AI vital to companies if used properly, say execs
MANILA, Philippines — With the fast-spreading use of artificial intelligence (AI), employers say the new technology, if utilized properly, could help increase efficiency in the workplace and not necessarily drive out human employees.
In a panel of the Philippines’ Best Employers 2024 forum hosted by the Inquirer, Yu Ming Chin, founder and executive director of Viventis Search Asia, said the notion that AI would lead to job loss or disappearance was misleading because “we need to see [it as] job evolution.”
“Our jobs have changed radically as we see in the past year. I think there will be a significantly higher skill in what we do today [because] the way we use automated tools enables us to function more effectively,” Chin said.
For Albert Custodio, senior vice president and head of HR at Converge ICT, roles will indeed change with the introduction of AI, but this will not lead to the disappearance of jobs for people.
“I don’t think it’s machines replacing humans but it’s humans working with the machines in a very efficient manner,” he said.
“Maybe the size of the organizations will not grow as much in terms of numbers because of the efficiency that is put in place. It’s all about retooling and recalibration of skill sets and being able to provide that competent shift given the changes in the organization under this context of automation,” he explained further.
‘Narrow down the problem’
At Converge ICT, Custodio said, AI began to be used for “network intelligence and automation platform” (NIAP) to improve services for clients.
Since the command center at Converge is alerted to internet connection problems literally by the thousands, instead of tapping a thousand engineers to fix the connection, NIAP enables the compression of data signals, reducing them to a manageable number that one engineer can look into.
“This means that because of the information that we feed into the system, based on years of experience of what troubles are, it is able to narrow down the problem from the root cause,” Custodio said, adding that the integration of AI led to a 50-percent reduction of such troubleshooting.
Explaining the use of AI at Viventis, Chin said: “Today we have a tool that will help you make the profile for a role and you can synthesize what is most suitable based on organization. We can see it’s moving very fast and we’re trying to embrace as much as we can, but there’s also an important balance that we also emphasize—constantly skilling people.”
The challenge, he said, is to “embrace and extend” the use of AI in the organization and even in education, as he cited the case of Singapore which has a national program that provides incentives for citizens to take up any learning program.
Under that program, the Singaporean government provides reimbursement of up to SG$500 per year for approved retraining courses to address the skill gaps in the workforce.
Francis Cruz of Aboitiz Power told the panel discussion that he witnessed how the use of AI transformed the roles and responsibilities in their organizations.
“They would always say that people are actually scared that they might lose their jobs because of AI. Actually, what they can be scared of is the ability to reskill and upskill in terms of their competency, not actually using AI,” he said.
Critical human skills
Cruz asked the panelists what are the critical skills that the workforce needs.
Chin said mastering the basics like communication and numerical proficiency was important, along with critical thinking and interpersonal skills.
Future-proofing the workforce, Custodio said, is not just the responsibility of the employees but also of management and the company as a whole.
He also emphasized the importance of being open to change and management-enabled development, wherein leaders take proactive steps to upskill their employees.
“I remember during my Ericsson days when we moved from fixed lines to mobile, mobile [was] really something new. Everybody went through a computer-based learning program in understanding how mobile phones work,” Custodio said.
He added that company-enabled initiatives must be in place, as organizations would need to invest in learning management systems wherein employees could take courses anytime and anywhere they would need them.
Even while AI offers a wide range of opportunities that businesses could take advantage of, Custodio said the technology could never take the place of such human attributes as “gut feel” and character.
For Chin, the big question in the use of AI is the ethical aspect and governance of the platform. He cited the term “data hallucination,” wherein a large language model or tool like ChatGPT could generate false information because of the wrong info fed onto it.
“So mankind needs to be a lot smarter and they have to be extremely smart,” he said.