In their 1980s hit single, “Mr Roboto”, Styx sang the following lyrics: “My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M.”
Talk about Progressive Rock. More than 30 years later the topic of Artificial Intelligence has never been more relevant.
However, while in the days of Styx most people thought AI-enabled robots would look something like C3PO today’s technologies are proving that bots don’t have to look human, or even have a physical shape, to interact in a personalised way.
Every device from the speakers in our homes (Amazon’s Echo) to the cars we drive (Tesla’s autopilot) is programmed with smart software that make our lives more convenient, and crucially frees us up to focus on more interesting things. This is the age of the smart “bot”.
As bots and AI become more common in consumer technologies, we’re also beginning to see them add value in the business.
We are a self-service generation brought up on Google, so it’s only natural that the way we communicate with technologies at work has begun to follow suit. My colleague Andy Campbell has already discussed how HR leaders are considering self-service chatbots to manage shared services. Not only does this make administrative processes leaner and put relevant information at employees’ fingertips, it also frees HR teams up to focus on the strategic initiatives like employee engagement and wellness.
Thinking back to my days working at Deutsche Bank, at least 70% of my time was spent on the phone answering the same straightforward questions rather than on my to-do list. Imagine if our customers could have simply written to a chatbot on our website or mobile app that could access the right information and deliver it quickly.
Similarly, an HR worker or line manager that wants insight into an employee’s performance history or productivity will soon be able to just ask a chatbot to source these specific data points rather than digging through the HR system themselves. The rise of bots represents a fundamental shift in the way we interact with software.
If used in the early stages of recruitment AI could help companies cast a wider net and attract skilled workers from a broader range of backgrounds.
A major advantage of AI in the workplace is that it promises to take the bias out of decision-making. Hong Kong Asset Management Firm, Deep Knowledge Ventures, made headlines a few years ago when it appointed a rudimentary AI algorithm to its board to temper its investment decisions with “independent” thinking based on more data than any human could analyse.
From a company’ stop-level strategy to its hiring approach, bias continues to be stand in the way of innovation, and I have no doubt the objectivity of a machine’s decision-making is the answer to overcoming this. Deep Knowledge Ventures is a prime example of a company looking beyond the bottom line when planning for the future of its business and its people.
Some factors are still beyond a computer’s reach. For instance, when assessing a potential hire face-to-face conversation is the only way to know if they’ll be a good cultural fit. However, if used in the early stages of recruitment AI could help companies cast a wider net and attract skilled workers from a broader range of backgrounds.
HR leaders should embrace the coming of the bots and start thinking about how they can be used to build a more productive, more engaged workforce.
The human mind is biologically wired to protect us from challenging situations, so it’s only natural that people are frightened by the widely-reported threat of robots taking over our jobs.
They shouldn’t be. Yes, some careers will become obsolete, but new roles will also be created as businesses look for people to help them capitalise on AI. The same thing happened when personal computing drastically sped up many processes that were originally managed by people, and today there is hardly a 9 to 5 job that doesn’t revolve around the use of a computer.
Progress in the workplace is ultimately about doing things faster and smarter. With that in mind, HR leaders should embrace the coming of the bots and start thinking about how they can be used to build a more productive, more engaged workforce.
And so, let me be the first to say “Arigato Mr. Roboto!” for freeing us from all our junk work.