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 re