2023 was a year marked by AI. From industry conferences to boardroom discussions, AI dominated the conversation across the tech industry as both employees and consumers began to see first-hand the ways AI will remarkably transform the ways we work and live. However, as the fervor around AI continues to increase, so do concerns regarding its use.
While concerns grow around data privacy and bias in algorithms underpinning AI, the worry that AI will negatively impact the experience of employees at companies who implement AI solutions is also very real. Harnessing the power of AI must go hand in hand with a commitment to promoting employee growth, productivity, and creativity.
The sea change currently underway with AI will only happen once—so it’s critical to get it right. In 2024, this means businesses must make the shift to an AI-driven workplace in a purposeful way. Core to this approach is recognizing that AI is not a replacement for people but rather a supporting tool to empower and accelerate human innovation and productivity.
Through several important steps to implement AI solutions into your business processes in a purposeful way, companies can ensure they reap the benefits of AI without negatively impacting the employees they rely on every day. This includes identifying the tasks best-suited for AI automation before leaping in blind, constantly engaging with the employees using the technology on a daily basis and being nimble to make any needed changes based on continuous employee feedback.
In short, a purposeful approach to AI means making the technology an actual part of our teams rather than a replacement for our teams. While making AI a part of your team sounds like the realm of science fiction—many people will conjure images of HAL 9000 not complying with instructions or golden droids walking around your office break room—the reality, for now, is less fantastic and more practical. We are already seeing glimpses of how AI-powered teams will work in 2024.
The Wall Street Journal reported this year that home insurance repair business HomeServe introduced a new AI assistant to aid with customer service functions. Since implementing the bot it calls “Charlie,” which is capable of answering thousands of customer inquiries per day, the company has already been able to save employees hundreds of thousands of minutes of phone calls by automatically helping customers book claims and schedule repairs. This has freed up staff to generate new leads and focus on selling policies. Meanwhile, customer satisfaction has been up since Charlie started, suggesting customers are also receptive to its use.
AI is also changing the way we operate for the better within the IT space. Hybrid IT, modern application development processes, digital transformation efforts, and the move to the cloud have all made digital environments increasingly complex. This has made the job of IT incredibly challenging and so artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) has become a critical tool for the overworked and under-resourced IT teams that are keeping our systems running.
With AIOps, companies can quickly resolve and even predict complicated problems—such as a database latency issue that’s causing problems with a company application—before they occur, freeing up teams to innovate and support the business. We are in the early days of AIOps, as a recent survey by SolarWinds found that the majority of tech professionals (62%) are not currently using AI daily. But the future is not far off for the ways IT teams will work with their AI teammates. Many seasoned IT pros are now predicting that, because of advancements in generative AI, we may only be a couple of years away from a world of autonomous operations.
As AI becomes more accessible in these ways, organizations must consider the impact it may have on employees’ growth and happiness. One study on this topic asked more than 65 researchers to look at the possible consequences of AI as teammates. Though that study confirmed increased creativity and a higher quality of decision-making by AI-powered teams, it also found there could be significant societal and cultural tradeoffs. Questions were raised about whether AI could negatively impact human feelings of belonging or whether the technology could act empathetically toward employees.
The same Wall Street Journal article about Charlie, for example, shared stories from other companies that have used AI as a form of digital “supervisor” for customer service teams. Through “AI-generated sentiment scores”—the thinking goes—companies can remove bias from customer interactions to create a more scientific score related to employee performance. However, in practice, many employees found that AI lacked the human understanding and empathy needed to truly measure their performance, making their jobs less fulfilling and ultimately more stressful.
Moving into 2024, we know AI will have a profound impact on our businesses and teams. But how it is implemented will determine whether it becomes a partner for human growth and business innovation.
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