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Can AI Really Augment the Workforce Rather than Disrupt It?

While there is widespread concern about artificial intelligence (AI) displacing jobs, there is also substantial potential to use AI for upskilling employees. Recent studies demonstrate that generative AI can significantly enhance productivity, particularly for less experienced workers. By focusing on upskilling and reskilling employees when fostering AI adoption, organizations can reinvent job roles for the better.

There is no doubt that AI is perceived as a significant workforce disruptor, fundamentally altering how we think, create and address everyday needs. From writing code and creating realistic images and videos to revolutionizing medicine development, AI’s impact is profound. While much has been said about the fear of AI displacing jobs at all levels—even potentially including the CEO—there is also a substantial opportunity to leverage AI for upskilling and reskilling employees.

“Contact center agents with access to an AI assistant were 14% more productive, with low-skilled workers improving the most.”

This study by MIT demonstrates that “Workers with the least experience can quickly improve at their jobs with the help of generative artificial intelligence.” The study showed that “Contact center agents with access to an AI assistant were 14% more productive, with low-skilled workers improving the most.”

As we know, all conversations with a customer support representative are recorded for training purposes. These recordings are extremely valuable to the AI platform. Large language models (LLMs) are advanced machine learning systems designed to understand and produce human language. Training AI models requires extensive data, and these customer support recordings provide essential insights into recognizing patterns, identifying frequently asked questions and gathering additional insights. This data helps organizations enhance the efficiency of their call center representatives and can be applied to their websites, as well as to sales and marketing initiatives.

The same study highlights how the AI model enhances the efficiency of customer service representatives, subsequently improving customer sentiment. The researchers found that:

Within two months, workers using the generative AI model were resolving 2.5 chats per hour, compared to 1.7 chats per hour for colleagues not using the model, who took eight months to reach the higher threshold.

Workers using the AI model spent an average of 35 minutes per chat, whereas colleagues without the model spent 40 minutes per chat. (These figures account for the fact that workers often manage multiple chats simultaneously.)

Productivity gains were highest among workers with the least experience, who resolved 35% more chats per hour when using the generative model.Productivity was essentially flat for workers with the most skills and experience.

Using the generative AI model led to improved customer sentiment, with requests to speak to a manager declining by 25%. Transfers to other departments occurred earlier in the conversation when using the AI model.

Systematically Encouraging AI Upskilling

To foster a culture of AI adoption and encourage employees to upskill and reskill, companies can take a methodical and strategic approach to navigating this new way of working. By systematically integrating AI tools and providing comprehensive training programs, organizations can ensure that their workforce is prepared to embrace and adapt to new technologies. Creating a culture grounded in continuous learning and personalized around employees’ goals and skillsets, companies can demonstrate how AI, coupled with the right training, can bridge both educational and organizational skills gaps. This approach allows employees to see firsthand how AI can improve outcomes in their current roles and potentially uncover unforeseen applications that can create new roles or address tasks benefiting other departments within the enterprise.

“Creating a culture grounded in continuous learning and personalized around employees’ goals and skillsets, companies can demonstrate how AI, coupled with the right training, can bridge both educational and organizational skills gaps.”

Oracle’s post highlights four key strategies for upskilling and reskilling employees:

Foster a Learning Culture with Dedicated Time for Growth.

Companies should allocate dedicated time for employees at all levels and seniority to focus on skill development, ensuring that growth and development are embedded in the organizational routine.

Create Personalized Employee Learning Paths.

By leveraging AI and other advanced tools, organizations can design training programs that address the unique needs and career aspirations of each employee, making the learning process more relevant and engaging.

Encourage Mentorship and Peer-to-Peer Knowledge Sharing.

To accelerate the upskilling process, facilitate internal mentorship between experienced employees and those seeking to learn, ensuring that they are genuinely supported in the development process.

Track Metrics to Improve Your Program.

By regularly measuring outcomes, such as employee performance and program effectiveness, organizations can harness this data to refine and enhance their training initiatives, ensuring processes and outcomes address the needs of the business and its customers.

Will AI Reinvent Job Roles for the Better?

As I researched this post, I was reminded of other technological advancements that were initially met with controversy. A prime example is the calculator, which was once viewed as a threat to traditional methods of learning mathematics. The current debates surrounding the pros and cons of AI are somewhat reminiscent of the initial reactions to the calculator. “In the early 1970s, the introduction of calculators sparked a heated debate among educators and mathematicians. At the time, calculators were seen as a threat to the traditional method of learning math, which focused on manual computation and memorization of formulas. Many academicians feared that students would become too reliant on calculators and would not develop the necessary skills to do mental arithmetic or work out complex equations by hand.”

There’s no doubt that as AI continues to rapidly be deployed in everyday work, it will certainly impact jobs, mainly by reducing head count due to gaining efficiencies or moving work internally that was originally being outsourced. For example, payment processing company Klarna has financially benefited from AI by significantly reducing its sales and marketing spend. Klarna’s CMO was quoted here expressing how “AI is helping us become leaner, faster and more responsive to what our customers care about, leading to a much, much better experience.” He also noticed that Klarna is producing more marketing and “saving tens of millions of dollars a year, reducing its external agency expenses by 25%. It is now using AI instead of outside agencies for translation, production, CRM and social work.”

On the flip side, I believe that with proper training and education, AI will reinvent job roles for the better. These roles will not only challenge but also excite the corporate workforce, encouraging exploration and growth that benefit both the employee and the business.

Questions? Please email me here. As always, thank you for reading.