VentureBeat recently published an informative article about an aspect of artificial intelligence that we sometimes overlook: preparing our organizations to embrace and properly capitalize on the benefits that machine learning will offer. Alston Ghafourifar authored the piece. He is the CEO of Entefy, an AI-communication technology company, credited with developing the first universal communicator. While proponents extol the virtues of AI, detractors lament this greater reliance on machines in the workplace, and skeptics wonder about the role of humans in a digital age. The reality is the automation alone won’t render people obsolete or empower businesses to reinvent themselves overnight. We must acknowledge the opportunities and the challenges. “Given the accelerating pace of innovation of new technologies,” Ghafourifar writes, “it’s critical that you address the implications today so as not to get left behind tomorrow.”
Artificial Intelligence is Our Future Business Reality
As we’ve been discussing more frequently, design thinking, augmented reality, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) aren’t just advancing -- they will soon integrate themselves into every line of business. Even in the staffing industry, these technologies will reshape the way we transact and interact as companies.
Google, for instance, has expanded its solutions to bring machine learning to talent acquisition. Google’s Cloud API provides recruiters, hiring managers and other users with the most relevant search results and recommendations. The API relies on Google’s advances in machine learning to understand how job titles and skills correlate. It then compiles the data to determine the closest match between job content, location and seniority.
Other thought leaders are also introducing AI to human resources. We’re seeing a surge in developers launching chatbots, akin to Amazon’s Alexa, that facilitate informed decision-making for recruiters and talent.
- A Boston-based startup called Talla is working on a chatbot that can assist talent with entering the workforce prepared and enhancing their productivity.
- As ERE noted in September, HiringSolved is introducing a virtual assistant known as RAI, which guides “users through questions that very experienced sourcers ask themselves in order to chop through a database and hone in on who they want.”
- Then there’s Mya by FirstJob, an AI that uses natural language processing and machine learning to automate up to 75 percent of the recruiting process. Similar to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Mya can simulate conversations and somewhat complex interactions with users. Through these exchanges, she continually gathers data about candidates, skill sets, engagement levels, cultural fit and more. This information, FirstJob says, is then transformed into quantifiable intelligence.
”The practical benefits of automation are many: fewer data-entry errors, faster customer service response times, workload automation, better resource management, and the ability to turn legacy data into powerful insights,” explains Ghafourifar. “These functions enable your company to operate more efficiently. They also empower your employees to excel in new and exciting ways.”
Chatbots are evolving rapidly. Through refinements in natural language processing and intelligent algorithms, chatbots are assuming rudimentary customer service duties. And they will keep growing. However, their progress doesn’t imply that computers will displace people.
”If a chatbot can handle basic to mid-level queries, you can reassign human customer service representatives to more in-depth tasks,” Ghafourifar notes. “The growing use of chatbots hints at the capabilities we’ll see with more advanced automation systems in the future.”
The caveat, of course, is that if companies don’t approach AI with thoughtful, deliberate care, they may risk productivity by failing to redeploy people to more critical responsibilities, by relying too heavily on automation, or by implementing technologies without a solid plan. Here are some foundational methods to ensure success, based on Ghafourifar’s insight and experience.
Preparing Your Business for Digital Transformation
Evaluate, Engage, Extrapolate
As a best practice, every department and all the processes within it should be assessed. You may discover, after this evaluation, that not every task requires automation. Some may be hobbled by it. The goal is to streamline routines so that you can optimize the performance of your talent by helping them concentrate on core tasks.
Ghafourifar suggests holding an “automation summit,” in which employees are engaged. Their expertise and visibility will provide answers to important questions.
- What tasks are tedious, repetitive and unnecessarily time-consuming? Which could benefit from automation?
- What low-value aspects of the work could be offloaded to enhance productivity and focus?
According to Pew research, 87 percent of American workers believe that ongoing training and developing new skills will be essential for keeping pace with the dynamics of the changing workforce. Last week, in fact, I discussed this very topic and the benefits of sponsoring alternative educational models for talent.
In a June 18 article for Yahoo News, Sara Miller Llana demonstrates the role that alternative education is playing in the retooling of the workforce. She relates the story of a Spanish computer engineer named Koldo Mentxaka who, after losing his job in 2013, decided to forget his “elite university degree” and executive stature to pursue a trade school education. He will soon be equipped with the skills to program industrial machinery, which promises more opportunity as robotics and automation assume greater importance in the modern economy.
”Mr. Mentxaka is undergoing the kind of retraining and career reinvention that societies will increasingly face as the world confronts some of the biggest workforce changes in more than a century,” Llana explains. “Technological change, the decline of manufacturing, the restructuring of “white collar” industries, globalization – all are dramatically changing the nature of work and the types of jobs that will be available in the future.”
If you haven’t read the post, check it out. It’s full of interesting ways to enhance learning and hone the skills of your valued professionals. Highlights include partnering with trade schools, tapping into alumni as mentors, exploring virtual academic environments and MOOCs, and considering dual education models like those used in Europe.
Champion Collaboration and Communication
Even the most painstaking and expertly conceived analysis can falter if stakeholders are uninformed or excluded from the process. We should strive to bring others along with us on this journey of discovery, and solicit their input. The decision makers will be more likely to participate, review the research, understand its value and implement the recommended changes. Otherwise, the entire effort can be jeopardized.
Without prior knowledge and inclusion, other stakeholders in the process may feel as though they’re being told how to do their jobs, especially if they think things are going well at the moment they’re handed a substantive report outlining all the things they need to change.
Despite best intentions, recipients in this scenario will feel blindsided. And when that happens, crucial plans languish on a shelf unimplemented and collecting dust, which amounts to wasted opportunities, squandered time and lost costs.
Analyze the Impact of Automation
Automation will certainly help your company achieve a competitive edge, contain costs, innovate and build new revenue streams -- yet, it also has a profound effect on the workforce. “Beyond increasing profits and improving output, consider what automation means for your company’s mission. Invite employees to monthly discussion groups to explore automation’s broader impact,” Ghafourifar recommends. Here are some sample topics to ponder.
- The ways in which the technology will improve the experiences of your employees and customers.
- Efficiencies in time management and resource allocation, enabled by strategically utilized automation.
- Great fluidity and virtualization -- overcoming the challenges of remote work and moving away from the overhead of brick-and-mortar operations.
Look to the Future, Plan for the Future
Things like AI and augmented reality represent the tenets of our future. So it only makes sense that we plan for that future. Automation has the potential to do more than oil the mechanisms of our day-to-day work -- it holds the key to evolving our talent, expanding their skills, maturing our brands and delivering groundbreaking solutions. A wisely and carefully drafted plan is the first step in transforming today’s concepts into tomorrow’s innovations.