Building the (Right) Workplace of the Future

Today’s post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

We’ve published a number of articles this year focusing on the promise – and some of the potential pitfalls – of implementing artificial intelligence solutions in the workplace. At the bottom of this post, you can download an infographic that summarizes some of the research on this topic we’ve released this year.  Sooner or later, you’re going to encounter AI in your workplace.  How do you prepare for that?

I’ve spent a lot of time on both sides of the new technology issue – as a provider deploying software for customers and as the customer trying to make a vendor’s technology work in my environment.  Success with these projects can be summarized in the old expression “This would all be so easy if it weren’t for the people”.  I don’t know where this expression originated, but I’ve heard it many times, especially when I was knee deep in a complex change management situation.  It’s funny, in a dark humor kind of way.  Because of course there is no successful end game unless you can satisfy all the people who’ll be affected by the new technology.   

Artificial intelligence solutions can generate real fear among employees who may worry that it will eliminate jobs or be particularly hard to use.  So what’s the magic formula to implement the right AI solutions in your business without alienating your employees?

  • ASK the people what they need.  Focus on the capabilities required: tasks to be accomplished, reports needed, accessible from mobile phone, etc.  Success is measured by people’s ability and willingness to actually use the solution you build, not by the number of new features you release.
  • PROTOTYPE the solution so that people can envision it before you build it.  This can take the form of tailored demonstrations, screen shot mock ups, etc.  People can’t assess promises, they need something tangible to react to.
  • ITERATE once you start building and continue to do so beyond the launch.  It’s expected that you won’t get everything right on the first version.  Plan for the extra time to allow your future users to review and react to what you are building.  Their input will help you get to a better final product.  
  • TEST throughout the process.  Just because those screens look good doesn’t mean they’ll do what you need them to.  A lot of the tech positioned as AI today is really about assisting people with decision making.  Make sure your AI solution is suited to handle the scenarios your people typically face.  If it’s delivering untenable advice, people will quickly revert to the old way of doing things.
  • DOCUMENT what you’ve built.  Yes it takes time, but it will save you (and your successors) a lot more time down the road.
  • COMMUNICATE throughout the process.  Let people know what’s coming, how it will effect them, and when changes in their current way of doing business will arrive.
  • EDUCATE not only at project launch, but make sure there are training tools available thereafter.  People change jobs, new people join the company, and refinements will be made to the system over time.  

What has been your experience with AI to date?  What would you add to the list of tips above?

infographic-preview

Download Infographic PDF

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