Artificial Intelligence and the Job Market: When the Two Go Hand in Hand
When I was young, I remember dreaming, after watching the movie The 5th Element, that one day cars would fly. I could see myself flying through the clouds in my family’s car on our Sunday shopping trips. I was already convinced that the future would hold many surprises (note that at the time, “the year 2000” was already the future in my young eyes).
Well, you will say that it didn’t happen, of course. I’ll grant you that. That being said, some cars qualified as “autonomous” can now drive themselves. They can anticipate obstacles, avoid them, brake, accelerate, and even suggest an alternative route so you can watch the news on your car screen. It can even pick you up at your door. This is a long way from the cassette player and the cigarette lighter! If that’s not genius, it’s surely magic!
However, even though we can’t always perceive it concretely and physically as a robot or an autonomous car, artificial intelligence is already well established in multiple spheres of your lives. You can’t see it? Let me refresh your memory with these examples:
- Smart phones: emails, music, camera, GPS, you’ll be surprised to learn that you can also call someone with it (!) ;
- Smart watches: “Stand up. Walk. You burned 1,287 calories and walked 10,000 steps today, congratulations!” ;
- Homeautomation: yes indeed, because dimming the lights ourselves took too much time (just kidding, I still find it fascinating) ;
- Google home: “OK Google, please give me a recipe for linguine with Ricardo’s rosée sauce” ;
- Facebook and other social media: Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc. ;
- Siri: can answer various requests ;
- Netflix: suggests films and series based on your preferences ;
- Dating apps: (e.g. Tinder): suggests profiles based on your criteria ;
- Services: a robot answers the most frequent questions asked by customers ;
- Robot vacuum cleaner: it bypasses obstacles itself and saves you precious time, take my money!
AI in a labour shortage context
No one can deny it, artificial intelligence is progressing at a phenomenal speed. It is more than progress: it is a revolution. Beware of those who won’t follow the pace, both employees and employers.
One of the most common criticisms of the AI is the fear of its impact on the number and quality of jobs available. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, 52% of the work will be done by machines and 48% by humans*. Another Oxford University study, generated in 2014 by researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osbourn stated that 47% of jobs would be automated in a ten-to-twenty-year horizon*. Nearly half of them, that is major! Since humans are naturally fearful of what they don’t know, you can’t blame them for being afraid of such statistics…
Yet, despite this, the labour shortage is on everyone’s lips in every field. Product marketing has been replaced by HR marketing, as businesses already don’t have enough employees to meet the current demand… Everyone is trying to find their own “flavour” or “employer brand” by using creativity to stand out from the crowd (signing bonus, referral bonuses, free meals, training room, paid trip after probation, you name it!). Employees with talent are now a competitive advantage and your competitors in this talent hunt are no longer just those in your field, they are everywhere! Businesses are now hiring not only without a resume and experience, but also without an interview! You have 2 arms 2 legs! You start tomorrow!
The days when a business received dozens of resumes for a position and could afford the “luxury” of taking several weeks to contact a candidate seem long gone…
Facing the new reality
Today’s workforce is much more flexible than before and has different needs. They were born with technology in their hands and their brains love and want to be stimulated. They want to learn, grow, be recognized, and feel they are making a difference. In short, they are looking for more than just a salary (the proof being that multiple high-paying jobs are not finding takers). Among other things, they do not want to work in a repetitive and routine job like previous generations, where doing the same task day after day, week after week was the norm. It is hard to blame them when you think about it?
In this context, why not see AI as an ally rather than an enemy to be defeated? Why not see the good things that it could offer to solve the problem?
Indeed, the evolution of AI may put an end to many types of jobs, mostly those related to clerical and repetitive tasks, thus allowing the workforce to focus on more interesting and stimulating value-added tasks. In other words, it would allow employees to make a real difference while being much more efficient, precisely what they are looking for!
Transformed jobs, lost jobs that will give birth to others, obviously a lot of changes on the horizon. But if only in terms of the growing AI-related industry, hundreds of thousands of workers are and will be needed to develop and maintain this industry (programmers, engineers, computer scientists, etc.). This is without a doubt a job with a bright future and the quest for talent for this industry is not likely to slow down!
The numerous impacts on human resources management
As for human resources management, the impacts of AI are numerous. The growing trend towards HR analytics is greatly simplified by the avenue of various software that makes it easier to understand, explain and predict the future of an organization’s workforce. The turnover rate, the number of days off work, the absenteeism rate, the satisfaction rate of the workforce, the causes of departure, the retirement forecasts and so on. The qualitative becomes quantitative, moving from reactive to predictive in a much more efficient and accurate manner, thereby facilitating decision-making.
The skills to be developed by employees will also evolve with technological advances, thus bringing workforce development to the forefront as a competitive element.
In terms of selection, it enables better categorization of individuals by improving existing classification tests*. Beyond the obvious time and money savings through the automation of various tasks, once again HR professionals will be able to focus on more challenging mandates and be more proactive, now more than ever in a key strategic role.
Of course, many questions remain, notably on the ethical and legal level, such as those concerning the right to privacy, the human-machine relationship, the possibility of increasing social inequalities (since those who can afford AI are likely to benefit from it more than other social classes.) *
Will we ever reach a level where artificial intelligence can truly and completely replace humans? Embody the empathy and emotions required in various situations? Should our fears hold back innovation until we know more? Personally, I am one who moves forward in fear and adapts. I believe that we all must play a role and allow the technological progress that AI represents to be done hand in hand with humans. After all, it is he who brought it into the world.
Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment. 2013. ‘The Future of Employment’. University of Oxford. En ligne.
Commission de l’éthique en Science et en Technologie. 2019. ‘ Les effets de l’intelligence artificielle sur le monde du travail : Document de réflexion’. Gouvernement du Québec. En ligne.
Desaultels, Geneviève. 2020. ‘Bon sang, arrêtons de faire l’autruche!’ Les Affaires, édition : Des stratégies pour contrer la pénurie de talents. 2021