Milken Global Institute: A new course for the future of work

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Airtable CFO Ambereen Toubassy took the stage at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference to discuss how emerging technologies like AI are inspiring leaders to reimagine the future of work

Airtable CFO Ambereen Toubassy took the stage at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference to discuss how emerging technologies like AI are inspiring leaders to reimagine the future of work

Every year the Milken Institute holds a Global Conference that convenes thought leaders with expertise in finance, healthcare, business, technology, government and philanthropy from around the world. These leaders share insights and make crucial connections to drive progress in their respective industries. Airtable’s CFO Ambereen Toubassy  joined Milken as a panelist for the second year in a row. 

The panel covered how leaders can inspire teams to do their best work while maximizing the output of their businesses. Ambereen addressed opportunities for software tool consolidation in the current economic climate and provided real-time examples of how to integrate AI into current workflows. She’s bullish on the new unimagined job opportunities AI will provide and thinks this profound technology will create more interesting work for those who leverage it skillfully rather than threaten employment. 

You can listen to the full panel on the Milken Global Institute’s event page and see her high level takeaways below. 

How AI will impact the future of work

“We’re really excited about AI and we think AI fundamentally changes what people do and how they do it. It should help remove routine repetitive tasks and help employees focus more on critical thinking and creative thinking. We're excited about helping our customers help their employees really deploy and take advantage of AI.”

I am optimistic about the fact that people will do more interesting work over time thanks to AI, as opposed to not having work. Every time a new technology emerges it displaces some jobs and new ones emerge. According to the National Bureau of Economics, 60% of todays’ jobs didn’t exist in 1940. Social media influencers, digital marketers, and software developers didn’t exist. There will be some substitution of work by AI but mostly I think AI complements people’s work.” 

How Airtable is integrating AI into workflows today 

“We’ve been internally dog-fooding our own AI in Airtable and have seen incredible use cases come up that we’re really excited about. For example, we had someone in HR working on descriptions for a career framework. Most companies have career ladder descriptions of some kind. If level 0 is a novice, then level one encompasses level zero’s skillset plus some specialized skills and so on. This employee took a complete career framework he had written for one function and then prompted the AI to generate a new description for different functions within the organization. The AI was able to write a description for him for all levels and all functions in just 20 minutes; this would have taken him weeks.”

“This is just one amazing example of how AI can help people do their jobs faster. If our HR team members can spend more time training our employees in person instead of recreating redundant literature, that's more efficient for the company, more happiness for our employees and better retention for the company because our employees are spending time on higher value skills.”

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Tool consolidation presents a real opportunity for cost savings today 

“Tool proliferation took off over the last three years because of hybrid work. For good reason leaders would lean into anything that they thought would make their teams more productive when they were sent to work from home. Now the average person spends 2.5 hours a day looking for information to figure out which tool to go to. As we focus on cost savings, now is the time to consider tool consolidation. To make work more productive and efficient and know where to go to do your work we need to have far fewer platforms.” 

Returning to the office must continue to be flexible and connected

“At Airtable we encourage people to come into the office so they have connections for whiteboarding, brainstorming and strategy work. But then we have software engineers who spend a lot of time heads down coding. We don't ask them to come in. Focus time from home means people don’t have to commute. You need to give people flexibility and trust that they will be mature enough to know when and how to complete their work, but also give them places to meet and connect.”

Redefining “Future of Work”

“Over the last few years when people talk about the future of work they tend to mean ‘where’ people work. But really, we should spend more time thinking about ‘how’ people do their work and ‘what’ they are working on. That’s what we’re most excited about.”

“The right way to value work is impact and outcomes. As long as people are having impact and outcomes, careers progress.”

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