While the effect of artificial intelligence (AI) has yet to be fully realized in the corporate world, it’s clear that cognitive machines are steadily creeping into consumers’ lives. Alexa, Google Home and Siri are becoming more commonplace each year, smart devices track our physical behavior or sleep patterns and marketing engines analyze our digital data to serve up personalized product and service advertisements.
Businesses meanwhile are by no means standing still and AI has already entered the workplace for customer service, knowledge sharing, process improvement and IT service desk automation. But as the prevalence of AI increases in the workplace, there has been all kinds of predictions about how digital employees will ultimately replace humans. Whether you personally believe that this technology has no place in the workforce or whether you are willing to embrace a Blade-Runner-style future — where undetectable human-like androids walk among us — you will eventually be pulled into the debate. The most pressing question for employees is whether a robot is going to steal their jobs.
Organizations investing in digital labor tools must address employee concerns about job stability sooner rather than later. To appease anxiety, businesses should do whatever they can to prioritize employee engagement and ensure that staff remain driven and productive. They need to provide clear communication around new systems and the benefits of AI. Employees should be prepared to adapt and work together with this new technology.
IPsoft recommends four best practices for minimizing employee disruption as businesses implement new solutions:
Augment existing employee processes and tasks to make work more engaging
Today’s AI solutions are being introduced in the workplace to aid staff rather than to replace them. Businesses should provide visibility into how employees will benefit from the reduction of repetitive and unrewarding tasks. Employees will be more motivated if they realize their importance and spend more time handling complex queries that require human, emotional connections.
AI can empower them by: speeding up knowledge search, linking applications, automating processes, finding pertinent data from daily or weekly reporting, or providing insights into issues and predicting challenges before they occur. More time can be spent on managing staff, strategy, leadership and building connections with customers and peers.
Use AI to add value where skills or time are limited
AI can add value in several areas, starting with providing scalable 24/7 availability for customer service and support. Intelligent virtual agents can be used to provide customer support during periods of high call or inquiry volumes, or during off hours on weekends or late nights. AI can also step in during disaster recovery scenarios when staff cannot make it to offices or systems are down. Simply put, AI can provide critical customer service and support when humans aren’t available to do so.
In healthcare, primary care workforce shortages are a growing issue for many providers and they need to find new, innovative and scalable ways to service customers and reduce employee burnout. The potential role of AI in supplementing and reducing pressure on healthcare staff is described in David Champeaux’s blog, Digital & Human Health Care – ‘And’ not ‘Or’. For example, virtual primary care agents can be designed to handle frequent, routine interactions such as requests for appointments or information queries about test results or immunizations.
Another potential AI use case is fraud detection. A large gaming company that implemented IPsoft’s Amelia for customer service found that Amelia was much better at detecting scams when impostors attempt to access the accounts of genuine players. This reduced the burden on agents who feel supported by Amelia and are more confident to handle questions once players have been authenticated.
Gradually introduce new tools and technologies
Businesses should test AI carefully and set realistic expectations for AI as discussed by IPsoft’s Benjamin Jacob in his post Setting the Proper AI Expectations. AI tools are becoming more accurate with improved machine learning capabilities, but they are still evolving. Introducing any new technology into the workplace will require some trial and error and working directly with employees to assess the success of the transformation. Businesses should make internal changes visible to staff, address concerns quickly and be willing to admit mistakes or switch direction when necessary. In other words, organizations should treat AI implementations as a change in corporate culture, just as they did when migrating from highly customized IT to standardized cloud systems, or when introducing new HR procedures.
Address the skills gap early with training
Automation of jobs is inevitable, with or without AI, and it will continue as long as technology improves and we have the resources for further development. This includes humans to support, train and influence AI systems. Thereby, businesses should not only be planning for AI investments but they should look to develop individuals for new jobs that will be created. We will increasingly need humans to test AI, design optimal user experiences, evaluate regulations and safety requirements, and engineer the solutions of the future.
As described by Allan Anderson in his post about IPsoft’s newest platform 1Desk, The Digital Labor Studio (DLS) converges people, process, and technology into a contemporary Digital Workforce. Cognitive and automation engineers, data scientists and integration specialists work alongside each other to develop a modern, design-thinking approach to developing business processes. Many of the skills exist in-house and businesses can develop in-house staff that already have organizational knowledge and industry experience that is indispensable when adapting different workflows. Businesses will benefit from early staff education and retraining as a digital workforce expands.
When it comes to AI, neither businesses or employees should fear the future. The benefits of embarking on an AI journey far outweigh the potential bumps in the road, from productivity gains to improved customer experiences. However, the responsibility lies with businesses to engage and motivate employees, preparing them early for AI’s potential impact.