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Will AI make you obsolete? The future of work in the age of automation

Henryk Krajewski, Ph.D. is an executive director at leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates. He specializes in working with CEOs and teams on creating high-performance organizations.

According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, less than one in three Canadians trust artificial intelligence and more than half are hesitant or resistant to innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) – nearly as many who feel the same away about genetically modified foods.

Fair enough. Our popular news and social media sources inundate us with news of how AI is going to take over our jobs and our worlds. Mark Cuban, billionaire investor and former majority owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, said AI is “bad news for employment … there is going to be more people out of work.” Likewise, Elon Musk recently stated that “long term … any job that somebody does will be optional.”

So, is this the promise of AI – that it will slowly but surely put us all out of work? If so, where will it start and with which jobs? What will the state of the workplace look like? And what should employees be doing to prepare?

In terms of where AI is having the greatest current impact, Jason Lee, who leads the applied data team at advisory firm MNP, told me “sectors like manufacturing, energy, utilities and the public sector are experiencing substantial AI impact, with [generative] AI set to disrupt financial services, insurance and energy industries. Roles such as office support, sales, legal, business operations and healthcare support will be most affected.”

But what about AI itself? Surely there must be job growth in careers related to creating, working and managing AI technologies.

Indeed, Fawad Bajwa, global AI practice leader at leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates, sees an upswing in the global demand for AI-related roles. “The demand for talent in this space is substantially higher than what it was 18 months ago when AI was not on top of everyone’s mind,” he told me.

Many organizations are indeed building and attracting talent in AI-related fields, across industries and across the globe. Mr. Bajwa said “no industry will be untouched by AI and the need for AI talent. Like the Industrial Revolution disrupted blue-collar jobs, the AI revolution will disrupt white-collar jobs.”

Are Mr. Cuban and Mr. Musk right? Are we all going to lose our jobs to AI? Should we fear or embrace the shift, and why? I asked these questions of Google’s cloud and AI leader for Canada, Sam Sebastian.

“While the adoption of new technology often comes with uncertainty, I believe AI will in fact enable us to be more human. If we embrace AI correctly, we will open up opportunities for all workers to focus on strategy and human connection, driving more impact,” he said. “For example, Doctors are using AI to take and file notes, so they can spend more time with patients, and marketers leverage AI to build visuals, so they can focus on brand strategy and audience engagement.”

Mr. Lee concurs, saying “human input remains crucial alongside automation, preserving the unique insights and experiences of workers.”

Mr. Bajwa summed it up well: “AI will not replace humans. But … humans with AI will replace humans without AI.”

Workers must now all make one critical mindset shift, followed by one simple action. In terms of mindset, we need to recognize that humans are psychologically wired with a negativity bias, which associates change with a certain degree of fear and loss. Thus, humans much prefer avoiding pain in the short term (changing routines, learning new technologies) rather than approaching gains for the long term (being first in line for new opportunities, embracing new technology). It’s hard for most people to see that the greater risk is in not going along with the AI revolution.

What is the simple action? Experiment. Many have access to Microsoft’s Copilot companion through their work and don’t even know what it can do. Google’s Gemini can be a life companion for just about any need. Many organizations have internal GenAI systems running and available to experiment with. Research shows the No. 1 predictor of whether someone integrates AI into their work and life is whether they will experiment with different ways of using AI. More than 90 per cent of such experimenters report multiple benefits, including managing workloads, enhancing focus and boosting creativity.

What does AI itself have to say about AI and jobs? I asked Google Gemini and its first answer was quite equivocal. When pressed, Gemini first apologized, then admitted “there will indeed be substantial job impact, because AI can learn and perform tasks much faster than humans, making it efficient for repetitive jobs. While new AI-focused fields will emerge, they may not require the same number of workers being displaced.”

Indeed, the AI revolution is a critical waypoint for evolving organizations – and leadership will play a pivotal role in shaping its success. How leaders approach its adoption, however, can have unintended consequences. More on this next week.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

Originally Appeared Here

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