Human-Machine Collaboration: The Path to Sustainable Growth in the Age of AI
Pratiksha Rastogi
Artificial Intelligence

Human-Machine Collaboration: The Path to Sustainable Growth in the Age of AI

This article explores the symbiotic realm of human-machine collaboration as the linchpin for sustainable growth. Unveiling the dynamics between AI, workforce, and leadership, it dismantles job displacement myths and underscores the potential that arises when humans and AI converge.

The invention of AI started back in the 1940s when people had access to the combination of maths and coding. They used their skills and creativity and what we are facing now is a result of the innovative minds and the hard work of generations who sensed the potential of AI for our society and economy, overall. 

But what they didn’t predict was the fear set in the minds of everyone - and the most prevalent of them is losing our source of income, that is, our jobs and businesses. 

Here’s the catch - no one who is ready to embrace AI and upskill themselves to be able to use it well is going to lose their job. We are not the only ones saying it. A recent study by the Institute of Business Value (IBM) states that ‘AI won’t replace people—but people who use AI will replace people who don’t.’ So the ball is in your court now - either decide to be afraid of AI and let it overpower your life or learn to embrace it to keep the steering wheel of your life in your hands. 

According to the study, “executives surveyed estimate that 40 per cent of their workforce will need to reskill as a result of implementing AI and automation over the next three years.” Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that the skill gap is not only real but is also rapidly growing. 

The skill gap affects both ends of this arrangement, that is, the employees and the employers.

1. The Workforce 

Firstly, employees need to stop falling for the lump of labour fallacy. This fallacy is a misconception that there is a certain amount of work that is to be done at a certain time in an economy and if technology or machines are doing that work then the humans will have nothing to do.

Alike to previous instances like – the outsourcing panic of the 2000s, and the automation panic of the 2010s, the age of AI is also going to prove that this fallacy is nothing more than a fallacy. 

Let us break it down for you: 

Human-Machine Collaboration: The Path to Sustainable Growth in the Age of AI

Mind you, this is just one cycle of the revolution. Chances are that we will go through many such cycles considering that human needs are never-ending and so is the power of our imagination. Hence, technology is not here to take your jobs. 

  • Secondly, with AI primed to take on more manual and repetitive tasks, employees have more time on their hands to generate high-valued innovative work, and this should be the focus of the AI augmented workforce. In fact, according to the survey conducted by IBM, “engaging in impactful work is the top factor they (employees) care about beyond compensation and job security—more important than flexible work arrangements, growth opportunities, and equity.” 

Now that we know how the workforce will be impacted as generative AI paves its path into the economy, let’s look at the role of the other end of this tunnel. 

2. The Role of the Leaders 

The employees naturally think that by partnering with AI, they are training their replacements and this is where the role of a leader comes in. They can help their employees overcome this fear by helping them focus on more meaningful work but this is only possible when the leaders themselves believe that the human-machine partnerships create more value than either can alone. However, “only 28 per cent of CEOs in our 2023 CEO Study have assessed the potential impact of generative AI on their current workforce.”

Here’s a roadmap suggested by IBM that can help executives lead the augmented workforce through a time of change:

1. Transform traditional processes, job roles, and organisational structures to boost productivity and enable new business and operating models.

“You can’t run the enterprise of tomorrow with yesterday’s talent. In the same vein, you can’t plug tomorrow’s talent into yesterday’s operating model.” 

In order to successfully navigate the future, companies need to ensure that they have the right people with the right skills. As the business landscape evolves, so do the skill sets required. In fact, the most pressing issue faced by companies today is identifying what new skills need to be integrated into their workforce and then following it up with a strategy that helps the employees build those skills. Therefore, it's not enough to rely solely on the talent that has been sufficient in the past.

Interestingly, STEM skills have significantly declined in importance, falling from first place in 2016 to twelfth in 2023. Technical expertise is now considered more of a basic requirement, while leadership values skills like time management, collaboration, and communication as essential for the future.

Human-Machine Collaboration: The Path to Sustainable Growth in the Age of AI
Institute of Business Value (IBM)

2. Build human-machine partnerships that enhance value creation and employee engagement.

The collaboration between AI and humans can automate mundane tasks, letting people focus on what they are passionate about, and create exciting new job roles and career paths. The HR leaders play a significant role in the creation of this cross-functioning workforce. Instead of solely focusing on administrative tasks and rule enforcement, HR should take on a proactive role in driving value for the organisation.

3. Invest in technology that lets people focus on higher-value tasks and drives revenue growth.

Companies should invest in technology that empowers employees by automating routine tasks and enabling them to contribute more strategically to revenue growth. By automating tasks that can be easily handled by technology, employees can concentrate on tasks that require human expertise, such as decision-making, relationship-building, and innovation.

4. Fostering a culture of experimentation and innovation

Companies should create an environment where experimentation and innovation are encouraged. This means that leadership should communicate that it's acceptable to take calculated risks and that failure is a natural part of the innovation process. When employees feel safe to try new things without the fear of severe consequences for failure, they are more likely to explore creative solutions and drive innovation. According to IBM IBV research, “an environment of open innovation—provides a 10 per cent revenue growth bump in the context of technology adoption and digital transformation”. 

As we witness the continuous evolution of AI and its integration into our lives and businesses, it's crucial to debunk the myths of job displacement and embrace the potential that lies within this transformation. As the cycle of change continues, the economy powered by AI will usher in new opportunities, industries, and jobs, underlining the indispensability of the human touch.