Responsible leadership needed for successful AI introduction

Charities are being encouraged to carefully manage their workplaces when adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technology

Austin Clark | 6th Jul 17

Charities are being encouraged to carefully manage their workplaces when adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The warning comes after new research revealed that two thirds of young entrepreneurs are concerned that the rise of AI in the workplace could impact job prospects.

The report, entitled Robot Revolution: The impact of artificial intelligence on entrepreneurs and job prospectsincludes detailed polling of 200 finalists from the Young Enterprise flagship ‘Company Programme’ from all regions of the UK, shortlisted from 20,000 entrants.

When asked about the impact of AI in the workplace, 76% said they believed fewer jobs would be available due to the use of robots in the workplace. In contrast just 10% said this trend would lead to more jobs and 14% said there would be no noticeable change.

When asked about the role of robots in the workplace, nearly half of respondents (47%) said they were ‘concerned’ at the prospect of machines occupying a large percentage of the workforce. 35% said they were neutral, and only 18% felt comfortable.

Respondents also feel that the rise of the robots will impact the ability of young people to secure jobs, with 59% of respondents saying that they thought it would be harder to get a job that a robot could also do, due to a lack of basic core skills like team work and problem solving.

A total of 33% said that they thought the rise of robot workers would encourage students leaving education to get more ready for work, ensuring that they left school with more relevant workplace skills. Only 8% said they anticipated there being no change.

When asked if they would accept a job working for a robot 45% said yes, demonstrating a stark divide of opinion.

“The rise of the robots will have a devastating impact on job prospects for young people who have not been equipped with basic work skills. It’s time to wake up and recognise education must extend beyond academia and properly prepare the next generation for the world of work with skills like communication, teamwork and creativity,” said Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise.

Young Enterprise polled its 200 finalists online in June 2017.


Responsible leadership

Despite the rise of AI, managers are not prepared for the moral questions that rapidly advancing technologies pose, according to a roundtable held at Nyenrode Business Universiteit recently.

The roundtable concluded that, with large numbers of employees set to lose jobs to AI and robotics technologies, only responsible leadership can manage these changes effectively, both societally and environmentally.

Bob de Wit, Professor of Strategic Leadership at Nyenrode Business Universiteit and organiser of the event, said: “Advancements such as AI, robotics and big data will be the catalysts for a societal revolution. As organisations increasingly adopt them, huge numbers could lose their jobs, affecting both work and economic structures globally.

“It is likely that the new jobs that these technologies create will be high-skilled and too few in number. Although every business wants to keep up with the digital revolution, cutting corners ethically could result in far worse consequences for us all.”

Bob added: “Businesses, societies and governments are not fully prepared for the speed of the advancements we are making in work-related technology. The next generation of managers need to prioritise ethical, social and environmental responsibility when making big decisions, perhaps even putting these above profit. The power tech affords us is immense, but if misused, the consequences could be irreversible.”