Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, how we’re all working smarter

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming workplaces around the world, helping employees work smarter and improving their performance. But in many cases you’re probably not even aware that the tools you use deploy AI technology.

Take for example the humble spell check in Word; autosuggestions of the correct word and sentence structure use AI to deliver the best solutions. Last year Ideas, which was initially rolled out for PowerPoint presentations, was introduced to Word. This AI technology goes further than a basic spell and grammar check, looking at the context of the words you use and suggesting more appropriate ones, as well as formatting recommendations and even whether your language is appropriately gender-inclusive. Now any employee, whether they’re a natural wordsmith or not, has the tools to create more professional documents and ensure they’re understood.

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If AI tools are not currently being used in your workplace, they soon will be. Here we explore the trends and technology that are worth watching…

5 workplace AI trends to increase productivity

  1. Robots in the workplace

Let’s get the ‘robots are taking our jobs’ out of the way first. Yes, autonomous robots are replacing humans in some industries, particularly in manufacturing and distribution where robots can do routine tasks faster and more accurately than people. However, in the modern workplace robots are more likely to be used to enhance our working lives. Many of the solutions currently being developed will either perform functions that human employees don’t do, or lightening the workload by doing tasks that free staff up to focus on more important work.

For example, Segway has developed an indoor delivery robot, able to navigate between desks and can operate the office lift. Post and packages, coffee and lunch orders can all be delivered directly to an employee’s desk.

segway-loomo-delivery

Incidentally, a study by Oracle and Future Workplace found that 64% of employees trust a robot more than their manager!

  1. Augmentation

Delivery robots are an example of ‘augmentation’, technology that helps us do our jobs better, saves time or handles the more mundane tasks like collecting a package from reception. AI technology like Microsoft’s Ideas are also an example of this. Not a robot, but a tool that makes our lives easier and improves the quality of our work.

Other AI solutions like Microsoft Search are also helping us do our jobs more efficiently. Microsoft Search uses search engine Bing and Microsoft Graph to access information from the organisation’s data and the web. Machine reading comprehension technology delivers results that are more insightful and relevant than previously available. This AI tool can enable employees to pull together the latest research or data, both company and 3rd party, for presentations and reports, but also get answers to more mundane questions. For example, if you want to know whether your company has a bring your dog to work policy, Microsoft Search will extract the relevant paragraph from the company’s employee manual. As a result, employees get the right answers to their questions faster ensuring they can get on with their work.

  1. Recruitment and onboarding

Finding candidates with the right fit is critical for your recruitment strategy and for productivity. But how can you tell that someone has the right aptitude for the job from a CV? AI powered pre-screening helps shortlist candidates by assessing cognitive and emotional features of each candidate. This is achieved by ranking each candidate against high performing existing employees in the same role. At the same time it removes unconscious bias so the best candidates are shortlisted regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status.

For organisations that have high volumes of new hires every year with thousands of applications to process, this technology not only delivers a better shortlist but also saves significant time.

AI is also being used for onboarding new hires. Chatbots are particularly popular with large enterprises where it might be challenging for HR or line mangers to answer all the questions a new recruit may have. This in turn has a positive impact on retention as new hires settle in more quickly and feel more valued.

  1. Self-serve support

Customer support is another area whether AI is already driving efficiencies. AI enabled knowledge banks can quickly give customers the right answers without needing to speak to a member of the customer care team. This frees up staff to focus on more complex enquiries and other activities.

Technical support for employees also benefits from Artificial Intelligence. Tools that can learn from previous incidents and tickets, that can factor in considerations such as the device an employee is using, their location and even their department and how business critical their role is, can ensure they get the right support. For their employers this means that service desk analysts have all the information they need to resolve the issue or escalate it (and often a self-serve options provides the solution without human intervention) and this results in faster resolution times and reduces downtime.

As a Managed Services provider, we’re particularly interested in how we can help our clients drive efficiencies with AI – watch this space.

  1. Monitoring the workforce

Artificial Intelligence is also being used in more sinister ways for surveillance. However, there are applications where technology to monitor staff can be positive for both employer and employees. Health and safety technology such as wearable devices can keep employees safe by monitoring fatigue, blood pressure and other vital signs. Using data from various sources including data about the employee, the role and the environment, AI technology can raise an alarm or send a notification if an employee is showing signs of stress, falling asleep or other health and safety concerns.

AI could also be used in an office environment to monitor employees’ productivity and send them alerts when they need to re-energise. For example, if someone has spent a long time sitting in front of their computer and is showing signs that they’re losing focus, technology could remind them to move around, take a break or do something different.

Perhaps it could tell the office delivery robot to deliver them a double expresso!

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