Workers have anticipated AI fearfully due to widespread distrust of employers and technology. Things are getting better, says this AI expert.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over the way we live, work, and do business. Specifically, in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, businesses are adopting AI faster than their counterparts in the rest of the world. Setting out to be the trailblazer in the region, Singapore has developed a National AI Strategy in late 2019 to construct frameworks to facilitate the adoption of AI capabilities. Governments and companies alike are now forging ahead in driving business improvements by integrating AI in their functions.

AI-enabled innovation is also fostering optimism across the region. In the workplace and across departments, it has matured into a catalyst that has helped to improve employee efficiency and well-being. AI is establishing a new work atmosphere where human capital resources co-exist with robots or digital assistants and wherein the primary benefits include improved productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Growing positivity for AI in the workplace

For decades, AI has elicited both fear and excitement. Mostly, there is widespread fear of the possibilities of increased unemployment on account of workplace automation. However, as more people in APAC develop a better understanding of AI and its applicability in the workplace to manage productivity, perception in the workplace has shifted more positively.

According to a study conducted by Oracle and human-resources advisory and research firm Future Workplace, APAC markets are approaching the future of AI in the workplace with readiness and excitement, ranking these attributes higher than feelings of concern, fear, uncertainty or indifference. A large majority (80%) of APAC countries surveyed said more than half of their workers are currently using some form of AI in the workplace. Singapore stands ahead of the global average (50%), with 56% of workers having adopted AI at work.

Moreover, 84% of people surveyed in Singapore also said they trust robots more than their managers. Employees cited providing unbiased information, maintaining work schedules, and problem solving as areas robots excel in, when compared to human managers.

Delivering smart, intuitive, informed HR

The rising affinity toward AI has increased its adoption in specialized business functions. For example, as businesses become more complex and the need to hire resources with sophisticated, modern skills grows, the war for talent is mounting. HR departments have begun to use AI to optimize both their recruitment functions and back-end processes, thereby boosting levels of efficiency and performance.

In APAC specifically, 76% of talent acquisition professionals are already using AI as a sourcing tool since it appears to generate higher-quality candidates, thereby reducing unconscious human biases and ensuring equitable hiring. HR departments are now starting to deploy AI in their recruitment processes, to help them screen candidates by assessing copious data points objectively while even being programmed to ignore candidates’ demographic information.

Furthermore, automation of more manual tasks through AI allows HR managers to focus their time on more strategic assignments such as attracting, developing and retaining top talent. By employing AI-powered human capital management (HCM) technologies, HR managers can harness valuable data-driven insights on employees and their training and career development needs. This enables HR practitioners to execute faster, smarter business decisions and keep up with fast-paced market demands and changes.

In Singapore, the Salvation Army Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar (SMM) Territory serves underprivileged communities, providing care to and fulfilling the basic needs of the marginalized. Recognizing the limitations it faces when it comes to manpower, SMM leverages HCM to automate its HR processes. This has resulted in the organization streamlining cumbersome HR processes and increasing the flexibility of the HR function. These tasks include onboarding and accessing employee performance evaluations, recruiting and employee trainings.

Preparing the workforce for the future AI world

Given AI’s multifarious benefits to the workforce and HR managers, AI is here to stay. According to the study by Oracle and Future Workplace, Singapore ranked fourth with 41% of workers saying they felt excited about the technology. To capitalize on this surge of AI applications and services, companies need to bridge the gap of the rapid advancement in technology by preparing employees for upskilling and re-skilling. It is now of paramount importance for organizations to acknowledge the need to invest in new-skills development, so that workers can remain relevant in the workforce.

As AI continues to change the role of employees and managers at work, one of the most critical ways that managers can upskill to remain relevant is by fostering stronger relationships with their staff and exceling in areas where technology falls short.

By embracing aspects of emotional intelligence, such as personalizing the experience to reflect their reports individually, providing coaching for employees and creating a conducive work culture while simultaneously striving for objectivity, human managers can work in tandem with their AI counterparts, without becoming “obsolete”.