Much of the current discussion around AI centres on its ability to transform the status quo in business.
That, by default, means that AI has the potential to change people’s jobs, especially for those involved in rote transactional tasks (e.g., automatically emailing a receipt following an online purchase). However, AI is increasingly taking on cognitive tasks that previously required a human touch, such as conversational AI providing customers with 24/7 access to information and services.
While automation enables companies to spend less money to achieve the same (or better) results, decision makers would be wise to keep in mind the other opportunities AI opens – particularly the ability to reapply human capital elsewhere within their businesses.
Making Humans Better
AI should not be viewed as a replacement for human workers, but rather as a means to free humans from the repetitive (and in some cases rather boring) tasks that define so much of the modern work day. It would be understandable that this transition is a source of trepidation for some workers, but it’s nothing the marketplace hasn’t experienced before.
Worker anxieties about technology have a long history that goes back at least to the 19th century when the Luddites protested the increasing use of highly efficient machines in the textile industry. Of course, those machines eventually led to better opportunities and higher standards of living throughout the UK, which is why “the Luddite fallacy” has become a common economic principal. Indeed, history has repeatedly proved that technology ultimately benefits companies, consumers and even employees. And there is little reason why the age of AI will not yield the same results.
Still, as with every transition, some workers may find themselves temporarily out of work, or unsure about how their roles will change with the introduction of AI. It is very much in society’s interest to mitigate the impact of technological disruption and help impacted employees transition to a new form of work. While much of these transitional elements will be handled by governments, I propose that it is in private companies’ interests to also find ways to reapply and reskill their existing staff to take advantage of these new employment scenarios.
Even with the introduction of AI, experienced workers are a valuable commodity. They have an intimate knowledge of your company’s customers, competition and surrounding business environment – and automation allows them to do more with this expertise. For example, today’s most advanced Candidate Management Software (CMS) systems use AI to quickly and intelligently identify pools of potential candidates, however your HR team’s experience is still needed to conduct interviews, background research, and evaluate candidates in-person to determine if they would be a good fit for your organisation. These are tasks that AI cannot complete. In this case, AI and humans work together, with AI taking over many repetitious tasks and freeing humans to apply their expertise and intuition to find the best candidates.
Reapplying, Not Replacing, Human Skills
Automation frees experienced workers to bolster all points along the value chain. Conversational AI like IPsoft’s Amelia, for example, are being increasingly used to handle customer service roles – and with good reason. These solutions independently answer customer FAQs and resolve common issues with little or no human involvement – everything from “I need a new password,” to “I want to update my email,” to “What is the address of my nearest bank branch?” When AI takes on these kinds of high-volume customer issues, experienced service workers can spend more time addressing unique or complex customer needs. When you introduce AI into your organisation, identifying and nurturing those employees who can adapt and evolve is critical.
This reapplication of expertise benefits customers with higher-value service, which ultimately benefits the company’s reputation and bottom line. Some companies may be tempted to see conversational AI as means simply cut overhead costs, however the ones that reapply their existing support staff to address complex needs will have an advantage over the companies who are more short-sighted.
AI-fueled automation will naturally shift the workforce to emphasise uniquely human qualities such as people skills, creative problem solving and negotiation. Human roles adapted to work with machines in the 19th century, and with computers in the 20th, and they will evolve once more to adapt to the age of AI. Companies should think of AI less as a means to replace human workers than as an opportunity to make human workers even more valuable.
About the Author
Martin Linstrom is managing director, UK&I at IPSoft. IPsoft is the world leader in Enterprise AI and the home of Amelia, the industry’s most-human digital AI colleague. Amelia’s ability to learn, interact and improve over time makes her the market’s only AI that can fully understand user needs and intentions. Amelia can be trained to recognize words and phrases in more than 100 languages. She delivers real-life business benefits including lower operating costs, higher customer satisfaction and increased employee productivity. IPsoft is also the first company to launch an end-to-end digital platform, 1Desk, to deliver shared enterprise services. By connecting front-office conversations to back-end systems, IPsoft automates business processes that serve employees, customers and citizens, resulting in rapid resolutions, satisfied users and substantial organizational savings.