Rethinking workforce strategies with AI, virtual reality: Research – ET CIO

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – What does the future of work hold? In a world where it’s impossible to predict what will happen tomorrow, it’s a tough question to answer. But businesses that hope to emerge from the global pandemic in a stronger, better position need to be thinking about – and planning for future models – today. To help, Citrix Systems, Inc. undertook Work 2035, a year-long examination of global work patterns and plans, to understand how work will change and the role that technology will play in enabling people to perform at their best. And the results are in: driven by flexible models and intelligent solutions that remove the complexity and noise from work, employees will be more engaged and productive and fuel innovation and growth like never before.

What will the workforce, work models and the work environment look like in 2035? And how will technology shape them? To find out, Citrix teamed up with futurist consultancy Oxford Analytica and business research specialist Coleman Parkes to survey over 500 C-Suite leaders and 1,000 employees within large corporations and mid-market businesses globally on current and future workforce strategies and work models. And here’s what was learned:

Robots will not replace humans – But they will make us smarter and more efficient. More than three-quarters of those polled (77 percent) believe that in fifteen years, artificial intelligence (AI) will significantly speed up the decision-making process and make workers more productive.

New Jobs will be created – New roles will emerge to support a technology-driven workplace and the changing relationship between humans and machines. Here are the positions respondents believe will be created:

* Robot / AI trainer (82 percent of leaders/44 percent of employees)
* Virtual reality manager (79 percent of leaders/36 percent of employees)
* Advanced data scientist (76 percent of leaders/35 percent of employees)
* Privacy and trust manager (68 percent leaders/30 percent of employees)
* Design thinker (56 percent of leaders/27 percent of employees)

Work will be more flexible – Technology that allows for seamless access to the tools and information people need to collaborate and get work done wherever they happen to be will fuel flexible models that the future of work will demand.

* 67 percent of professionals (business leaders and workers combined) believe that a “platform” model – which creates value by facilitating exchanges between groups or individuals using digital technology – will dominate work in the future.
* 60 percent of workers believe permanent employees will become rare by 2035.
* 80 percent of leaders believe that technology platforms will provide instant access to the highly specialized, on-demand talent required to power future organizations and accommodate rapid changes in business and customer needs.
* 39 percent of leaders believe that in 2035, the majority of high-value specialist workers will be on-demand and freelance workers.

Leadership will have a new look –More than half of those surveyed (57 percent) believe AI will make most business decisions and potentially eliminate the need for senior management teams.

* 75 percent think most organizations will have a central AI department overseeing all areas of the business.
* 69 percent believe that the CEO will work in a human-machine partnership with a Chief of Artificial Intelligence (CAI).

Productivity will get a major boost – Technology, closely integrated with humans, will drive step changes in productivity as workers are supported by solutions that enable them to perform at their best. “AI-ngels” – digital assistants driven by AI – will draw on personal and workplace data to help employees prioritize their tasks and time and ensure mental and physical wellness. These worker augmented assistants will, for example, schedule meetings to take place at the most effective time based on factors ranging from the blood sugar levels of participants to their sentiments at different times of day. And while the meetings are taking place, they will monitor concentration levels and attitudes and adjust as necessary to drive optimal outcomes.

More than half of professionals surveyed (51 percent) believe technology will make workers at least twice as productive by 2035. Among the solutions they believe will be commonplace:

* AI that anticipates and performs tasks based on habits and preferences
* AI nudges
* AI personal assistants
* AI-guided digital wellness to ensure employees’ mental and physical well being
* Wearable technology to interact with systems
* Augmented reality glasses
* Neuro-linked technology for controlling devices
* Exoskeletons to enhance performance-related tasks

Employee engagement will improve – As technology and AI takes over time-consuming, mundane tasks, work will become more strategic and employees more engaged.

* 83 percent of professionals believe that by 2035, technology will automate low-value tasks, freeing workers to focus on the meaningful work they want and are paid to do.
* 79 percent say it will be a significant factor in upskilling human workers, creating new opportunities for personal development and career growth.

Innovation and growth will soar – Organizations will invest more in technology and AI than human capital. This will open the door to unprecedented levels of innovation and new revenue streams and fuel sustainable growth – particularly among small businesses.

* 90 percent of business leaders believe that in 2035, AI technology investment will be the biggest driver of growth for their organization.
* 72 percent of professionals believe that by 2030, AI will generate more revenue for their organization than human workers.
* 63 percent of professionals believe that technology will level the playing field and convey advantage to small companies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to reimagine the way things get done, and over the next 15 years, they will face more challenges and disruptions than ever,” said Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy, Citrix. “But as Work 2035 makes clear, within this chaos lies opportunity. Savvy companies are using this crisis to begin planning for the “next normal”. Not just return to where they were, but to embrace new workforce and work models to power their business forward.”