Artificial intelligence has come a long way in the past few years. What began as a concept has now become very real, with AI playing poker, telling us when to leave for the airport and letting us know what the weather will be like tomorrow.
With the exponential rate of technological change, AI will continue to affect our lives more quickly and pervasively than ever before. One area that is already being impacted is the workplace. Yet, the hype surrounding the emerging technology is sowing confusion. Here’s a clear-eyed look at what AI is and how it can be put to work today.
Develop a strategy
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit report, 75% of business executives surveyed said AI will be actively implemented in the next three years. Artificial intelligence is very popular; everyone is talking about it, everyone wants it, and very few understand how to use it in a long-term meaningful way. The first hurdle is to decide how and where to introduce it in an organization.
This can be difficult because of the fear of job loss and that the technology will replace human skills. This can be expected; with every new technology there are challenges. How do we help people who are concerned that their jobs are being replaced by AI agents and robots? Will users trust their AI agent with all their information?
Let’s be clear. Many experts disagree on what new technologies like AI will mean for the workforce in 10 or 15 years. But where they do agree is that AI will not completely cover tasks that humans do now. As with business disruption, organizations will need to invest in training, education and transparency as an essential part of implementation.
To counter this fear of potential job loss or job automation, lean toward AI technologies that benefit employees on a day-to-day basis, for example improving the flow of communication, ability to collaborate and the sharing of knowledge.
Here’s some advice for getting started
Pick a small project or “low hanging fruit.” Rather than going all in, some companies begin by picking a small project that could benefit from cognitive technology and using a smaller, less transformative toolset to attack it. One way to do this is use an existing vendor’s software with cognitive capabilities and introduce the technology to a small group of employees to test out. Ask yourself: Which key jobs in the organization will benefit by intelligent technologies? Start by implementing a system with this natural test group. Take a human approach and encourage feedback before branching out to the larger organization.
Improve meeting ergonomics. One way to ensure that we are choosing AI technologies that impact employees every day is to enable those that help take the frustration away from meetings. We all have our pet peeves when it comes to conference calls. Complex dial-ins, long passcodes, figuring out the complexities of sharing content both locally and remotely, not knowing who’s joined, who’s speaking, loud typing, heavy breathing, dogs barking. AI today can improve audio quality by eliminating background noise that commonly plagues meetings. Cross-office video chats can be improved by providing facial recognition and identification for all of the parties on the call. It’s that simple.
We are living in interesting times, where digital assistants can change the temperature of homes and Amazon anticipates our every purchase. The implications are just starting to be felt in the workplace. And although emerging technologies come with challenges, the rewards to stepping up to the plate and addressing those concerns can ultimately help improve productivity and positively impact employee experiences.
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