Managers & the Machine

Helen Tupper, Commercial Marketing Director at Microsoft and Chair of Judges for the IPA's CPD Gold Accreditation explains why managers across the comms industry need to prepare for an AI-led future.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), “the science and engineering of imitating, extending and augmenting human intelligence through artificial means and techniques”, is set to make a transformative impact on the way that we work. For many, AI is already infusing the workplace in products like Office 365 and the increase of chatbots, being used for everything from customer service to candidate interviews. While these changes will require us all to look at how we work and how we individually create value for organisations, they will have a significant effect on the role of managers.

Today, over 50% of a manager’s time is spent on co-ordination tasks, the very activities most likely to be impacted by AI. Taking away these activities from the day-to-day job of a manager creates an opportunity to reshape and redefine the positive impact of this role within an organisation. This role transformation will require managers to develop a new set of skills. Managers will need to be skilled at making decisions and providing direction based on ever increasing amounts of data. In place of monitoring and administration, will come design-thinking and data-interpretation. The skill of ‘judgement’ will rise in importance to complement culture building, planning and collaboration.

With line of sight of this evolution, managers can invest now in their personal development to set themselves, and their organisations, up for success. However, MBA research conducted for Henley Business School by Helen Tupper identified that managers continue to invest in the skills of the past and not focus their efforts on developing the skills of their future. Only 40% of managers identified data-interpretation as a learning priority and only 32% identified design-thinking. This learning gap was compounded by low levels of commitment to invest in skill development, with 53% of respondents stating they were not committed to developing these skills in the next 12 months. The mismatch between the manager learning need vs. learning investment is likely to be in part due to the lack of awareness perceived in the manager community about the impact of AI on their role, with 46% of managers stating they had very low awareness.

The impact of all of this will be managers ill-prepared for the future and organisations ill-equipped to take advantage of the benefits of AI, risking low levels of agility in an increasingly dynamic and competitive marketplace.

So, what can be done at an individual and organisational level to respond to this opportunity?

  1. Organisations should invest in education – share the technology roadmap and hold open discussions on how this will change the shape of work. Explore how roles can be evolved to create new sources of value. Focus the conversation on how AI will augment and extend human ingenuity and not replace it.
  2. Individuals should reassess their development efforts – make a concerted effort to invest in the new skill set of a manager. If your organisation isn’t providing these learning opportunities, proactively look outside of your business to sources like Coursera, Udemy and Skillshare.
  3. Organisations should reward and recognise future skills – as a leadership team, call out examples of individuals who are showcasing skills of judgement, design-thinking and data interpretation to drive business impact. These role models will create a cultural pull-through for the rest of your organisation

Ultimately, this is a good news story. The alignment of man and machine at work creates a more rewarding role for the individual, freed from day-to-to-day administration, and more valuable output for the organisation. Managers are key to unlocking this value opportunity and should be a priority for organisations looking to grow, improve and succeed.

Helen Tupper is the Chair of Judges for the IPA's CPD Gold Accreditation. 

Last updated 01 May 2024