Some companies are automating without cutting jobs; others are retraining their entire workforces. Stuart Buckman looks at emerging best practice

Many firms say staff are their greatest asset.  But will this hold in the brave new world of AI?

In its recent The Future of Sustainable Business report, the NGO BSR cited AI and automation as key drivers of disruptive change in the workplace in the future, and said companies should take measures now to mitigate their impact.

Susan Winterberg, BSR’s associate director for inclusive economy, said: “The main one is early notification.  A lot of the challenges and problems that people face when they are laid off from work have to do with having a period of unemployment because savings levels are so low.”

Help from companies to ease disruption in the workplace will be crucial, she said. “Companies are in the driver’s seat on controlling that, especially in countries where there isn’t a lot of regulation around layoffs and dismissals, like in the United States.”

But handling even these known unknowns is fraught, Winterberg says. “This is not an easy topic for a lot of companies to talk about. They may be doing things but because the topic itself is so sensitive sometimes you learn about it after the fact.”

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