The reason to invest much more in middle management in the coming AI era

As chief innovation officer of global personnel firm ManpowerGroup and a professor of business psychology, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic he’s thinking a lot about the potential uses of artificial intelligencebut also its limits.

While many of my academic colleagues ban it from their homework, I force my students to use it. But instead of telling them to write an essay on Freud, I’m telling them to write an essay on what ChatGPT gets wrong about Freud, he says. Therefore you are forced to interact with it and you are forced to develop more experience and experience is the first human differentiator.

And the second? The second is basically human skills things like empathy, self-awareness, kindness. There will be tremendous value and appreciation for anyone who can actually show a humane, human touch. Artificial intelligence will win the IQ battle, but the battle of EQ they will remain and humans will remain competitive.

We asked Chamorro-Premuzic more about how he sees the future of work taking shape and how companies and their employees can make the most of artificial intelligence and other innovations. His prescription includes investment in middle management, whom he sees as playing a vital role in transforming companies. Here is the transcript of the interview, slightly edited for length and clarity.

QZ: Are there some common business processes that you see as handy fruit for AI to step in and improve?

TMP: We still live in a clear war for talent, where the main differentiator or competitive advantage between a company and its rivals is the quality of people they have and how they are managed. And yet, many people are hired or promoted not because of their ability to actually add value, but because they fit a historical archetype that is likely outdated. You can use AI today to build your own tools to actually make internal promotions, high potential appointments, or future leadership appointments, based on people’s actual potential. The people that the systems will advise will look very different from the people who are in charge today.

What role do change management and culture play in the success of innovation?

There’s a Stanford study who estimated that for every dollar you invest in technology, you have to spend about nine on talent. And that’s all about hiring the right people, upskilling and reskilling them, and also managing the change that comes with that. [Not doing that] it’s actually one of the main explanations for the fact that despite all these technological advances, including technologies that are supposed to improve productivity, we haven’t actually taken advantage of the technology. So there are no well-documented productivity gains, especially over the past 15 years.

How to consider the role of management in innovation?

I think mid-level managers play a really key role here. And I feel sorry for them because their job is already complicated as it is. They need to understand talent and potential, the changing nature of skills, the disruption to their businesses and industries and, in recent years, the adaptation to hybrid working. And on top of that, now, they have to really be experts in AI and sell it to their employees.

There is a great opportunity to invest more in mid-level managers so that they can be agents of change and help their teams understand what these tools can actually be. It’s really important to free up your time to devote to more valuable activities.

There is often a perception gap between leaders and employees about what is useful and necessary in specific roles. How do you see this gap that comes with AI?

As an example of the power of AI, I manage innovation and most of the time we create these super advanced tools, algorithms and assessments [for staffing] where the innovation team gets very excited. Many of our leaders get excited. But then we have to put these tools in front of recruiters, and they say, No thank you. We know how to do it. Leave me alone. I didn’t ask for this.

But with Generative AI, recruiters jumped on it before we even asked them: Hey, have you thought about using it to improve your job, or how you communicate with candidates or clients, or how to do CV resume analysis? And they’re all over the place because they understand that many of the tasks they have to do in a typical day are predictable. If they become more productive by saving time on mundane tasks, they can reinvest that time by spending more time with clients and candidates and actually delivering the human factor. I think that model applies to everything.

The Uber app makes it less relevant for a cab driver to know their way around the city, but more relevant for them to have a good conversation and a clean car and drive themselves. What we’re seeing broadly isn’t so much job replacement, but our reconfiguration of the skills and talent architecture that underpins specific jobs, which requires more scaling and upskilling. And that goes back to the idea that technology is great, but you need to invest even more in people to reap those benefits.

How else can AI improve the role of HR?

A lot of the popular resistance I see against AI in HR practices is because people don’t want to have something that is factual, like an X-ray machine that can help you walk into an organization and reveal the gap between the value that people are adding. The only way to prove it is if you have AI.

There will be resistance, but my prediction would be that those organizations that understand that this can be a vehicle for undermining managerial selection and promotion will do better, because they will start hiring people who don’t fit the conventional sort of archetypes or norm, and therefore find talent in unique places. You know, the best gender diversity strategy is to focus on talent or potential rather than gender. But to do this, you cannot rely only on human experience and intuition. You need artificial intelligence.

Outside of AI, can we really innovate in the people and HR space?

The opportunity for HR is really to re-humanise work and focus on creating the skills, meaning, culture and conditions for people to do exactly what AI doesn’t want us to do, which is engage in less predictable and more creative activities. behaviors.

Apps like Amazon, Uber, Twitter, Netflix and Spotify have very specific models of who you are. And that model is very predictive in those contexts. But contrast that with understanding the view that your friends, your partner, your colleagues, and hopefully your boss have opportunities to exploit all the things that AI won’t even be able to grasp . It sounds existential, but I think it’s a very humanistic kind of goal for HR.

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