ADP Turns 75 – Execs are Optimistic about AI and the Future of Work
On a beautiful Manhattan day, ADP marked a significant milestone, its 75th birthday, by ringing the bell at Nasdaq. This was not just a celebration but a testament to ADP’s […]

On a beautiful Manhattan day, ADP marked a significant milestone, its 75th birthday, by ringing the bell at Nasdaq. This was not just a celebration but a testament to ADP’s enduring presence and influence in the HR technology market. Leaders from ADP then joined customers, selected members of the media, and market analysts for a panel discussion, “Insights in Action: Decoding the Future of Work,” moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s Deputy Bureau Chief, Careers and Workplace, Vanessa Fuhrmans. On the panel were ADP’s Sreeni Kutam, President of Global Product & Innovation, Virginia Magliulo, President of Employer Services International (ADP), and Nela Richardson, Chief Economist & ESG Officer and Head of the ADP Research Institute. It was an interesting conversation with key observations and insights from a high-powered panel.

Who better to contemplate the shifts in the workforce and technology than one of the companies that helped create the HR technology market? Driven by compliance, payroll was the first function automated in HR. Pay is at the core of the contract between employer and employee. It’s no surprise that payroll has been the anchoring capability as core HR and HCM platforms emerged. Meanwhile, compliance has continued to be the ultimate driver of innovation in and adoption of all HR tech categories. Compliance is in the process of flexing itself globally regarding what most of the panel discussion focused on: the uncertainties and opportunities in the workforce presented by the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. Core HR and HCM platforms will likely play a significant role in this next evolution of Work Tech.

Current Challenges

The panel’s initial discussion delved into the macro trends universally concerning the C-suite in terms of talent management. Fuhrman initiated the conversation with Richardson, ADP’s chief economist, who focused on the demographic shifts in the workforce and the employer’s evolving role in helping employees navigate macroeconomic challenges that can lead to career and personal economic challenges. Magliulo consistently emphasized the emerging focus on skills and learning, with a keen eye on the international differences by region or country. Kutam then tied the macro trends together, highlighting the global implications of the multi-cultural shifts that distributed and remote work bring to an enterprise of any size or location. This macro trend cocktail of demographic shifts, economic uncertainty, and the rapid shift to the skills-based organization has a profound global impact as companies of all sizes and everywhere compete to hire, engage, and retain employees. 

Optimistic About AI

Today, it’s only possible to discuss things impacting the workforce by spending time on the current and future impact of artificial intelligence (AI). That’s precisely where Fuhrman took the conversation next, asking the panel how they felt about a future of work increasingly impacted by AI. Kutam, who heads up innovation and product for ADP, was “overall optimistic.” He stressed that we are still in the early stages of AI, showing incremental ” personal improvements” tied to a specific user or impacting our personal lives. He pointed to a rapidly approaching future with domain-specific AI agents working for us that would evolve to “agent-to-agent” interactions that leverage data from across domains and initiate tasks and automation based on those interactions.  Kutam’s vision of agent-to-agent interactions is shared by many and has become an active market conversation; however, Kutam then introduced an even further possibility of marrying AI and robotics with the power of quantum computing. The thought of quantum computing powering workplace AI and robotics invokes a future that would truly disrupt the world of work based on the role that machines could play alongside humans.

A Chance for Growth

As the panel contemplated Kutam’s vision, they leveraged data from the latest quarterly “Today at Work” report from ADP to evaluate the workforce’s readiness for the oncoming changes. Richardson shared that while 85% of those surveyed expected AI to change their work, they were divided on how they felt about it, with about half having positive or negative outlooks toward the pending impact. She said that in regions like LATAM, where employment has grown as fast as 50% in the last decade, ADP’s data shows the workforce there is embracing AI and ushering in the changes. Magliulo said that while the global workforce is mainly ambivalent to the impending changes, the history of how we’ve adapted to technological changes and current experiences like those in LATAM should assuage the fear of change brought on by this wave of AI. Richardson summed up the conversation, stating that “treating change as a choice is a chance for growth.” 

Proceed With Caution

While ADP’s panel discussion focused on the possibilities for the future of work and the impact of AI, it underscored the rapid pace at which the tech itself is changing and the uncertainty in the workforce and across the enterprises adopting this tech. Significant issues loom for the enterprises that will navigate new security, privacy, ethics, and compliance frontiers. While we’re used to hearing about this kind of disruption and how to navigate it from emerging tech, it was refreshing to hear it from an industry leader with 75 years of history.

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