The Team
February 8, 2004

AI will eliminate many entry-level roles. That could spell trouble for leadership diversity if companies don’t prepare

Integrating AI into the workplace can be a goldmine for productivity and operational efficiency. The technology is known to increase analytical accuracy, automate routine tasks, and simply help reduce the overall burden of daily operations. 

Along with these positives, AI tools have also brought in employment uncertainties and a fear of displacement in the workplace. Experts believe that since the technology can take over routine tasks, it could eliminate many entry-level roles and hurt diversity in organisations.

Diversity in companies

Organisations employ people from different walks of life. They can experience greater productivity when there’s a mix of diverse cultures, nationalities, genders, and generations in the workplace. Diversity in companies not only promotes societal inclusivity and greater employment opportunities but also leads to business benefits; companies have reported a nine per cent growth in their EBITDA margins.

With this, organisations are actively focusing on inclusivity and ethnic representation in their workforce. In fact, workforce diversity also increases trust in companies. Katherine Conway, head of Diversity and Inclusion and Community Affairs for Aon observes: “Clients want to see teams that reflect the global workforce, and they want the unique and creative ideas that come from a diversity of thought."

Most companies, especially in the USA, work in an apprenticeship model that exposes new talent to the corporate world with entry-level roles that include mundane, routine tasks. These are also the very tasks that AI models are built to perform. These technologies are expected to study vast data sets, analyze patterns, and automate routine tasks with accuracy. Executives estimate that their organisation can replace 56 per cent of entry-level workers within the next five years. 

Now, the big question is: "how and why does all this affect diversity?" The answer lies in the overlap between entry-level roles and ethnic representation in most companies. A majority of international talent, people of colour, and other under-represented, diverse communities are at the entry-level career stages, where the barrier to entry is much lower. 

We’ve also seen greater instances of international and multicultural college graduates entering the workforce. This entry-level ethnic representation then ripples upwards, leading to diversity and inclusivity in leadership positions. However, if AI happens to block entry-level positions, we’ve got reason to believe that the situation could end up affecting the overall diversity levels throughout companies. 

But it’s not all going downhill. Experts also believe that AI might also lead to more value-adding and innovative job roles for the new talent. 

In support of this view, Renée McGowan, CEO of Marsh McLennan India, Middle East, and Africa said: “No doubt about it, AI will eliminate mundane routine-type tasks. But it will also create new jobs and force employers to think smartly and innovatively about their reskilling efforts and how they’re maximizing junior employees as a human capital resource."

How companies can prepare

While there’s a relief that AI could create new jobs, it doesn’t remove the fact that entry-level knowledge and junior roles are at risk. In this situation, companies need to support junior and early career talent, while taking targeted initiatives to create a continuous learning environment. 

Internally, companies can encourage open dialogue and formulate a shared vision toward AI that strikes a balance between human inputs and technological advancement. For their junior hires, companies can also engage in targeted reskilling and upskilling activities to encourage professional growth and maintain the relevance of entry-level roles. 

McGowan noted that employers will need to shape and reskill entry-level talent to become an asset for the company. She believes that the AI shift will make employers think of ways to expose junior talent to new skills required for the company’s technical development.  

“It’s about redeployment and thinking about work differently”, she added.

A focus on inclusive reskilling and upskilling activities, coupled with open dialogue can help companies embrace the AI revolution while maintaining the entry-level roles and diversity in their workforce. With this strategic adaptation, companies and workers will be able to access the complete operational benefits of AI in the workplace, without the fear of displacement.