Artificial Intelligence in the workplace
Talk of Artificial Intelligence – or AI as it’s more commonly called – is everywhere. Its little surprise, given AI is the space that all of the leading tech players are bolstering their capabilities, and competing for control in. Plus, at the same time it’s also a field where we’re seeing the most innovative start-ups arising from.
In short, there’s a lot going on when it comes to artificial intelligence.
So much so that it has led to many foreseeing a future where robots make up the majority of the workforce, and everything is intelligently connected and constantly learning and adapting.
Now while many fear the rise of AI, others are excited by the opportunities it can bring and the ways in which it can improve existing systems, behaviours and practices.
One area where AI looks set to cause great disruption is in the world of work. And this is what we will give attention to in this post. By identifying some of the key areas that AI will impact upon and alter.
AI in the workplace
Let’s start with the most obvious one. Or at least the area that has been making the most noise over recent years – big data and specifically data science.
You’ve probably heard of IBM’s Watson or Google’s Deep Mind Alpha Go – both of which grabbed the headlines by beating the best human players at ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Go’, respectively. It was their AI capabilities that allowed them to achieve this, giving them the ability to handle and leverage HUGE amounts of data, much better than the most brilliant of human minds could ever do.
It is these capabilities that will – and are – be incorporated within the workplace. Ultimately to build and enhance an organisations corporate intelligence.
The Knowledge Graph
In a great essay for MIT Sloan management Review, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman talks brilliantly about how AI will help organisations create what he calls a ‘Knowledge Graph’.
The easiest way to understand what a Knowledge Graph is, is by looking at what it is based on – a Social Graph.
Take Facebook for example, they use Social Graphs to show the interconnection of relationships. Everything someone does or who / what they connect with, will shape the social graph – which is used to make Facebook evermore personalised to the user.
In essence, when Hoffman refers to a Knowledge Graph he is talking about a Social Graph in the context of the workplace. Therefore, AI will be used to connect the abundance of information within an organisation. Think emails, files, social conversations, people – anything that happens digitally in an organisation AI will be able to recognise it, index it, and connect it with other things of relevance. All to create, yep you guessed it, a personalised experience for each and every employee.
The possibilities are hugely exciting and offer untold productivity benefits.
So, it’s probably safe to say we can expect organisations to focus on building their own extensive Knowledge Graph. Which by doing so can be used, with specialised AI, to improve areas such as the following:
In a nutshell AI will be used to perform the mundane administrative tasks that are the bane of a manager’s life. Just look at the below chart to see how managers currently spend their time.
With AI being able to perform administrative tasks, such as scheduling meetings and creating reports – which they can do much better and faster than their human counterparts – it will free managers up to focus on the other things in the chart. The areas where real value can be added, which they as humans are better placed to be able to do.
It’s important to view AI as a colleague, not as a competitor or replacement.
Building on from administrative tasks is project management, which is another area that AI has its eyes on.
Predominantly this is through the implementation of bots. This is something that can be seen on internal messaging apps, such as Slack. Slack are first becoming the pioneers in AI powered bots.
For example, a bot can be used to manage a remote team of workers, in ways such as:
– It can assign new work/projects to specific individuals based on their availability, skills, experience and the requirements of the project.
– The bot can also check in at various stages to check on progress, and provide updates and feedback to the team.
Below is a simple example of a project management bot being used in Slack. Demonstrating how AI can be used for mundane tasks, such as the planning and tracking of projects.
What excites us the most is the vast amount of insight that AI will be able to draw on, from all of the many online conversations taking place in the workplace.
What can be difficult for Internal Communications teams to measure and identify, is sentiment. Whether it be for certain campaigns, policies, or business decisions that have been made. AI has the potential to be able to measure these less tangible workplace factors. And in doing so will provide Internal Communications with rich intelligence and a far deeper understanding of the workforce.
Other ways in which AI can improve Internal Communications, include:
Content and information discovery
In short AI will connect workers with the content that is relevant and useful to them. Instead of a worker having to hunt around to find the desired content, AI will serve them it when they deem it to be needed – in the moment.
Also AI can cut through the noise on social media, to find the messages and information that are relevant to individual workers. The danger with social media is that it is too distracting, and workers spend too long trying to decipher whether – and what – conversations are relevant to them. AI will solve this problem.
Feedback and performance reviews
While for some roles, performance can be measured in numbers, e.g sales. For the majority, reviews tend to be subjective in nature. It is why performance reviews often receive quite a bit of flack, and are seen as not being worthwhile.
AI can change all this as it can measure and identify all of the value an employee is adding. It can show the ideas they had and which were used. Or the projects they managed and how successful they were.
AI will ultimately remove the subjectivity of employee appraisals, making it far more objective and beneficial – as clear strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement can be easily and quickly highlighted.
Training and On-boarding
An organisations knowledge graph will be packed full of information – connected information that employees can use to answer any questions they may have.
Therefore, employees can learn in the same way as they do outside of work – unsupervised. Not only that, but the knowledge graph can serve up things it deems the employee should learn and understand. Gone will be the days of stale, lecture like training programs. Instead employees will receive guidance and support from organisations, but will be free to learn exactly what they want to in a way that best suits their needs.
Furthermore, the knowledge graph allows new arrivals to very quickly get up to speed. Where it once took time to work out:
– Who the best people to speak with for certain things were.
– What the specifics are of some internal processes?
– What has been going on in previous meetings and on other projects.
Instead, a new recruit can have their questions quickly answered by the knowledge graph. Familiarising themselves with everything they need to know about a company. And connecting with detailed information on past and current projects, as well as the outcome of recent meetings.
Where the abundance of company information used to be a minefield for employees to navigate through. The Knowledge graph quickly sifts through and picks out the information of relevance. The intelligent organisation promises an amazing employee experience.
Something else that AI has also very recently tried to get involved with is the design of PowerPoint Presentations.
Now given we’re an agency, and presentation design is one of our key capabilities, we probably shouldn’t be bringing your attention to this. But as good as it may sound to let AI create a PowerPoint presentation for you, there are some drawbacks to it.
Firstly, some of the advantages:
Essentially AI powered systems focus on pulling out key messages within a presentation, they then create slides with these messages and populate them with relevant imagery, automatically applying design rules to format them.
Granted, it sort of sounds alright in theory. But at present relevant imagery can be hit and miss. Each different presentation has a certain sameness. And formatting options are pretty limited. Plus, AI isn’t able to create tables and charts.
The use of AI in presentations may have its place if you want to create a quick, simple, dirty presentation. But as we’ve alluded to throughout this post, what works best is the combination of AI and human skill. As the one thing that AI will always struggle to achieve expertise in, is creativity.
There you have it. A snapshot of what AI may bring to the workplace. And so what Internal Communicators would do well to keep an eye on and leverage when they can.
AI is all set to completely transform the workplace, and empower Internal Communicators with data and understanding that they can use to make far more informed and insightful decisions, and so far more effective actions and communications.
Like we’ve said many times already, AI is there to support and free up employees so that they can focus on solving problems and make more informed decisions. These are the things that humans will always outperform AI on. Well at least for the foreseeable future, anyway.
Until next time…
This is a piece of content that will also be represented in our annual ‘Internal Comms Trends’ eBook – due out at the beginning of 2017.
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