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Will AI save you from bad managers in the future of work?

May 28, 2019

The world of business has a unhealthy attraction to chaos theory. Popular culture has driven companies and large cohorts of management into adopting chaos as their modus operandi. Amateur managers often resort to tactical game theory learnt as part of their management courses to compensate for lack of true insights into their workforce. This has created a crisis in team management for a workforce that was already struggling with bias, secrecy and general lack of trust.

All of this might soon change, as advances in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms have enabled modern workplaces to benchmark team performance and spot early signals of change. This has helped organizations like Google, Microsoft or even Alibaba make smarter, data-driven decisions on their most critical resource, people and grow to become some of the largest companies in the world. But can you use AI or these tools and systems to become a better manager?

Being able to proactively identify trends and patterns in our workplace, can help you automate and optimize processes while keeping the team happy. Whether you are looking to improve productivity and team collaboration or prevent misconduct and reduce staff incidents, an intelligent, proactive view of team activity can provide invaluable insights in a manager’s decision making . Recently launched AI tools like Workplace Analytics (Microsoft), Work Insights (Google), SuccessFactors Work-life (SAP) or Isaak (StatusToday) incorporate latest findings in human and organizational psychology to power this advanced analysis on your behalf. A shift to using a growing number of such AI applications will allow managers to reclaim time to spend on strategic planning and direct one-on-one with their team. Automation of repetitive tasks can generate an estimated $2.9 billion in business value and save 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity ,according to Gartner.

Such algorithms can collect existing activity from a variety of distributed systems to create behavior patterns, that can then be better understood in the context of their workplace environments. Empowering managers with insights into their own actions and its effect on their team can firmly addresses the root cause of bad management.

AI powered workplace insights can improve workplace relationships and train your future manager to be more empathetic and considerate.

Latest study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine reveals that the typical office worker is interrupted for about 96 minutes on average every day. This means that 20% of daily productivity is lost to interruptions and unnecessary noise. Often this is due to problems with cross-team communication. In fact extensive studies by Gallup reveals that, 2 in every 3 employee believes that cross-team communication in their company is extremely poor.

Most managers do not properly understand their employees. They don’t know what makes them efficient, why they make mistakes or what incentivizes them. This causes a severe loss of productivity, mismanagement and an increase in risks, such as misconduct, regulatory failures and so on. AI finally offers a way to solve this by benchmarking and modeling behavior based on the data gathered globally. The future of HR is driven by large scale data processing and a shared knowledge base of insights. Both of these are only truly possible when managers and employees embrace a data driven culture. Existing HR systems don’t cope well with the growing digitization of the workplace. Struggling to embrace the future of work, most managers inevitably give in to bias or long formed habits.

AI has the potential to rewrite the future of management. By eliminating redundant and administrative tasks, it allows managers to focus on their team and improve their own leadership abilities.

Here are three ways modern management leverages AI .

Reduce performance and productivity bias

While it is often pretty simple for managers to figure out who their highest performing employees are – the real challenge is knowing what makes them tick. Graph analysis techniques allow you to draw a map of the organization to flag your top performers in order to better understand how they deliver top-quality results. Once a profile is constructed, you can better determine what makes the high performing team distinct.

With productivity levels at an all-time low in several larger economies, it is important to be able to quantify how effective our workforce is. Using parameters ranging from wellbeing to communication, a conscious use of smart system can allow you to map outputs instead of unnecessary inputs like timesheets, office presence, etc.

Improve workforce wellbeing and reduce stress

At scale, such algorithms can internalize employee routine, generating a highly accurate profile of their wellbeing. This allows management to know if people are having a rough time or if they could potentially be thinking of leaving the company due to burnout. Using previously mapped trends, they can then help make educated changes regarding individual stress level or burnout.

Eliminate bottlenecks in collaboration

Let’s face it, communication between geo-spread teams is a common workplace problem. You can greatly enhance operational visibility within your team by using AI powered analytics inbuilt into modern collaboration platforms and staying up to date on changing communications trends. There is no need to have eyes and ears in every department or to monitor individual employee activity, as this can often lead to decreased levels of productivity and a state of paranoia. Instead, managers should focus on painting a dynamic picture, and staying in the loop with changing work habits.

Will this create a new generation of “AI overlords”?

There is a general distrust and fear of AI. The doomsday vision of the future inspires popular culture. People are scared of AI taking over their jobs, taking over the world and replacing humanity as a whole. In reality, it’s a far bigger tool for good than it is for bad. Global projects to address and create positive impact have been formed. One such project is the “Human Behaviour Change Project” led by IBM together with the Wellcome Trust, University College London, University of Cambridge and University of Aberdeen. With a goal to transform human habits related to human health and wellbeing, the project is just one example of how AI can truly be our companion for good.

Unusual behavior, not only benchmarked against past behavior, but also in comparison peers and colleagues, are often used by such systems, which then allow for further analysis manually through typical conversational interfaces. Such analysis can often have the ability to address a variety of common workplace issues and make inferences regarding employee stress levels and productivity, cross-departmental communication, use of resources, and incidents of cyberattack or data/device theft. But they also open the question of privacy, monitoring and often create a lack of trust towards management.

However, to deploy AI responsibly and effectively, managers must adopt an innovation mindset and not expect magic pills that will transform their fortunes overnight. AI should be deployed as a complementary tool to augment business decisions and processes before being autonomous.

Transparency is the key to ethical and responsible adoption of AI. Experiments, both successful and failed, should be communicated with people involved to encourage wider participation and comfort with the inevitable transformation of the workplace.

The path to becoming a better manager doesn’t involve using AI to be more robotic, but rather becoming more human.

By Ankur Modi

Source: Forbes

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