Is Smart Technology Undermining the Role of the Human Worker?

Over the course of the past few months, we’ve given blog space to an increasingly pervasive question: as innovations in smart technology reshape the organization and competitive marketplace, how is the role of the human worker changing? Secondarily, what new skills do leaders need to hire for and nurture to address immediate challenges and opportunities, and build a resilient, future-focused organization?


Four blog posts look at this question from a variety of vantage points, yet all arrive at the same conclusion. Read the synopsis of each hypothesis below, and use the link to delve deeper. These are some of our most read and shared blogs of the past year. It tells us that you, your colleagues, and your competitors are concerned with this balancing act.

The ‘wow’ factor of AI and machine learning is high,
but the value of cognitive technologies can never truly outpace human capabilities.


Regardless of all machine learning can help us to do, the real ‘smarts’ is not the AI. It is human judgment. By engaging broader, deeper information outputs produced by smart technologies, our human workforce has a new set of incredibly powerful ways to question, reason, and act. Human talent can be reallocated elsewhere in the value chain or redirected into a new value chain that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. For that to happen, leaders must be involved in the decisions to invest in and adopt technologies based on how those resources will enable their people to generate new information and enhance performance.


In organizations where this has been done well, the workforce remains fully engaged in a talent loop where technology-enabled resources promote growth and efficiencies. The result is a perpetual cycle of improvement and value for the organization, its workforce, and its customer base.

Read More:  AI is Worthless in the Absence of Human Judgment




For all the things that technology can do for us, it cannot replicate the value of human instinct and empathy that are so vital to the health of our workforce, organizations, and global marketplace.


The purpose of innovation is to solve a problem or respond to an opportunity to fill in a gap. Technologies like AI, cognitive learning, and technology dashboards can speed that process, but in and of itself, technology is not a panacea for societal, organizational, or human needs. While a technology-driven solution can do things like parse information faster than the human brain or erase friction in the data-to-decisions process, the capabilities are insufficient without a human counterpart.


Instinct is the counterpart to intelligence. The biological value of the human is conversational, ideological, and emotional. Technology (on its own) continues to miss the mark on such powerful, fluid contributions. The kind of productivity that makes a lasting impact requires emotional response, desires, and insights from the people for whom our innovations are created.

Read More:  The Risk of Neglecting Human Value in the Innovation Solution





The capacity for success in a massively shifting work environment may be as simple as making sure that your human workforce feels personally connected to the group.


The workforce shows every indication of continuing to evolve at an accelerated – and desynchronized – pace. Specifically, now commonplace enablement mechanisms like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, distributed and teleworking employees have reduced the size of the population working inside the traditional office environment. Without a regular community of workers in the office environment, leaders must find new ways to espouse a beneficial purpose among employees and customers.


More than ever, attracting, training, and retaining a capable workforce is critical to winning market share and building lasting value for all stakeholders. One way to accomplish this important task is by positioning organizational leaders to promote and model purpose, values, and objectives their teams can use as guideposts in the midst of an environment marked by dynamic change. Another way to nurture a healthy, engaged workforce is to create open workspaces that engender organic and cross-functional work. And finally, encourage mentorship relationships that can thrive independent of physical presence. Leaders must keep in mind that success always has  – and will continue to – find its source in the strength and productivity of human-to-human (H2H) relationships.

Read More:  Human-to-Human Engagement Will Win in the Technology Age





Leaders at the helm of the C-suite need people. And they know it.


Even with so much talk of the capacity and presence of AI and other machine learning resources in the workforce, CEOs are putting a premium on good people. Currently, the demand for sufficiently trained workers is outpacing need – and the requirements are growing more intensive as organizations seek the workforce they need to excel today and in the future.


In such an environment, successful leadership requires the ability first to identify what is required to thrive today and in the future, and then to employ, train, and empower a workforce to share in the pursuit. For this workforce, the hallmark of great leadership is the ability to identify critical immediate and future needs, and to match the right technological and human resources to those needs.

Read More:  The Most Important Resource for C-Level leaders is Human



It’s time to remember that no matter how fast or far technology advances, people will remain vital sources of necessary insight and emotional intelligence. We invite you to weigh in with how the balancing act is impacting your organization.




About the Authors

Dave Baber

Dave Baber is Managing Director and leads Toffler Associates DoD and Resilience practice areas. He advises executives across commercial and government sectors on strategic initiatives that build and protect an organization's value. He previously worked at Deloitte Consulting, as a portfolio and risk management consultant. In addition to his role in Toffler Associates, he is currently in the Army National Guard with more than 20 years serving as an Engineer Officer in roles from Platoon to Division, and functional roles in Facilities Management and Information Operations. Dave is also an active member of the National Guard Bureau's Innovation Team (NGIT) advising the Chief, National Guard and his leadership team on how to address challenges facing the National Guard.  Dave earned a Bachelors of Science from Virginia Military Institute.

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