WINTER 2019 TODAY’S GENER AL COUNSEL
Stay Competitive While Adopting Transformative Technologies By Natalie Pierce and Garry Mathiason
obotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are quickly becoming business imperatives. We have witnessed the unstoppable march of disruptive technologies transforming the workplace and redefining how work is performed. A recent World Economic Forum Report estimated that by 2022, 90 million workers will be displaced; however, the article claims that the same technology will bring with it new roles and jobs for a net gain of nearly 60 million positions.
Natalie Pierce is a San Francisco-based Shareholder with Littler. She is a trial attorney who represents start-ups to global corporations on all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Pierce Co-Chairs Littler’s Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Automation Practice Group. NPierce@littler.com Garry Mathiason is a senior partner with Littler Mendelson. He originated and co-chairs Littler’s Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation Practice Group, providing legal advice and representation to the robotics industry, as well as employers deploying this technology in the workplace. His robotics and AI practice includes workplace safety standards, privacy requirements, robot collaboration and human displacement, anti-discrimination law, and legislative and regulatory developments. GMathiason@littler.com
Still, many employers are slow to adopt available innovations and introduce tailored retraining and AIempowered enhancement programs to prepare their workforce for the new positions that will come with advanced technology. We find this delay is often due to uncertainty, not just with the impact and need for change but also with the regulatory vacuum created as technology outpaces existing guidelines and established standards. With uncertainty comes fear. When fear leads to inaction, companies can fall behind in this 24/7, global on-demand economy. A company’s entire leadership team, including the general counsel, needs to
develop short and long term plans to accelerate the introduction of advanced technologies and overcome barriers to change. Perhaps most importantly, they must assess existing workers’ skill sets, analyze re-skilling options and identify lifelong learning programs to maximize the shift of displaced workers into many of the new positions required by the robotics and AI revolution. Although introducing advanced technologies is a business necessity, the prospect of job loss can be traumatic. Fortunately, several employers have demonstrated why automation and job loss need not be synonymous. In the six years since Amazon acquired Kiva Systems