Automation and artificial intelligence technologies may be taking many ‘blue collar’ jobs globally but it seems middle managers also have an uncertain future, according to a new study.
Pega and marketforce spoke to 845 senior execs globally across several industries with 72 per cent believing that the increasing use of AI and robotics will dramatically reduce the number of middle managers in most organisations over the next decade.
This is bad news for middle management but good news for those below them with 78 per cent believing support from artificial intelligence will allow workers to make informed decisions at a more junior level, ‘leading to a flattening of traditional hierarchies,’ the study said.
The study highlighted that automation has already taken a ‘long and unforgiving toll’ on blue collar jobs. Authors cited a Ball State University study which found that between 2000 and 2010, around 5.6 million manufacturing jobs were shed in the United States – 85 per cent of them were a result of automation and technological change.
Over the next five years, execs expect it will become standard practice to deploy AI for a wide range of management functions from quality control to the scheduling and coordination of work for quality control.
“But to limit AI to scheduling, resource matching and quality control would be a huge waste of its capabilities. More than nine of ten (91 per cent) believe that advanced analytics will also create new chances to find commercial opportunities for collaboration between teams or organisations within 10 years – 57 per cent think this will happen within five years,” the report said.
It’s clear that operational strategy will increasingly fall to the machines with 71 per cent believing AI will be commonly used to identify opportunities for operational improvements in the next five years.
Further, the study suggested that AI – with its unbiased and ruthless logic – could help provide more workforce diversity, particularly at more senior levels. Globally, the proportion of senior business roles held by women is 25 per cent with two-thirds of the board seats of Fortune 500 companies are held by white men and the privately-educated continue to dominate professional jobs.
“This is where AI, with its unbiased and ruthless logic, could prove a leveler, not only in the selection and recruitment of candidates but also in ongoing performance reviews and remuneration policies,” the study said.
A more ‘meritocratic’ workforce
Meanwhile, respondents believed that the teaming of intelligent machines and humans will create a ‘more effective, engaged and meritocratic workforce, the study said. Two-thirds of respondents agreed that the widespread use of AI will give rise to more transparent meritocracy in the workplace.
They also expect AI-augmented staff to generate tangible business returns such as more efficiency (73 per cent agree) and better customer service (62 per cent). By augmenting their work with machine intelligence, human employees “will be empowered with more autonomy and a greater sense of job satisfaction,” the study said.
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