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5 ways AI can supercharge your workplace

Written 24 June, 2019, 6 minutes to read

The modern workplace is changing. We’ve traded cubicles for dynamic space and flexible schedules, ushering in a new culture of collaboration and creativity. But it’s not just down to design – the technologies we use are rapidly redefining how we work too.

AI continues to be at the forefront of these, offering to make work more efficient, focused and ultimately more enjoyable. And it’s no longer the tool of a privileged few – AI is now more affordable and accessible than ever before. If you’re keen to keep pace, here are five immediate ways that AI can supercharge your workplace.

Organization

Intelligent workplaces benefit everyone, so it’s not surprising that the most successful forms of business AI apply to employees and managers alike. These tools often take the form of “task automatons”, which relieve you of the unproductive organizational tasks necessary for doing a job well.

There’s now an AI tool for almost every aspect of workflow management. Automatic time tracking apps like Timely completely solve the inaccuracy and pain of manually recording hours and creating timesheets. X.ai addresses the inefficiency of scheduling meetings, by checking calendar availability and communicating with all the relevant stakeholders to suggest possible times. And tools like Slack's Astrobot can reduce the time you spend on unproductive email by prioritizing unread messages and helping you quickly craft new ones.

Removing these common administrative burdens is crucial for accessing the future of work. It relieves the low-value tasks that sap our productive energy, and creates more time for focused deep work – the form of work that is most cognitively rewarding and profitable. It’s clearly good for business, but it’s also key to employee satisfaction; we all want to spend more time on work that is actually useful and meaningful.

Recruitment

No company is immune from the difficulties of recruitment. It’s fiddly, long-winded and often arbitrary; and a recent global survey of over 40,000 businesses found that 45% of employers can’t hire the skills that they need.

But it’s often not a lack of applications that prevents them from hiring the right staff. In 2016, Goldman Sachs received a quarter of a million applications from students and graduates. Sifting through all these applications would take a team of five recruiters, working 12 hours a day, one year to complete.

It’s prohibitively inefficient, which is exactly where AI can help. AI offers increasingly more sophisticated sifting technologies for dealing with mass data. Take the example of Skeeled, a programme developed to compress applicant information into an easily readable format. Not only does it processes information effortlessly; it can rank and compare candidates based on predefined metrics.

While sifting AI is undoubtedly useful, the majority of people who accepted jobs in the US in 2018 weren’t actually looking for them. Instead, companies often have to actively seek out the right talent for vacancies present. But AI can assist with this too through searching online databases to identify candidates who fit the advertisement.

AI programmes can be used to pre-emptively contact potential candidates who seem likely to begin searching for a job in the near future, based on indicators such as changing a LinkedIn profile picture. It gives human resources staff the opportunity to spend more time assessing potentially applicable candidates, rather than wasting time evaluating those who don’t fit the vacancy.

Training

Once you’ve secured the right person for a role, you need to ensure they’re properly trained to actually do their work. But training is a common stumbling block for many companies. Employee surveys often reveal learning and development to be inadequate, with 67% of US employees alone believing that they are in need of further training.

But we really need to start taking this seriously. Failure to provide adequate training doesn’t just limit how well someone can perform in their role; it leads to disillusionment and low morale, and people ultimately leave. The impact is much more severe than most employers realize – two out of three workers in the UK, for example, have changed jobs due to a lack of learning and development.

Thankfully, AI can help mitigate the problems caused by absent or irrelevant learning and development programmes. Rather than pushing the same generic e-learning courses, with AI companies can individualize training programmes based on preferences, job histories and career goals.

Valuing the individualism of your employees is crucial for meeting the rising demands of “employee experience”, and tailored training is a great place to start. AI-powered training empowers workers to recognize and pursue relevant skills which will actually further their careers – which in turn breeds happier, more productive employees.

Management

Poor management is the biggest driver of workplace discontent in the UK, with 49% of people citing management as the main reason for seeking a new job. It has a negative knock-on effect too, since replacing staff is a costly process. But how exactly do you get better at it?

While managing people is a complex art, understanding employee needs and recognizing achievement are two basics. They have a huge impact on employee happiness, which countless studies remind us is central to achieving higher levels of productivity. But paying the right amount of attention to staff can be difficult when you’re already wearing a number of different hats.

Again, AI can lend an enormous helping hand – largely in the form of a digital assistant to help managers understand their staff. The tool Kangogift, for example, alerts managers to employee achievement, nudging them to provide personalized congratulations and feedback.

But AI’s potential for bettering management extends beyond employee recognition. IBM has developed a programme that can predict when staff are planning to leave their jobs, with 95% accuracy. It offers managers a chance to proactively intervene and address staff dissatisfaction, and resolve larger problems arising from staff feedback.

Through gaining a deeper understanding of employee needs and boosting workplace recognition, businesses are left better equipped to improve workplace happiness and staff retention.

Analysis

While we might consider the above rather “simple” applications of AI, its potential extends to far more complex ones. AI has been revolutionary in improving the types of insights that can only be gained through multi-layered analytics.

It doesn’t fundamentally change the type of questions that we are asking, exactly. Instead, two-thirds of the opportunities offered by AI are in increasing the performance of existing analytics cases. Rather than reinventing the wheel, so far it has helped us optimize the processes we already have in place.

Take retail as an example. Rather than doing something completely revolutionary, AI merely enhances our ability to understand consumers preferences based on behavioral patterns. These types of analytics provide greater depth and accuracy, improving the information that can be used in decision making.

But while it’s important to highlight that AI is extremely good at recognizing these patterns, it will not replace the human touch that is needed to understand and analyze why these trends are happening. AI can certainly supercharge the workplace, but it isn’t a substitute for the human talent forming the heart of any successful business.

Want to build a more intelligent workplace? Start by automating these low-value everyday tasks.

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