In the age of expanding automation, companies must redefine work – Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

From The Wall Street Journal 

Over the past few years, a number of papersreports and books have addressed the future of work, and, more specifically, the impact of artificial intelligence, robotics and other advanced technologies on processes that once fell within the human domain. For the most part, they view AI as mostly augmenting rather than replacing human capabilities, automating the more routine parts of a job and increasing the productivity and quality of workers. Overall, few jobs will be entirely automated, but automation will likely transform the vast majority of occupations.

Case closed, right? Not quite. Given these predictions about the changing nature of work, what should companies do? How should firms prepare for a brave new world where we can expect major economic dislocations along with the creation of new jobs, new business models and whole new industries, and where many people will be working alongside smart machines in whole new ways?

“Underneath the understandable anxiety about the future of work lies a significant missed opportunity,” wrote John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Maggie Wooll in a new report from the Deloitte Center for the Edge, Redefine Work: The untapped opportunity for expanding value. “That opportunity is to return to the most basic question of all: What is work? If we come up with a creative answer to that, we have the potential to create significant new value for the enterprise. And paradoxically, these gains will likely come less from all the new technology than from the human workforce you already have today.”

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Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton on why more retailers should invest in their employees

MIT Sloan Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton

It’s no secret that the labor market is tough these days. But the issue isn’t just the number of people who are unemployed. It’s also income inequality and the low pay of retail employees that’s concerning. Retail employees represent close to 20% of the U.S. workforce.

In retail, conventional wisdom holds that if you want to offer the best prices then you can’t afford to invest in your employees. Typical retail workers receive minimal training, irregular hours, and no benefits for part-timers. Turnover is high with understaffing common.

Wages are so low that retail workers tend to rely more on public assistance than workers in other industries. If companies actually invested in their employees by offering better jobs, many of these people could move into the middle class, which is critical in our economy.

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