The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has grown exponentially since 2012 when “deep learning” resulted in a breakthrough in machine image recognition. More recently, it’s been used to advance the workplace.
Workplace applications of AI generally rely on the use of algorithms to guide data-driven decision-making, a process known as “predictive analytics.” The use of AI techniques in workplace environments has resulted in significant productivity gains for early adopters and is essential for remaining competitive in the workplace of tomorrow.
In a recent paper on the future of the industry in the age of AI, James Bessen of Boston University noted that firms that are able to use technology to improve their internal operations create more collaborative cultures, maximizing the productivity of each employee. Conversely, firms that fail to make these investments will lag behind those that put technological investment at the heart of their office environment.
A good case study in AI being used to improve office environments is that of human resource (HR) management. The use of AI has already begun to reinvent the nature of HR. AI can relieve HR personnel of the need to execute menial tasks, enabling them to spend more time on strategic activities and keep long-term company goals in focus.
At IBM, HR managers use AI to execute recruitment tasks by specifying the qualities needed in ideal candidates and allowing the algorithm to trawl through thousands of CVs to identify ideal candidates. HR chatbots are also streamlining onboarding, allowing a new employee to ask questions and get set up without needing to take significant time from other employees.
In addition, studies have shown that individuals are more comfortable divulging information to chatbots and other computer systems, rather than to coworkers. This results in more accurate feedback, enabling the AI to provide more valuable workplace analytics that can be used in future decision-making.
In the future, the applications of AI to HR could easily be replicated in other domains to improve firm-level productivity, from office administration to IT support to market research. This will allow your organization to remain competitive in an increasingly algorithm-driven age.
In order to use AI to streamline workplace processes, office infrastructures of tomorrow must prioritize the generation, storage, and processing of data in their day-to-day activities. Adding internet of things (IoT) modules to various products being developed or procured for internal purposes, for example, would drastically increase the amount of data produced, enabling the use of predictive analytics for a wider array of decision-making tasks.
Offices that boost the production of data are not only able to make smarter decisions, but also enhance their security. By allowing for increased monitoring of company activity, and additional remote security measures to prevent employee negligence, workplaces can become more secure and resilient.
Along with the possession of high-quality data is the need to have effective and low-cost AI analytics available. Enterprise cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Service or Microsoft Azure are proving essential for storing and organizing data and providing flexible computing power that keeps offices lean on hardware without having to relinquish any of the efficiency gains.
Will AI end up replacing employees in the workplace? As long as we have the edge in “soft skills” such as creativity, empathy, leadership, and collaboration, that seems unlikely. However, we may see AI chatbots and other smart machines become part of the team, enabling human staff to deliver results that would otherwise be unachievable.