The implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning has brought an abundance of change to the manufacturing and engineering world. From alterations in employment to enhanced productivity, digital transformation is causing these industries to adapt both internally and externally. This vast change has led to a development in the leadership styles of mostly affecting senior management. They are acknowledging their need to upskill in order to be ready to lead the next generation of workers.
It’s important to note that employers are responsible for upskilling their own workforce. The success of AI within the workplace is directly linked to the investment in people and their training to manage it. Without that, change will be harder to implement.
It’s no surprise that digital skills within management will need updating to keep up with rapid technological advancement. In order for AI to be effective within manufacturing and engineering, employers will need to empower their senior staff to embrace changes. AI shouldn’t be seen as a threat, so ensuring that they trust and do not fear the technology is important.
While they may not become software experts, senior managers need to have at least a basic knowledge of new technologies. After all, they may be in charge of training new recruits and showing their team how best to use it.
On top of this, senior management will need to be educated in more than just the basics when it comes to technology and what it is capable of. They will need to be aware of what additional products or programmes they can implement to streamline processes where the more menial, manual jobs can be automated. It’s clear that education will be paramount to stay on top of these innovations.
While automated technologies can take on administrative and bottom-line tasks, they are yet to learn empathy and cultural understanding. Senior management will need to be trained to effectively communicate with professionals from more digital sectors where, at the moment, they may not be so familiar with the linguistics attached the technology. Since the introduction of technologies will bring new departments to engineering and manufacturing, it will be crucial that senior management can unravel certain lexicons that will be used between these different departments.
As the skills gap closes, the talent pool broadens, and every industry will benefit from having a more diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion training will help prepare senior management to lead their future workforce: A workforce that will also be attracting new recruits with different cultural backgrounds, as well as with experience in different sectors such as technology or software development.
AI is set to increase productivity within the future workforce, as menial jobs are automated – leaving room for the higher skilled roles. This will enable employees to be more creative when developing solutions, plans and when driving results. It will benefit senior management to be one step ahead of this creativity. Management’s role is to realistically envision if decisions, ideas and routes will work for their business. The goal is not to stifle creativity, rather nurture it and lead it in the right direction.
On the other side of this, there is space for digitally minded and creative employees to work collaboratively, particularly when it comes to problem solving. A subtle alteration in leadership style will allow managers to apply the appropriate approach to the individual or team they are working with. ‘Agile management’ will be a definite thing of the future.
Traditional top-down structures will soon cease to exist. What the future workforce will see is management working alongside their juniors and other team members collaboratively. AI and other automated technologies will prompt managers to take up the role of listeners, rather than primarily dictating tasks. To complement this, a trend that will likely sweep most corporate structures is that of reverse mentorship. This will be used not only to improve the skills of the next generation, but it will also diversify more senior workers skillsets. The multiple generations of the workforce have a lot to learn from each other.
The misconception of robots stealing all of our jobs is something from a Sci-Fi film. The reality is that management, typically a people-focused role, will develop even further as a result. While there will be an initial cost impact in relation to further training or upskilling of staff, the long-term gains should far outweigh these costs – with automation likely creating more jobs than it loses. Other than technical skills, it will be compassion and empathy that are highly sought after. It will be this kind of mindset that will lead a more successful workforce – the workforce of the future.
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