Let’s not mince words: artificial intelligence has arrived. The rapid integration of AI into mainstream usage is unparalleled in its speed and scope. If you had mentioned just a year ago that it would be hailed as the technology capable of instantly replacing many different jobs, you would have likely been met with laughter and scepticism.
Yet, that is precisely what we’re hearing now. Last week, Philip Jansen, the Chief Executive of BT, made an announcement that sent shockwaves through the industry. Over the next decade, BT plans to eliminate more than 55,000 jobs, with 10,000 of those directly attributed to the adoption of AI practices. Understandably, Jansen has faced significant backlash for this decision, as more and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential job losses caused by AI.
But are we focusing on the right conversation here?
Throughout history, progress has always come at the expense of jobs. In the past, those jobs were often dangerous or unpleasant. However, the current dialogue revolves around the broad range of occupations, including lawyers, accountants, screenwriters, and artists, that could potentially be impacted by the widespread adoption of AI.
In my opinion, this focus is a little misguided. The conversation we should truly be having is about leadership.
Just imagine if Jansen had announced a different approach. What if, instead of cutting 10,000 jobs due to AI adoption, BT had the capability to introduce 3-day working weeks for 10,000 colleagues, all while maintaining their current rate of pay? This revolutionary approach would have positioned Jansen as a progressive and forward-thinking leader.
The reality is that AI will undoubtedly play a significant role in the future of work. The real question is how we can seize the opportunity it presents. As a new generation enters the workforce—individuals who are highly skilled, extensively educated, and firm in their expectations of employers and the brands they engage with—we must recognize their desires.
We have long known that Gen Z and Millennials expect better working environments, inclusive cultures, flexibility, and increased investment from their employers—expectations that many of us were not afforded at the start of our careers. And why shouldn’t they have these expectations?
As this new generation of leaders rises alongside AI, current leaders must consider how to integrate the expectations of their young workforce with the efficiencies AI brings. The well-informed and purpose-driven leadership of the younger generations will achieve this, but unfortunately, they are not ascending to positions of power quickly enough to drive the conversation.
The debate surrounding AI should be exciting. We should be discussing the future of work, the substantial increase in leisure time that AI can afford us, and the subsequent improvements in well-being, relationships, and overall population health.
Instead, we are bombarded with fearmongering about how AI will obliterate jobs, leaving thousands unemployed and requiring them to undergo extensive retraining to keep up with the new technological agenda.
Why is this happening? The answer lies in a lack of trust in our current leadership.
When leaders like Jansen epitomize the prevailing approach, it’s no wonder that we are anxious. However, sooner than we realize, a new generation of leaders will step forward and seize the opportunity presented by AI.
The question remains: which of today’s leaders will be left behind?
Thought for the week:
True leaders never refer to their authority.
Tips for being an A player:
- The best leaders provide someone to believe in and something to belong to.
- Leadership is a privilege and a choice.
- Fearing change will become the quickest way to go nowhere.
- Bosses take the credit – leaders give the credit.
- When the vision is inspiring there are no obstacles.