In the days of artificial intelligence, other rapid technology progressions, and market turmoil amid the global pandemic, the future of work often feels more unknown than ever. But according to a white paper released today (May 4), MBA students and recent graduates still feel generally optimistic about the future of work.
The paper, published and distributed by the Association of MBAs and the Busines Graduates Association, asked more than 100 current and graduated MBAs about the impact of AI, inclusivity in the workplace, and the role that management and business can plan in the betterment of society. Among all areas, the MBAs that responded had positive outlooks.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE COULD BE A THREAT OR AN OPPORTUNITY, DEPENDING ON THE INDUSTRY, MBAs SAY
Asked whether they saw AI as a threat to their careers, many MBAs responded that it presented more of an opportunity.
“Paradigm-shifting innovations create opportunities to increase efficiencies and quality,” one respondent said. “At the macro level this means more people living healthier for longer. It’s our role as business leaders to build on the technological advancements to apply them to real lives to drive value in society. When the paradigm shifts, we have to lose the current types of careers and innovate new careers to gain all of the advantages of technologies.”
AI is already impacting many industries and will continue to infiltrate more. And the type of industry might lead to AI becoming a threat or opportunity.
“I think this question very much depends on the industry. For example, coming from a retail banking background, I saw AI taking over several jobs,” one survey respondent said. “When I worked as a teller, there was AI being looked at for online banking and ATM machines. As an account manager, one of the most common questions I was asked was how things could be done by a roboadvisor if I was not available. Second to the roboadvisor, there were questions around completing loan applications online and having AI approve or decline clients. There is a lot of opportunity for AI to make the lives of clients easier, but most clients still want a human touch. I heard very frequently that some clients did not want use to electronic channels for a fear I would lose my job. Therefore, I believe AI will change how we work, but not necessarily take over everything.”
Another respondent agreed AI could become a threat, particularly for the financial sector.
“From my personal experience in banking and finance, the sector is increasingly under the imminent threat of AI takeover,” that respondent said. “This can be seen by the implementation of MARCUS in recent years by Goldman Sachs which is an online wealth management tool catered towards managing the financial resources of medium-high net worth investors. This could potentially wipe out the jobs of millions of existing and potential wealth managers if its efficiency exceeds that of the average wealth manager. The middle ground here would be to seek innovation or AI which can be merged into the daily lives of a wealth manager to allow for human & technology to participate together to come up with the best possible wealth solution for the end-client.”
On the other side, however, some positions and industries could benefit from the help of AI.
“My background is in recruitment and AI has had a positive impact on this industry,” one respondent said. “It has saved time when registering candidates and doing compliance/passport checks. AI should help companies become more efficient and more effective rather than being viewed as a threat. If AI can match people to jobs more easily, make searches more effective and save everybody time then it will add significant value to the industry and to talent management.”
SHOULD TERMS LIKE ‘FEMALE’ & ‘BAME’ CONTINUE TO BE USED?
Another topic that had a wide range of opinions revolved around inclusivity in business. Survey respondents were asked how much people should keep talking about “female leadership” or “BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) leadership” versus just using the term “leadership.” Not surprisingly, the responses ran the gamut of the spectrum.
“There is still a long way to go in the fight for equality in the workplace,” one respondent said. “Many countries and company cultures have not even changed mindset due to the lack of representation of female and BAME in leadership. Therefore, we still need to highlight the disproportionate efforts and talents behind people reaching positions of leadership that fit those categories. I believe it is too early to start talking simply about ‘leadership’ and could have the adverse effect of normalising a situation which is still largely uneven.”
Again, however, others felt like it is the time to start talking just about leadership and not separating out “female” or “BAME” leadership.
“I completely agree with just starting to talk about leadership,” one respondent said. “In a world where we are striving for inclusivity, I feel it is important to treat everyone equally and that starts by not segregating certain groups based on their background and gender.”
Said another: “In my opinion, we should forget about gender and ethnicity and focus on individuals who exhibit the necessary traits of a leader, that’s what the world needs now, not to be debating over whether females make better leaders or whether the BAME community needs attention. Being a female from the BAME community, I have had my share of issues as I’ve been told that I have leadership skills and that my personality is a bit too strong at times, so I do not dispel the fact that females and BAME community experience issues but my opinion is, focus on developing people with the leadership skillset regardless of race or gender.”
MOST AGREE BUSINESS SHOULD INCREASE TRANSPARENCY TO EARN PUBLIC TRUST
The one thing most respondents agreed on was the role of transparency in earning the trust of the public. Survey respondents were asked what needs to change in business for society to begin trusting it more in making a positive difference in the world.
“Economic and technological landscapes will continue to change. Pillars of trust – ideally a web of trust – is so important,” one respondent said. “Have more collaborative approaches, transparency, and honesty at the heart of what we do. Scalable innovations are essential for success and trust – real trust – will be vital, including for the symbiotic relationship between humans and advanced technology. Companies that drive respectful innovation solutions forward will outlive those that don’t. Companies that prioritise business AND people processes will win over those that don’t. Business is a human endeavour after all. Products and markets change – values are timeless.”
Said another: “Critical information about a business’ operations needs to be accessible and transparently distributed, including investment portfolios, initiatives in less developed economies and the motivations behind specific business decisions. Building a strong rapport with suppliers and customers is always key and co-creating value with stakeholders and taking them along on the journey builds trust in society.”