Despite the ominous predictions of replacing workers with machines, the Global Human Capital Trends 2020 report shows that reducing costs by eliminating jobs is not the only path available. Leading organisations in the world are taking a different direction to get the best business outcomes. They are looking for a strategy to integrate artificial intelligence with the work of their teams. 

As the report writes, “After years of hype and speculation, AI has finally left the realm of science fiction to become a clear and present organizational priority.” Nowadays, forward-thinking companies  face another question: how to use AI to support and increase the workforce? 

Digital transformation 

Superteams – the placement of AI in work teams – Digital transformation

The digital technologies implementation in a workplace is part of the digital transformation – a comprehensive and integrated process. It involves the integration of digital technologies in all areas of human activity. As a result, it is a change in the way products, services and customer service methods are created.

In addition to restructuring the management of large databases or better using AI and machine learning, it has become essential to quickly adopt digital operating models, including integrated multifunctional teams. This is shown by one of the trends observed this year, called “superteams”. It is based on the evolution of the last decade and, at the same time, on two critical forces for the future of work:

  • increasing importance of teams in the workplace, 
  • expanding the use of AI. 

To adapt to changes and consider employees’ needs, organisations face the necessity of their own transformation. This is a trend that business leaders around the world will have to deal with. 

Superteams are the combination of people and machines using their complementary abilities to solve problems, acquire knowledge and create value (they extend this concept beyond the individual to the group).

How has the “superteams” trend evolved? 

Superteams – the placement of AI in work teams – How has the “superteams” trend evolved?

Deloitte has been dealing with this trend for several years, carrying out research on this subject among organisations worldwide. Already in the text from 2015 titled “Machines as talent” Deloitte presented a viewpoint that machines can be collaborators in the workplace, and not competitors.

Two years later, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies took over the workforce. This resulted in the slow redesign of companies on the web and the emergence of business ecosystems built for speed, agility and adaptability, as analysed in Deloitte’s 2016 and 2017 reports.

“Superteams” is a trend in a workplace based on two evolving forces: the increasing importance of work teams and expanding use of artificial intelligence

Among the respondents to the 2017 survey, 41% said they had fully implemented or made significant progress in cognitive and AI adoption, and another 34% said they had pilot programs. The 2017 report also revealed a critical flaw. Despite the widespread adoption of both technologies, only 17% of respondents said they were ready to manage a workforce with humans, robots and artificial intelligence working side by side. This is the lowest level of readiness recorded in this study. Companies have, therefore, been called upon to take appropriate actions:

  • broaden their vision of the workforce; 
  • redesign workplaces; 
  • include tasks that can be automated and outsourced; 
  • develop a new role for human skills.

The challenge for companies that do not want to be left behind is building workforce security by transforming their working model.

Teamwork and business results

Superteams – the placement of AI in work teams – Teamwork and business results

Of course, many companies worldwide have realised that integrating AI in teams is critical to creating value. In 2019, the Deloitte study “Organizational performance: it’s a team sport” found that the teamwork model’s transition is also crucial for business results. The results are optimistic, with 74% of respondents saying that their companies have adopted this model. The survey also found that 65% of companies recognise the importance of moving from a hierarchical to a team-oriented model. Those whose organisations were already working in teams saw the benefits, and 53% said they saw a significant performance improvement. 

For example: in one of the companies employing in its storage and distribution centres both people and robots, the role of a centre manager has evolved from ordinary supervising change to determining when people and robots should hand overwork, which requires a different kind of technical and business knowledge.

The new concept of “superjobs” includes tasks and responsibilities of traditional professions using technology to create more efficient AI teams to broaden their work scope. According to the new view of work, computers and people are to complement each other.

Integration of AI and teams

Superteams – Integration of AI and teams

The rise of teams and the adoption of AI come together in 2020 in a discussion of “superjobs”, which shows how introducing AI to groups can enable organisations and employees to reinvent themselves and collaborate more productively.

