The business change driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has been both sudden and lasting. At the start of 2020, no one predicted a novel coronavirus would disrupt global supply chains, lead thousands of organizations to close their office space, and have countless employees work remotely for the first time. But now that we are months removed from the scramble to get our remote workforce up and running, we can take a moment to envision a better tomorrow.
It’s time for business leaders to take what they’ve learned from the pandemic and design their ideal future of work. By focusing on the value of employees and technology working in harmony, we can create an employee experience that’s empowered by automation and artificial intelligence. This essentially creates new models of teamwork between AI and employees to enable transformative results for businesses and workers alike. In this post, we’ll imagine what the post-COVID world of work can look like, as well as the new technologies and opportunities at the center of it.
What is the future of work after the COVID-19 pandemic?
The future of work is technology with human-centric design, meaning tools and software created with employee engagement at the core. So how do we do that? One of the biggest lessons that COVID-19 taught about the future of work is how employee engagement is best achieved by enabling personal choice. By allowing employees to choose remote work as their primary work environment or select the apps and technology they use to be productive, organizations can empower workers to help create their ideal employee experience instead of enforcing top-down mandates on new ways of working.
A key part of gaining this employee buy-in in creating this new world of work is supporting employee education and reskilling. Your employees know they can’t make the best technology choices for themselves without new skills—80 percent of workers say they currently lack the skills required for their current roles and for their future careers. So, as you plan what technology to adopt, do not neglect your investment in retraining and reskilling your staff.
“NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PULL BACK ON WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS, BUT INSTEAD TO DOUBLE DOWN ON COMMITMENTS TO BUILDING A RESILIENT WORKFORCE THAT CAN ADAPT IN THE FACE OF CONSTANT CHANGE.“
What will the future of work look like? AI and human collaboration
As you design your ideal future of work, the most important human-centric technology you can adopt will involve artificial intelligence and automation. While AI and machine learning usually aren’t considered human-centric technology, these tools have tremendous potential to increase employee productivity by automating routine tasks. This means boring but necessary work like approving PTO requests and RSVPing to meetings can be completed consistently and automatically by AI, enabling human experts to focus on more complex and meaningful work.
Beyond simply doing the work that humans don’t want to do, look at ways to connect AI and automation initiatives with efforts to create more effective teams across your organization. This enables employees and machines to work together in innovative ways. For example, because machine learning is outstanding at gathering and analyzing behavioral and operational data at scale, managers can use machine learning to gain deeper insights into how their teams work. This can show managers and employees new ways to streamline processes and improve the outcomes of everyday work. These AI and human collaborations are one reason why 59 percent of organizations say redesigning jobs to integrate AI technology will be important to their success over the next 12–18 months.
redesigning jobs to integrate AI is important to success.
The AI-enabled opportunities in the future of work
As we look for new ways for humans and machines to collaborate, it’s important to note future applications of AI are much more likely to assist workers than replace them. Deloitte confirms this, with 75 percent of survey respondents predicting the number of jobs at their organizations would remain the same or increase as a result of AI. What’s more, there will be exciting new opportunities for business leaders, managers, and workers who can harness the potential of artificial intelligence to augment their work.
For example, MIT reports how customer service agents have begun using automated bots to empower their everyday interactions with customers. Rather than having live agents handle every routine customer issue, companies have created service flows where virtually-voiced AI agents solve common problems over the phone. This lets the human agents focus on exceptional situations that require empathy and care. In addition, AI bots can listen in to these complex calls, gather needed information from disparate databases, then have it ready for the human agents so they can resolve the customer issues as fast as possible
The benefits of working from home are driving permanent change
The future of work will be human-centric, but empowered by new technology that unlocks employees’ productivity and potential. As we design our future world of work, the best path to a strong employee experience will integrate AI and automation into our teams so humans and technology can do their best work in harmony.