AI in the workplace: Helpful or a Hindrance?
The pros and cons of using AI in the workplace have been much debated over recent years. With the acceleration in the use of radical new technologies, AI is very much a feature of working life in general
The benefits for employers have been significant, often providing a lifeline for business continuity during the lockdowns of the last year, but what about the impact on the employee?
1. Increased Productivity - Businesses are using artificial intelligence to improve the productivity of their employees. One of the benefits of AI for business is that it handles repetitive tasks across an organisation so that employees can focus on creative solutions, complex problem solving, and impactful work.
An example of that is chatbots. From information gathering to initiating the process of filing customer complaints, the manual time needed to complete these tasks has been dramatically reduced by chatbots. Reducing administrative tasks could also help to eliminate human error from your customer operations.
2. Turn Complex Data Into Digestible Insights - One of the benefits of AI is that it can help companies decipher their data and gain valuable insights from it without a data scientist on staff.
AI applications that provide big data insights can:
- Identify important changes in patterns
- Isolate trends
- Create detailed reports that can help companies see if they are on the right track
- Perform deep-content analysis and do evidence-based reasoning
- Predict what key business metrics the company needs to track to optimise performance
Gaining insights from data, something that used to require a lot of time and manual effort, can now be done with artificial intelligence. This unlocks a lot of potential from employees that can be used to improve customer service and make smarter business decisions.
One example would be a bank that uses AI for recommending financial products. The basis of the recommendation is an AI analysis of available funds, current market conditions, and customer’s past decisions.
In May 2021, the TUC and the AI Consultancy published a report - Technology Managing People - the legal implications. One focus of the report is the lack of transparency in decision making that comes with the use of AI, the basis of the decision being made is often unknown to those that the decisions are being made about. The report points out that where it is difficult to identify when, how, and by whom discrimination is introduced, it becomes more difficult for workers and employees to enforce their rights to protection from discrimination.
The paradox of AI is that it expands its control over the workforce, while simultaneously diffusing accountability in the decision-making chain. A manager in charge of hiring workers will be subject to anti-discrimination duties in law, but who is held responsible when an AI tool, itself, introduces discrimination into the “hiring and firing” process?
Machines can perform only those tasks which they are programmed to do, anything outside of that, they tend to give irrelevant outputs. While many companies are starting to implement AI as much as they can, due to the many advantages the technology has, there are downsides to its implementation, one of the biggest downsides being the lack of human input and thought processes. AI in the workplace doesn’t look set to replace humans but to work alongside them.
Given the rise in AI, along with its reach and impact, we are starting to see a shift towards calls for greater restrictions and regulation. The future right now is uncertain, but with rapid digital transformation and more businesses using AI technology, it looks likely to continue growing, albeit with more restrictions in place.
ManageEngine Survey Finds Global AI Use Increase
ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation, has announced results from its recent market study, The 2021 Digital Readiness Survey, finding that 86% of organisations worldwide are using artificial intelligence (AI) more than they did two years ago. However, only 35% of the global respondents reported that their confidence in the technology has significantly increased.
The focus of the study was to understand technological changes in a post-COVID world, in areas such as remote work, security, business analytics, and AI. It was found that organisations worldwide mainly increased their use of AI to improve business analytics (63%), increase operational efficiency (62%) and enhance the customer experience (60%). While a majority of global respondents (94%) believe that AI will meet business expectations—and 65% stated AI had delivered measurable business results—some fears remain around the technology’s performance.
“The potential for AI to improve business efficiency and the customer experience was firmly on show through 2020, with AI handling everything from increased customer service volumes to oversight of self-service processes,” said Rajesh Ganesan, vice president at ManageEngine. “While AI is being handed more responsibility and is applied in more business-critical use cases, our research shows this is a double-edged sword and that more work is needed to embrace the technology and lift internal capability to ensure AI achieves its promise.”
Is business analytics the key to success?
The growing use of AI coincides with a broader trend of using analytics to improve the use of available data and the speed and accuracy of decision-making. In the post-pandemic era, profitability and competition are also driving organisations across the world to invest in business analytics platforms and capabilities.
Business analytics is an umbrella term for several types of analytics—descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive.
The biggest user of business analytics by far is IT. An average of 63% of IT departments worldwide cited this in the survey. However, in North America, 67% of executives noted their use of business analytics, which was higher than their IT departments’ use (61%). Business areas such as marketing, sales, human resources, operations and R&D are also showing interest in business analytics but are well behind IT and executives on adoption and actual use.
Other key global findings of the survey
– A mighty 96% of organisations are planning to continue supporting remote workers for the next two years. Concerningly, the report also found that 84% of IT professionals believe that remote workers have increased their enterprise’s security risk.
– More than half (56%) of respondents stated that improving their security infrastructure is a key driver of adopting new technologies.
– 78% of organisations revealed that remote workers download software without obtaining approval from the IT department; this shadow IT mainly included mobile-specific applications (40%), online meeting tools (38%) and document sharing solutions (31%).
– 84% of respondents use more cloud services now than they did before the pandemic began. However, most respondents believe that improved security (56%), performance (52%) and reliability (51%) would increase their company’s confidence in cloud-based solutions.