

There’s an increasing trend in the past year or so in these types of reports — and in the actual spoken words from heads of companies utilising this technology — to assure workforces that there will still be roles for humans. Better roles, in fact.

It’s not “artifical intelligence”, it’s “augmented intelligence”. They’re not “robots”, they’re “co-bots”.

And the co-bots will need to be trained and supervised, by “bot farmers”, “bot curators” and “bot trainers”.

One HR vendor told Deloitte it had taken “over a year” to train its chatbot to intelligently screen hourly job candidates.

But once our co-bots have got the mundane stuff under control, what’s left?

A recent World Economic Forum study found that the top 10 skills for the next decade include essential human skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and people management. And the
Global Human Capital Trends respondents seem to align with that, saying there will be “tremendous” future demand for human skills such as:

  • Complex problem-solving (63%)
  • Cognitive abilities (55%)
  • Social skills (52%); and
  • Process skills (54%)

If you need it in a chart:

Image: Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018

Are our leaders ready for that? No.

Let’s roll back a little. One in four companies are already seeing AI and robots in their workplace, and 42% of respondents expect AI to be widely deployed in three to five years.

But while we have all the research we need to say what skills future human workers will need to stay gainfully employed, 49% of those surveyed by Deloitte say they still don’t have a plan to cultivate those skills.

“Most critical of all,” Deloitte says, “will be the need to create meaningful work — work that, notwithstanding their new collaboration with intelligent machines, human beings will be eager to embrace.”

You’re going to hear a lot about rethinking “work architecture” soon.

And if you want to be part of the leadership group ushering in the future, here, according to Deloitte are the skills you’ll need to be part of the AI, robotics and automation C-suite:

Image: Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018

Remember, only 17% of senior executives admit they are familiar with the concept of AI.

Your opportunity awaits.