AI will improve employee productivity

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According to Gartner, Virtual Personal Assistants and chatbots will be used by 70% of organisations within the next two years.  Whether that’s incorporating AI-enabled response mechanisms to streamline incoming queries, to allow 24/7 customer service or to reach out to new customers with ‘chatvertising’, there’s little doubt that AI will be impossible to avoid.  

With speech-recognition abilities, both VPAs and chatbots ‘listen to’ and observe behaviours, build and maintain data models and predict and recommend actions.  Although chatbots are primarily used in customer service, as the trend towards treating an employee as a customer grows, and company boundaries breakdown thanks to the Gig Economy, more organisations will be using machine-learning tools to improve onboarding, training and enhance productivity in the workplace.

The call centre of old will change, with a large share of help desk queries resolved by an electronic assistant. Industries such as insurance and financial services are reported to show a strong interest in piloting electronic assistants internally. It is predicted that 20% of operational bank staff will rely on AI to do non-routine work by 2020. Where tasks are complex and require manual intervention by human staff, AI technology will assist and augment the work the staff do, reducing errors and providing recommendations on the next best step.

HR teams are unlikely to miss the boat either.  The notion of an HR manager browsing through social media profiles for job candidates might soon be a thing of the past.  Products already exist that can carry out social media background checks, studying a candidate’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, pre-screening applications and helping HR managers by filtering out unsuitable candidates, depending on their profiles and their past employment patterns.

Fear that AI will be detrimental to the workforce continues to bubble under the surface, with some expressing concern that there will be less work for human employees, and that the treatment of individuals could be suffer when stripped of the human insight that can find a remarkable yet unusual candidate for a job, or turn a unhappy customer into a loyal ambassador.  Evidence to date doesn’t support either view.  It’s been reported that AI might destroy 1.8 million jobs, on the other hand it is expected to create a total of around 2.3 million jobs, more than making up for the jobs it might replace.  AI needs human intervention and the humans that understand and can deliver AI are in hot demand.

Global Knowledge launched its 12th annual IT Skills and Salary Report this month, an international study of 12,200 IT professionals from 159 counties across 17 IT job functions. This year, more than two-thirds of IT decision-makers reported a gap between their team’s skill levels and the knowledge required to achieve organisational objectives, the second year that this skills gap has increased.  And it is in technologies that include AI, cybersecurity and cloud computing where skills gaps and therefore the salaries paid are at their highest.  The report showed that IT professionals earned, on average, £4,000 more this year compared to 2018 with a premium on cloud, cybersecurity, IT architecture and project management skills.  The average global salary for an IT professional is $89,732 (or £71,895) – the highest it has been in the 12 years that Global Knowledge has been conducting this research.

What does AI mean for Learning & Development departments?  Here, again, the opportunities outweigh the risks.  Already some Learning Managers are using AI to measure demographics like age, gender, culture, education and learning to date, as well as assessing behaviour patterns, training requests and certification success. This ready data informs L&D teams to make tailored training recommendations.

AI is still on its way and for many it still feels futuristic.  But the predictions are not for a slow adoption into the workplace.  By this time next year, if your own department isn’t taking advantage of an AI-enabled technology to support your activity, you will probably be asked why.

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