The pandemic has proven that digital is no longer optional for businesses today. Digital transformations are a necessity to survive. Artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technologies are an essential part of this transformation.

Today, vast portions of the workforce are remote, so people are increasingly using intelligent technologies and AI to work differently. Cloud and AI open new ways to connect and collaborate virtually from anywhere. They also offer new ways to improve how work gets done and how the workforce is managed. The possibilities are endless and there is no better time to start exploring than now.

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95% of our workforce has operated remotely during the pandemic in almost every geography we serve.

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The workforce is distributed, and the workday is evolving

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move to remote work for many organizations, and Accenture has played an integral role in helping our clients—such as the UK National Health Services (NHS)—in their efforts to successfully move and adjust to a virtual working environment in a matter of weeks. At Accenture, around 95% of our workforce has operated remotely during the pandemic in almost every geography we serve.

At our company, and within many others, workers and organizations alike are experiencing benefits from this new model. Research data from multiple sources shows compelling evidence of the positive effects that working from home has on people, the environment and enterprise finances. In fact the majority of workers (~70%) enjoy working from home. And that, while doing so, they feel professionally satisfied and productive.

Even as organizations recover from the COVID-19 impacts, a segment of the workforce globally will continue to work remotely. Thus, new workplace arrangements will become normalized, and new work practices must follow suit. AI and intelligent technologies can help in all of these areas.

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AI is changing the existing workplace set up

Through our work with clients, we are finding that AI is influencing how and where the work is being carried out:

  • Rethinking roles and assignments to put the right people in the right job. When people aren’t tied to a physical location, it enables greater opportunity to collaborate across the world virtually and place people in the best role depending on their talents and skillsets. For example, our Resource to Role Matching solution uses data and AI to help businesses match the right people and skill sets to the right roles in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Finding an optimal way to allocate talent in this new work environment is one of the biggest keys to growth and competitive advantage in the coming years.
  • Redefining management and performance expectations. There have been major shifts in supervisory roles and responsibilities—and even expected output—due to the pandemic. Because AI engines are data-driven, it can reduce human subjectivity in performance evaluations. Performance decisions can now be made using metric-based analysis rather than supervisor discretion. Quite simply, employees who can see objective evidence of their performance are more likely to trust management and feel they have been evaluated fairly.
  • Creating flexible work policies that align with a work-from-anywhere model. Policies must account for a new work environment, more flexible hours, vacation time polices and more.

AI is changing the nature of work

With these new changes in our work environment, there’s no doubt that we must evolve the ways in which we work, learn and collaborate—and AI can help.

  • More effective and strategic employee engagement. We can expect to see an increase in the use of conversational AI because it can help with simple processes, such as answering payroll or policy questions. A virtual assistant, like the Accenture chatbot DiPa, can engage and assist employees rather than absorbing the time of an HR employee who could spend their time on more value-adding activities such as coaching.

    Conversational AI solutions can also help monitor the stress and wellbeing of workers. In today’s emotionally challenging times, some organizations are starting to use AI to track employee sentiment—assessing employee wellbeing to see if a worker is overstressed and nearing burnout. With that knowledge, leaders can offer the right help. Voice- or video-based AI can also help determine the mood and engagement level of employees as they perform tasks. Organizations can then act on those insights to reconfigure processes and yield better outputs.

  • Gamification for learning and recruitment. Gamification tools that use AI can help with training or other HR functions such as onboarding talent. People may be more open to trying new things, taking risks or testing new ideas if they know it is in a “safe” gaming environment in which they can fail and simply start over. It can also help employers uncover employee mindsets and strengths through integrated machine learning, which can recognize employee preferences, such as intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. For instance, a gamified learning program could track a worker’s learning and career goals and then suggest future courses to complete. A display would show the person’s progress toward that goal, thereby motivating them to take additional classes or feel more empowered and in control of their own learning journey.
  • Collaboration tools are imperative to improve the employee experience. Virtual collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, allow employees to work in a remote environment. Other solutions, such as our Organization Network Analysis, allow leaders to measure engagement and collaboration by analyzing the way individuals interact with one another through various communication channels.

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Exploring the AI-enabled future

Corporations have spent millions of dollars on various programs to cultivate a collaborative, engaging culture. While some companies have seen success, many still have yet to elevate the employee experience, improve engagement and boost productivity.

Companies are quickly realizing that AI is the way forward as it enables new ways of collaboration, engagement and learning. And the use of AI will only increase in the near future. Now is the time to be open to the possibilities, but also be aware of the need to use AI in an ethical and fair manner. Data privacy, data security and employee consent must be in place to ensure workers know—and agree to—how data is being used.

AI, when used responsibly, has the power to transform the workplace and work to ultimately benefit all.

See more Workforce insights.

    Tanushree Guha

    Managing Director – Applied Intelligence, Solutions.AI for Talent & Skilling Lead

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