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70% of organisations to adopt AI by 2021 – still ‘human’ work though

30 Jan 2019

Much has been said of the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and its effects on today’s workforce.

Already virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and other forms of chatbots have made massive inroads into elevating human performance in many organisations – whether that’s positive or negative depends on where you stand in the workforce.

According to Gartner, by 2021 70 percent of organisations will have AI technologies in place to assist their employees’ productivity, with this evolution prompting around 10 percent of organisations to add a digital harassment policy to workplace regulation.

“Digital workplace leaders will proactively implement AI-based technologies such as virtual assistants or other NLP-based conversational agents and robots to support and augment employees’ tasks and productivity,” says Gartner senior research director Helen Poitevin.

“However, the AI agents must be properly monitored to prevent digital harassment and frustrating user experiences.”

Poitevin says there have been past incidents where poorly designed assistants have fueled frustration among employees, sometimes prompting bad behaviour and abusive language towards the VPA.

As trivial as this sounds, Poitevin says this can create a toxic work environment that can eventually leak into interactions with co-workers, with recent research showing people’s abusive etiquette transcending to how they treat the humans around them.

Poitevin says organisations should consider this when establishing VPAs in the workplace and train the assistants to respond appropriately to aggressive language.

“They should also clearly state that AI-enabled conversational agents should be treated with respect, and give them a personality to fuel likability and respect. Finally, digital workplace leaders should allow employees to report observed cases of policy violation,” says Poitevin.

One area where AI will be quite prominent is in the realm of back-office bank employees with 20 percent of operational bank staff relying on AI to do non-routine work by 2020.

“Non-routine tasks in the back offices of financial institutions are things like financial contract review or deal origination,” says Gartner senior research director Moutusi Sau.

“While those tasks are complex and require manual intervention by human staff, AI technology can assist and augment the work of the staff by reducing errors and providing recommendation on the next best step.”

And so it goes back to the question – will these AI implementations be of detriment to the workforce?

“In some cases, we witnessed layoffs to reduce unneeded head count, and understandably back-office staff are worried their jobs will be replaced by machines. However, AI has a bigger value-add than pure automation, which is augmentation,” says Sau.

“The outlook for AI in banking is in favor of proactively controlling AI tools as helpers, and those can be used for reviewing documents or interpreting commercial-loan agreements. Digital workplace leaders and CIOs should also reassure workers that IT and business leaders will ‘deploy AI for good’.”