If businesses invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top performing companies, they could boost revenues by 38% by 2022 and raise employment levels by 10%, according to a new report released by Accenture.
Collectively, this would lift profits by US$4.8 trillion globally over the same period. For the average S&P500 company, this equates to US$7.5 billion of revenues and a US$880 million lift to profitability.
Both leaders and workers are optimistic about the potential of AI on business results and on work experiences, according to the study. It found that 72% of the 1,200 senior executives surveyed said that intelligent technology will be critical to their organisation’s market differentiation and 61% think the share of roles requiring collaboration with AI will rise in the next three years (69% in the UK).
More than two thirds of the 14,000 workers surveyed said that it is important to develop skills to work with intelligent machines. Yet, a disconnect between workers’ embrace of AI and their employers’ efforts to prepare workers puts potential growth at risk.
A slight majority of business leaders say that human-machine collaboration is important to their strategic priorities, but only 3% said their organisation plans to significantly increase its investment in reskilling their workers in the next three years (7% in the UK).
“While many businesses are committing to AI, if they are to drive real growth then they also need to equip employees with the skills required to collaborate effectively with machines,” said Payal Vasudeva, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “The full promise of AI depends on humans and machines working together in innovative ways to enhance customer experiences and create entirely new products, services and markets.”
The research suggests that there is a strong foundation on which to boost AI skills investment. The survey found that 63% of senior executives across markets thought that their company will create net job gains in the next three years through AI (66% in the UK). Meanwhile, the majority of workers believe AI will have a positive impact on their work.
The report shows how pioneers are using human-machine collaboration not just to improve efficiencies, but to drive growth through new customer experiences. An online clothing retailers AI helps its stylists learn more about customers’ preferences so that they can offer a unique and highly personalised service. And a sports shoe brand set a new bar in customisation and speed-to-market by aligning highly skilled tailors and process engineers with intelligent robots to design and manufacture in local markets.
“Business leaders must take immediate steps to pivot their workforce to enter an entirely new world where human ingenuity meets intelligent technology to unlock new forms of growth,” said Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture. “Workers are impatient to collaborate with AI, giving leaders the opportunity to demonstrate true Applied Intelligence within their organisation.”
Shaping the future workforce in the age of AI
• Reimagine work by reconfiguring work from the bottom up: Assess tasks, not jobs; then allocate tasks to machines and people, balancing the need to automate work and to elevate people’s capabilities. Nearly half of business leaders across markets agree that job descriptions are already obsolete; 29% said they have redesigned jobs extensively (41% in the UK).
• Pivot the Workforce to areas that unlock new forms of value: Go beyond process efficiencies and prepare the workforce to create new customer experiences. Fuel new growth models by reinvesting the savings derived from automation into the future workforce. Foster a new leadership DNA that underpins the mindset, acumen and agility required to seize longer-term, transformational opportunities.
• Scale up ‘new skilling’: Measure the workforce’s level of skills and willingness to learn to work with AI. Using digital platforms, target programs at these different segments of the workforce and personalise them to improve new skills adoption.