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What employees stand to gain from AI

Written 21 March, 2019, 6 minutes to read

Businesses are increasingly encouraged to adopt AI to stay relevant and competitive. We’re sold the promise of increased efficiency, lower costs and smarter decision-making, and told that putting it off increases our risk of being left behind. But the actual human side of this change is often left out. It’s rarely highlighted that employees also stand to benefit significantly from the technology.

Companies looking to attract the best talent need to offer jobs fit for the 21st century, and AI has become default territory for achieving this. Here’s what employees stand to gain from AI and why adopting it is a solid investment for your company culture.

Automation won’t replace us (yet)

Before diving into the benefits, we need to address the elephant in the room. Sensationalist headlines make out that machines will replace everyone, and AI will exacerbate inequalities between those who controlling the technology and the rest of the populace. Even the most positive narratives around automation suggest that we will need to fundamentally rethink our purpose in life without work.

But while automation is certainly changing the nature of work, it’s misguided to think that AI will entirely replace us – at least for the foreseeable future. A recent McKinsey report suggested that only 5% of occupations are actually at threat of being fully automated, based on current technological capabilities.

How AI benefits employees

In the short and medium term at least, we should pay more serious attention to the huge benefits AI can bring us. As an employee, there’s plenty to be excited about. Here are just a few of the ways AI seeks to improve daily working life.

More creative work

Instead of focusing on replacing occupations, we should look at automation in terms of tasks. Around half of the tasks we perform in our jobs can be automated, so there’s huge potential to share our workloads with AI. The benefits? A healthier workload which lets us focus on the most rewarding tasks.

The tasks we can easily automate with AI are monotonous – things like data collection and processing, and routine admin. So, by using AI, employees can cut down on the low-value, low-enjoyment tasks in their workflows. And since humans are fundamentally better than the best AI technologies at creative, interpersonal tasks, we can focus more of our time and energy on the types of work we actually enjoy the most.

Improved accuracy

Automation can also increase the quality of our work. Adding an extra 0 into an Excel spreadsheet seems like a trivial issue, but the consequences of this mistake can prove devastating. In extreme cases, small arithmetic errors can even lead companies into bankruptcy. By automating data processing, we reduce the risk of such costly mistakes.

These errors aren’t just bad for business; they’re bad for the people behind them. Though typos rarely unravel entire businesses, they do undermine our professionalism and reliability. Grammatical mistakes and nonsensical sentences in client emails are a prime example of this, and AI is already being used to protect against them. Simply put, AI can make us look good – or, at least, limit reputational damage.

Better organization

Reliable and representative business data is essential to operational success. You can’t bill accurately, estimate profitable returns, improve efficiency or keep projects on-track without good knowledge of how your company spends its time. But documenting that time is rarely a priority and, as such, often leads to massive inaccuracies.

But AI offers a handy solution – it gives us the ability to automatically capture everything our businesses do in real-time, so we get a complete picture of how we’re performing. It doesn’t just signal an end to the unproductive business of manual time tracking; it provides the basis for making better business decisions. We can gain insight into how long we spend on different activities, where workflows can be improved, how we spend project budgets and where employee workloads need to be adjusted. With better data, we can make more effective operational change to become more efficient and self-sustaining.

Tailored training

Training is essential for businesses seeking to compete and retain their best employees. But an Accenture report highlighted that only one-fifth of surveyed employees had received on-the-job training over the past five years. Too frequently, workplace training is generic, irrelevant and irregular. A study from 24x7 Learning found that only 12% of employees apply the skills learnt from training into their jobs, despite the finding that 74% of employees want to learn new skills.

But here again, AI can help – this time in the form of personalized training. AI can consider the previous training an employee has undertaken alongside their job history, to create a tailored learning plan. Feedback systems ensure that training accounts for different employee learning styles, to make sure it actually sinks in. Training efficiency and quality improves, and employees learn relevant and useful skills.

Enhanced recognition

But it doesn’t stop there –AI can also help to tailor management techniques to boost employee motivation and engagement. Managers are becoming increasingly aware that “extrinsic” rewards, like bonuses or monetary vouchers, are not enough to improve employee happiness. Just failing to recognize a job well done or individualize feedback can completely crush employee morale.

Currently, this task puts a great pressure on managers to fully grasp the needs and performance of each individual employee. But technology can facilitate the process by monitoring them for us. AI can act as your digital assistant in recognizing employee achievement, collating relevant data and nudging you with updates on project milestones and staff birthdays. It’s invaluable for ensuring everyone feels valued and included.

Tl;dr

While implementing AI does a lot for improving business efficiency, it arguably does a whole lot more for making your company a better place to work. Employees seek to gain more fulfilling and meaningful work, and enjoy the support of better organization and a more tailored working experience. It's not quite the horror story we’ve previously been sold.

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