As we are propelled into an even-more digital age, companies and employees are both asking: To what degree will AI replace human intelligence and make jobs obsolete? In the inevitable future of AI, what is the outlook for human employees? Neil Jensen, Vice President, Product Strategy, Workday, identifies trends in areas like the future of work. I asked Jensen to share with us the trends he’s seeing in the future-of-work space.
John Winsor: What is the future of work as you see it?
Neil Jensen: I believe that the future of work will be uniquely digital and uniquely human at the same time. As much as artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms and other emerging technologies will reshape the way we work, the human element will always be an important part of the new world of work. We see it today with an intense focus on worker experiences and I don’t believe this will go away. I believe technology and humans will find the right balance to enhance everything we do. The goal will be to make us all ‘super-human’ and extend far beyond the capabilities of today.
Winsor: Can you articulate how this translates to the work itself?
Jensen: If I narrow it down just to the notion of acquiring talent, I see the future as digitally enabled, where technology enables the ‘work owner’ to identify a shortlist of candidates for a specific segment of work such as a role, gig, job or assignment, but humans make the final decision based on fit with team, culture and other factors. As good as artificial intelligence and machine learning will get, I don’t see them fully replacing humans in the decision-making process.
Winsor: What are the implications for an enterprise?
Jensen: There’s still a long way to go in the journey to adopt advanced technologies and embrace the future. The enterprise will need to continue to embrace new ways of working and manage the internal change required to be successful. We’ll need to give careful consideration to things like internal process, policies and decision criteria. Some enterprises will aggressively pursue the change, while others will take a more cautious approach. As with any change, there will be leaders and laggards. The difference with this is that I believe it will come at us fast. The successful enterprise needs to get busy now to be ready for what’s next.
Winsor: What are the implications for freelancers?
Jensen: Freelancers will have more flexibility to call their own shots, and to more or less run a company of one. They will play a key role for the enterprise and be part of a much-needed flexible workforce that is agile as business conditions change. This type of work isn’t for everybody, but for those who want it, big opportunities will be there. Platforms will increasingly support this type of work and over time will grow in sophistication and provide better care and an improved experience for the freelancer.
Winsor: What is the implication for talent?
Jensen: I think talent is in the driver’s seat. There has never been more opportunity for the worker to build skills and capabilities and find relevant projects. This will only continue as the new world of work unfolds. If you want it, it’s there for the taking.
Winsor: How will all of this affect business as usual?
Jensen: I don’t think the legacy enterprise model of hiring staff, leveraging staff and eliminating staff can survive. The time it takes to recruit, train and onboard will simply be too slow. The enterprise that looks at a multidimensional workforce that embraces the plurality of the new world of work can operate at the speed of business and execute at a pace that is going to make them successful. What’s considered “old” and “new” will become a fact of agility. The enterprise must move at a pace that meets the needs of the worker and work owner. Not every enterprise is ready to do this. But if they don’t, they’ll be waiting weeks in order to execute something that elsewhere takes only days or hours. An organization needs to learn to operate in the new world of work and morph and change business practices to accommodate it.