In this year’s Human Capital Trends survey, as many as 70% of respondents admitted that their companies explore or use AI in this area on a limited level – to support employees. They focus on improving consistency and productivity rather than adding value. At the moment, they see AI mainly as a tool to automate tasks that people used to do or use it to help employees. 

While 59% of companies admit that redesigning their workplaces to integrate AI is critical to their future success, only 7% say they are ready to integrate AI with teams in the workplace fully. 

At the same time, they are aware that it is crucial for adding value when teams are the fundamental units in organisations today. Despite the low readiness, this is the first step towards enabling humans and machines to collaborate in a new, more productive way.

A further conclusion from the report is that companies that still manage AI and people on parallel paths will achieve moderate productivity gains. Those that decide to integrate them in the so-called superteams can achieve much more significant value by redesigning the work in a transformative way. 

Transforming AI’s potential into value building 

Superteams – Transforming AI's potential into value building

Successful strategies that build workforce security through innovation use AI on three levels:

  • substitution,
  • augmentation,
  • collaboration.

The relationship between technology and people is evolving:

  1. from: focusing on work automation to replace employees,
  2. through: enriching employees with technology to create super jobs,
  3. to: collaborating with technology to create super teams at the group level.

Moving from a substitution-based to expanding and collaborative mindset will require the working model’s rediscovery at multiple levels, both by workers and organisations. It is known that over time, human involvement will decrease significantly, and operational accuracy and efficiency will increase. 

This is because successful expansion and collaboration strategies use AI to re-imagine the work’s nature, rather than continuing the same job with just different actors. They have the potential to generate much more workforce, even if that is not the primary focus of the effort. Concurrently with the progress in this field, the degree to which technology can transform an organisation’s performance increases. 

Degrees of the organisational transformation by AI:

  • I (Substitution) – new products reduce costs and improve efficiency; 
  • II (Augmentation) – provides more value and expanded capabilities, and reduces costs and improves efficiency; 
  • III (Collaboration) – work results become more meaningful to employees and customers, and lead to significant increases in prices, efficiency and value. 
AI – Human collaboration in workplaces – Degrees of the organisational transformation by AI based on Deloitte Human Trends 2020 report

Conclusions from the “Human AI Collaboration” report

Superteams – Integrating AI in teams requires companies to act in five areas

Integrating AI in teams requires companies to act in five areas: 

1. Individuals

Investing in building the human capabilities that are most important when working with AI. It includes critical thinking and observation, cultural sensitivity, social intelligence, conflict resolution and teamwork. 

2. Leaders

Identifying employees who have human potential (high degree of emotional intelligence and empathy). They will be able to effectively work with AI and developing new employees with these opportunities.

3. Teams 

Reforming them to include both humans and machines. This requires improving the ability to build and solve teams consisting of, for example, only talent and individuality, and aligning processes and performance management to adapt to the inclusion of artificial intelligence in the group. 

4. Organisations 

Combining different team initiatives with AI initiatives to achieve new and better results – with the goal being value and not profit; investing in empirical leadership development over the long term (experience of leaders in managing collaborative AI-human teams); developing a culture of behaviour to increase the anticipation capacity of employees. 

5. Business ecosystems 

Identifying potential partnerships with AI vendors and talent markets to maintain access to the needed technology and workforce (doing the organisation’s redesigned work); paying attention to AI’s ethical impact on the workplace and customers of the organisation.

Summary 

The new trends such as “superjobs” together with “superteams” illustrate how the relationship between technology and people is changing in the workplace. They evolve from focusing on work automation with the purpose to replace employees, by enriching employees with technology to create “superjobs”, and eventually  collaborating with technology to create “super teams”

However, a recent report shows that there is an obstacle to this transformation – organisations are not investing sufficient resources in training. Only 17% of respondents said their companies are making  “significant” investments in retraining to support their AI strategy. This raises the question: how the rest will prepare their employees for the changes that AI will drive. Reports suggest that many organisations do not yet see the full implications of AI’s impact on the workforce.

Sources:

1. The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward | Deloitte

2. Human AI collaboration | Deloitte