CXO

Why some of the world's biggest companies are using AI to manage human employees

A new report from The Wall Street Journal details how companies like Uber, Shell, and more have used artificial intelligence and machine learning to help with managerial tasks.

Artificial intelligence (AI) may end up displacing more than just entry-level work, taking over management roles at some of the biggest companies in the world, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

It all started in the gig economy, the report explained. Firms like Uber, for example, use machine learning and related technologies to manage some of the tasking assignments for the self-employed people who work through their platforms.

However, now legacy organizations like GE and Shell are also jumping on the AI bandwagon, rolling out tools to their full-time workforce as well, The Wall Street Journal reported. The tech tools are handling tasks such as "scheduling and shepherding strategic projects," the Journal reported, and researchers cited said that this could lead to the elimination of certain management roles of the displacing of other managers.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

These types of machine learning and AI software are also being leveraged in hiring and human resources as well, with Gartner predicting 25% growth in the overall human resources and workforce management software market by 2020.

So, what makes AI so well-suited to take over certain management roles? It's all in the data.

AI is good at making decisions based almost solely on available data. Humans can use data, but can also lean on their own intuition or fall into confirmation bias, the report said. AI could potentially help make more objective business decisions, but these tools and platforms could also have their own biases introduced by the humans that create them.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, told The Wall Street Journal that managers primarily work to "identify potential, build teams, assign tasks, measure performance and provide feedback"—things that he said humans are not proficient at. However, AI can use data to do perform these tasks, which could lead to a day when we no longer need human managers, Chamorro-Premuzic said.

Despite the use of AI in management, some companies utilize the technology only to eliminate administrative tasks, the report said. One also has to question the value of automating that may have been relegated to middle management—a demographic that's true value has been brought into question over the past few years and that has been shrinking in many organizations as they move toward more flat organizational structures. Of course, this further begs the question of what value can be gleaned from automating a position that may have been on the road to elimination anyway.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. According to a Wall Street Journal report, some of the world's biggest companies like Uber, GE, and Shell are using AI and machine learning to complete management tasks.
  2. AI excels at certain management tasks because of its ability to make decisions that can be more data-centric than those made by humans, but biases may still remain.
  3. The tasks that AI does well could likely be ascribed to middle management, a professional demographic that is shrinking as some companies move to a flatter organizational structure.

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Image: iStockphoto/SIphotography

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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