As we approach Labor Day, and continue to emerge from the pandemic restrictions, return to work (and what that might mean in terms of the design of the work week and workplace) is on the minds of most American workers and employers.  The pandemic increasingly brought to light how advancements in technologies, communication systems, cloud-based services and AI-based tools could assist business operations and impact the employment relationship.  It also accelerated the need for coordinated strategies from policymakers, educators, and industry leaders to educate and prepare workers for the future workforce, upskill the current workforce to work in digitally transformed environments, and to address transitions of workers from the workplace.  Indeed, among the goals of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (NAIIA), which seeks to position the U.S. as a global leader in the development and adoption of trustworthy AI as integral to national strategy and security, are provisions to educate, train and prepare an AI-skilled workforce to create, use and interact with AI systems, to address technological displacement of workers, and for the integration of AI throughout the economy and society.  A study by the National Science Foundation and the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine regarding the current and future impact of AI on the U.S. workforce is scheduled to be available publicly by January 1, 2023, which is intended to result in recommendations regarding the challenges and opportunities presented by these issues.

There will be increasing challenges as workplaces transform.  Employers play an important role in shaping this transition because the manner in which workers are employed and compensated has implications for the construct of the labor force and social safety net.  At a minimum, employers should ask themselves the following questions, and incorporate these considerations into their future workplace plans:

  • What is the role of human capital vs. AI in our workplace? Should our workers work along-side AI based-tools and machines, work independently from them, or will their positions be replaced requiring education for new positions?
  • How can we attract, motivate and retain our human capital in various working arrangements, and in their current vs. new positions?  What can we do to increase their health and well-being?  What programs will incentivize them to work diligently in remote situations?
  • How do we build trust in hybrid environments?  How can we prepare our workers for technology-based and data-driven environments?  
  • Are we in compliance with applicable employment laws that impact our use of AI in the workplace?
  • What training and/or educational assistance can we provide to our workers?
  • What should we consider offering displaced workers in a workplace transition policy or separation package?

For more insights on this topic, please see:

Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace and the Future of Employer-Provided Employee Benefits (New York University’s Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation 2021):

EEOC Issues Guidance Addressing How the Use of Artificial Intelligence in Employment Decisions Could Violate the ADA:

The NLRB’s Busy July – A Harbinger of Future Coordinated Federal Action Between the NLRB, FTC, and DOJ: