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Managing a complex workforce has never been an easy task, and the pandemic only made it that much worse. Not only have processes surrounding hiring, firing, payroll and benefits become more difficult, but the work-from-home and rising freelance culture is adding new stresses to HR – all at a time when the pace of business is increasing rapidly and driving a greater need for workforce flexibility.
Necessity is the mother of innovation, however, and in this case organizations are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to not only lighten the load on traditional human resource management systems, but to engage the workforce in novel new ways. Far from putting humans out of work, these tools are helping people work better and improve their work-life balance.
Working smarter with AI
Tech blogger Srikanth claims AI is transforming workforce management in three crucial ways. First, it is providing a more accurate assessment of labor demands. Most line-of-business managers are too preoccupied with day-to-day responsibilities to conduct longer term staffing and scheduling analyses. AI excels at predictive analysis, however, and can provide key insights into future trends.
Secondly, AI can improve both workforce productivity and satisfaction. Again, through proper scheduling, processes can be advanced more efficiently, without conflict and duplication, and time off can be meted out more effectively both for workers and the enterprise.
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And finally, AI has the capacity to evaluate performance and make recommendations regarding assignments and advancements more accurately, leading to a more effective and efficient work hierarchy.
With many organizations embracing near-universal work-from-home strategies, or even relying on pure freelance and contract worker solutions, new generations of intelligent platforms are entering the channel that reflect this less-rigid organizational style. A company called Fiverr, for example, recently unveiled the Togetherr platform that helps compile creative teams based on personality profiles, work experience and numerous other data points. Aimed at advertising and other creative functions, the system uses a proprietary technology called the Creative Genome to provide a more efficient, less costly and more accurate team-building process than legacy agency-of-record (AOR) models.
Any AI platform is only as good as its data, which is why industry experts like Juanita Coley, founder and CEO of Solid Rock Consulting, recommends implementing strong data validation tools in any intelligent WFM program. This is more of an art than a science given the subjective nature of data prep, but it can be implemented effectively with a few key elements. Checks and balances, for one, are needed to ensure forecast deviations are not ignored to the point that production is affected. Cross-channel data coordination is also important to provide smooth transitions between high- and low-volume periods.
All of this should not just benefit the enterprise, of course, but employees as well. Dominic Fitch, senior consultant and head of creative change at leadership development firm Impact International, notes that AI can help reduce workloads by taking over tedious, repetitive tasks, and it can even tell people to stop working if, as many home workers have discovered, they can’t seem to disconnect from their jobs.
There are also ways to train AI to be on the lookout for new opportunities and areas of advancement that fit the accumulated knowledge and skillset of an individual employee. And as individuals rise to become team leaders, managers and higher level executives, AI can prove invaluable at managing subordinates’ calendars, schedules and other work tools in ways that promote maximum cohesion and flexibility.
To be sure, we should not expect a workplace nirvana just because AI is on the job, but there is every reason to believe the technology will help solve many of the challenges facing the modern workforce as it marches into a new economy.
At heart, working effectively is a matter of time management, and the less time employees spend on nonproductive or unnecessary work, the better off they, and the enterprise, will be.
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