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How roles will evolve once AI becomes a fixture in the workplace

How roles will evolve once AI becomes a fixture in the workplace

New career paths are predicted to become available and increases in non-traditional work roles, such as those that do not require conventional qualifications, are also likely.

How roles will evolve once artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a fixture in the workplace is perhaps one of the biggest areas of transformation underway within the talent arena. It is expected that more and more bandwidth will be freed up for higher value work, enabling professionals to meet strategic advisory needs of the business, and to focus on the work for which professionals’ skills will be more valuable.

This was a premise discussed in Thomson Reuters' new report, Future of Professionals, which is based on a survey of more than 1,200 professionals in North America, Latin America and the UK working in legal, tax & accounting, government, risk management, and compliance fields. While the survey didn't include HR respondents in Asia, HRO believes there are insights relevant for the HR community, as shared below.

Featured below are some ways the survey data expects role to transform as AI takes over the workplace.

Already, many professionals surveyed predict new career paths will become available and increases in non-traditional work roles, such as those that do not require the conventional legal or tax qualifications. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said they anticipate these outcomes will occur between the next 18 months and five years.

Research findings indicate that there are a few influencing factors. One of them involves the transition of some tasks from professionals with education and professional credentials — such as JDs, CPAs, etc. — to employees without such professional licensure. Indeed, as automation and AI solutions make completing traditional legal tasks easier, it could become more appropriate for such tasks to be completed by a paralegal or more junior professional.

Using this tactic at scale could potentially increase the profit margin, enabling alternative and cheaper ways of becoming a fee-generator in the firm. In addition, the process of applying automation and AI solutions to legal work, which currently is completed by lawyers, will likely increase the need for legal tech consultants.

In addition, changes in expectations of the work that junior employees are doing is another aspect that could impact the hiring of non-traditional professionals. Despite the decrease in expected entry-level roles over the next five years predicted by more than half (51%), some survey respondents hinted at more challenging work being assigned to junior level employees.

In turn, this creates expanded options for career progression and opens up space earlier in one’s career for younger professionals to pursue the strategic capabilities of 'Professional 2.0'. As one respondent stated: "Early adopters will be able to move up career ladders faster than resisters. This may change the entire shape of the law firm model. Who wants luddites for partners when you could have a tech genius?"

Even with the predicted decline in entry-level positions and more work being done by non-credentialed professionals, a majority of survey respondents (57%) predicted an overall increase in the number of professionals in their firm or department. Indeed, the overall trend appears to be towards increased recruitment, with respondents much more likely to predict team size increasing rather than decreasing. This is even true of tax professionals, despite a common fear that there are more people leaving than joining the profession.

With the AI revolution reshaping talent, skills and recruitment, training and development needs are expected to expand — from basic training on how to make the best use of AI to the need for upskilling and reskilling of existing professionals as well as changes to how junior professionals are educated on the job and within higher education.

In fact, agreement on training and development needs over the next five years among professionals was one of the biggest areas of consensus in our survey. Indeed, just under 90% of professionals expect basic mandatory AI training for all professionals over the next five years. Interestingly, AI innovations within training and development reduce the need for humans to be involved and enables self-sufficient training, according to some survey participants.

In addition, 87% of respondents said they believe everyone will need training on new skills, with the majority (55%) saying these needs may not show up until 18 months from now. At the same time, over two-thirds of professionals said they see a change in how junior professionals will need to be trained as well as a change in the nature of university or college training in the same time frame.

ALSO READ: How C-suite leaders feel about AI & machine learning in their organisation

Lead image / Thomson Reuters

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