AI/ML and Robotics Are Here to Stay. Is Your Workforce Ready?

by Pranav Ramesh
October 11, 2022

Ahmed Patel was brought into his logistics software company with a singular focus. As the CHRO, he has been tasked with not only modernizing the company’s workforce but making them “future-ready.” His organization had reinvested heavily in technology to keep up with its competitors in terms of transportation management and warehouse and inventory tracking. But the execs knew the next step to keep their company’s growth on track was to now invest in an emerging workforce.

While this was Ahmed’s first venture into the C-Suite, he had years of experience in tech, human resources, and leadership. His predecessor was quite content to operate under the banner of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The workforce at his new workplace might not have been “broken” but that doesn’t mean it was modern, flexible, or prepared for the future. Which is why they needed a leader with a new vision for the future.

Though Ahmed brought significant past experience in HR, this would be his first attempt to really prepare a workforce for rapid future growth and innovation. He laid out his action plan during his interview with company executives, knowing that their buy-in was critical to its success. Laid out as three key components, Ahmed began to put his plan in motion within his first few weeks.

Using Data to Make Decisions? Make Sure Your Workforce is Data-Literate

Ahmed knew from multiple studies that companies that utilize data on an enterprise level enjoy improved customer service results, best-in-class operating capabilities, and increased profitability. As a data-driven company, Ahmed’s company used its data to make decisions on daily operations, but data was largely viewed as proprietary to each department. Ahmed wanted to encourage a new, collaborative way to think about data. He enlisted the help of the Chief Tech Officer, and together they began to encourage that data be considered an organizational asset.

Using data in a more holistic way to further company growth required middle management to become more literate and understand how to use data beyond daily decision-making. Ahmed didn’t want data democratization to stop at management, however. He wanted data in the hands of every employee- and he wanted them to help generate it, understand it, and use it to push the business into new growth areas.

“Everyone’s going to play a role and be responsible for moving [firms] forward in new ways of work that include data,” said Barbara Wixom, a principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research. “Data’s a team sport, and the entire organization is the team.”

Thinking about and using their data differently would require heavy collaboration across multiple departments. Ahmed and the CTO began to reorganize some units around analytics and hire more employees with tech backgrounds, especially coders. One of Ahmed’s long-term goals is to embed data and analytics inside each department.

AI, ML, and Robotics Are Here to Stay.

Just as Ahmed intends to improve data access and use, the second component of his future-ready workforce plan is to ensure employees are comfortable with and proficient in newer technologies that are becoming commonplace. The company already uses AI and ML in their supply chain analytics and transportation automation, but like the data, Ahmed wanted to see the workforce get the most out of AI and robotics with further integration.

Ahmed understood that this would be more difficult to pull off than data democratization. Employees were concerned that AI and robots would be taking over their jobs. Ahmed, along with the CTO and other company executives, reassured staff that these technologies were being deployed increasingly to enhance employee production- not replace it.

 Collaboration would again be vital in implementing this component of Ahmed’s plan. He, along with the CFO and CTO designed processes that would enable human employees the ability to offload easier tasks to robots and focus on more ambiguous, challenging work, thereby improving productivity and worker well-being.

Involving his workforce in the process of implementing this stage helped to smooth over employees’ fears of being replaced by robots. In fact, just as Ahmed had hoped, several innovative ideas for implementing AI and robotics came from his frontline staff that use the technology every day. Employees were invested in the new processes and the company would benefit from it.

An Engaged Workforce is an Empowered Workforce

As Ahmed worked on the third component of his plan, he noticed that the other two key initiatives were already helping move the third along. To better understand company culture, Ahmed initiated a workforce survey to get a sense of how much influence workers thought they had on things that mattered to them, such as their wages, working conditions, and training and development opportunities.

Ahmed wanted employees to feel as invested in the company’s success as its executives did. After the results from the employee surveyed were shared company-wide and reviewed by management and the C-Suite, he plans to develop a new social contract with employees.

 The core principles of this new culture of work would include respect for employees’ rights, continuous investment in training for workers to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, equitable and transparent compensation processes, and the careful recruitment of future employees with proficient technical and behavioral skills.

Conclusion

As Ahmed began implementing his plan to prepare the workforce for the future, he knew it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing. But with his careful research and planning, the buy-in from the C-Suite, and the employee training component, he was already off to a solid start to set the business up for long-term growth and success. Ahmed’s journey as CHRO can serve as an example for other companies looking to future-ready their workforce.

By focusing on key elements like data democratization, AI and robotics, and an empowered workforce, companies can better plan for the future- and what comes next.

 

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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has partnered with some of the biggest Fortune brands to offer excellence of service and best-in-class team building for the last 25 years.

PTP’s diverse and global team of recruiting, consulting, and project development experts specialize in a variety of IT competencies which include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • DevOps
  • Cloud Computing
  • Data Science
  • AI/ML
  • Salesforce Optimization
  • VR/AR

Peterson Technology Partners is an equal opportunities employer. As an industry leader in IT consulting and recruitment, specializing in diversity hiring, we aim to help our clients build equitable workplaces.

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