Is the Future of Work Building to Robot Co-Workers?

Sutherland Editorial

There’s a lot of prognosticating and crystal ball gazing about what the future of work looks like. Inevitably, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are always a part of that future. For example, one of WEF’s biggest predictions for how the future of work will evolve this year is that AI and robotics will create more jobs and start reshaping the landscape of the workplace. But what about the workforce? Could the future of work entail robots actually working side by side us in cubicles soon? Spoiler alert: this development is already happening!

future of work

Introducing the RoboBoss

Klick, a Canadian digital agency, has established a computer as their makeshift human resources department. Known as Genome, this internal operating system has automated many business processes and “manages” the 700 employees who work there by keeping tabs on workflow, attendance, billable hours and assisting with trainings and recruitment.

The machine learning aspects of Genome are also fascinating to note. Imagine a future of work in which a robot or program analyzes workplace data such as productivity, commitments, attendance, etc. and is able to predict things like employee turnover from that. At Klick, Genome is a program that has been in place for 15 years and already has enough data that it can predict the success of teams and the profitability of a given project through machine learning.

Technology like Genome isn’t so much groundbreaking as it is a unique approach to implementing robotics and automation in the workplace—after all, more than half of companies see the value of instituting intelligent automation strategies like robotic process automation (RPA) to improve business operations. It’s not like there’s a robot barking orders at employees from a corner office or actually making decisions that affect a person’s career or work. Rather, the existence of robots in the workplace is less tangible and more concerned with automating tasks and processes to make our lives easier and allow us to think bigger.

Working Together with Robotics and AI

So, will you be attending happy hour with a robot co-worker in the near future? Chances are slim. We are very much heading in this direction, but AI and robotics seamlessly integrating with humans in the workplace as anthropomorphic, interactive entities is still decades away by most predictions. It’s up to humans to spearhead this innovation in a mindful direction so that it actually benefits us in the long-run, rather than fulfill the doomsday prophecies of AI taking away our jobs and robots staging a coup for world domination. That way, robots can work collaboratively with humans to solve problems in the workplace and improve business operations.

future of work

Of course, today if you can imagine something in terms of technology, then it’s already probably a reality. For industrial jobs, cobots (aka collaborative robots) are starting to spring up and pave the way for the future of work. These next-generation robots actively work alongside people and share a relationship that’s mutually beneficial with them. For humans, these cobots automate or perform tasks that they would typically do inefficiently or that could pose a physical threat to them. For cobots, humans help them learn and grow. They utilize AI to study and imitate humans in order to improve and better perform their function.

Now is the perfect time for businesses to start embracing AI and robotics and prepare themselves for the future of work. Success will lie in carving out an effective collaborative strategy for how a human workforce can best work with a robotic one in order to achieve the awe-inspiring results that this “man + machine” partnership can potentially deliver. Artificial intelligence has the power to actually bolster and expand our own human intelligence. This amplification will only happen once we accept that the faces of our colleagues might soon become more steely…literally!

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Want to learn more? Check out Sutherland Digital president, Andy Zimmerman's, latest whitepaper, "The Voice Everywhere Dilemma".