AI and Future of Work - An Empirical Study
In the user research we conducted over the past several months on application of AI in work management, one sentiment was recurrent across all of the feedback. Everyone saw a significant role AI could play in everyday work management. Of course, the degrees of clarity on how they perceived that role varied significantly, but the sentiment was strong and hopeful.
Over 80% team managers affirmed that a tool with the ability to automate the routine tasks would definitely be a solution they look forward to. Every one liked the idea to see AI play a role in that solution.
It was also clear that the interpretation of such automation was very subjective and in some cases unclear beyond just wishful thinking.
“Application of AI at work is a topic that excites me and I believe that AI will undoubtedly be a value addition to my current tools. By decreasing the workload and automating routine tasks AI will help in better prioritisation of tasks through status tracking and red flagging. Also, the infusion of AI will allow team managers to focus more on better utilisation of resources at hand through predictability.”
80% of the respondents believed AI could assist them in managing their project work and their teams. Over 50% believed application of AI will be revolutionary for the future of project management.
“I believe AI will be a boon in helping me perform my job. Right from making repetitive tasks automatic to better reporting in an intelligent way will increase efficiency of my entire team”
Armed with data from several responses, it became clear to us that team managers had 3 major expectations from the introduction of AI into everyday work management.
1. Role of AI in alleviating frustration in handling administrative and routine tasks.
2. Role of AI in effectively tracking the progress and performance of the team.
3. Role of AI in acting as a AI assistant for every team member.
Automation of the routine
Respondents who were aware of the ability of machine learning to learn and predict user behaviour, were excited to see how AI can alleviate their team members of administrative and routine tasks. The idea is to allow team members focus more on the tasks that are actually part of their work description. Managers see this as an opportunity to save costs incurred due to loss of productivity. This is an attractive proposition to both the team managers and members alike.
Effectively track team and team work
AI can help effectively track the progress and performance of each team member. It can help keep the team aligned and motivated. AI can also be an efficient route to automating the workload management.
A senior manager quoted:
“AI in work management tools could be a boon for workload management which could be automated. While presently, managers have to manually assign and reassign tasks, AI could automate this process by the logic of learning the user behaviour and predicting their next move and allow them to invest their time in something more productive. The ultimate goal of AI in work management is to serve as a solution to resource saturation and increase efficiency of work”
AI Assistant for every team member
Team managers also saw merit in the adoption of AI in the form of AI assistants. Quite a few of them agreed, that a AI assistant could update them about the priority tasks at hand, as well as give a download of the entire day’s work progress, and help stay more efficient. Such a AI assistant would almost eliminate the possibility of human error of overlooking any important work engagement by constantly sending reminders and automatically updating work status and progress.
One of the respondents said,
“I believe that a AI assistant embedded in my toolset will definitely boost my performance at work and make my job something I look forward to. When I don’t have to keep sifting through different tasks to understand which ones are the most important, I believe I will be able to give my 100% to my work and entail greater returns for my team.”
Indirect Benefits of AI powered solutions
Beyond solving the problems that managers brought up during the survey, there can be several indirect benefits of introducing AI powered solutions at workplace including
1. Better sense of accomplishment for team members with greater focus on high value tasks.
2. Huge cost savings for the team multiplying productivity savings for each member.
3. Sense of excitement and innovation at work created by the new team member experience.
4. Improved team engagement facilitated by the friction free natural human interfaces.
5. Clear value proposition for teams looking for AI productivity solutions.
All of this can be critical in the adoption of the solution creating a win win for the team members and the organisation.
A potential AI powered solution
So how should a potential AI powered solution for the workplace look like? Based on above expectations from managers, the approach we chose was to have the Assistant as the primary interface to the solution and other functions simply become skills of the Assistant. A skill is an ability of the assistant to fulfil a certain type of request(s) natively or by way of integrating with existing tools.
However, with further research and learning, we have reached the understanding that the “skills” of the Team Assistant can extend beyond functions we initially envisioned.
We believe the future of any workplace technology will have varying degrees of “AI assistant” capabilities. It is only a matter of time before this becomes a common phenomenon. More on this is a discussion for a different day.
We are attempting to apply all the learnings from the survey to our vision to realise a more human friendly workplace. While we may not be able to immediately address all of the concerns and meet all expectations, we want to start a journey in the right direction to make the workplace a bit more productive and a bit more human.