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How AI Will Affect Employee Engagement

"Alexa, what is AI?" "Siri, find examples of workplace automation."

Our future incorporating AI sounds like fun: self-driving cars, robot food kiosks and your smart-phone personal assistant. Eliminating all those mundane tasks will free up so much time and effort... but on the other hand, our job security seems murky at best. What good are self-driving cars if you have no income for going anywhere?

A simplistic view of this workplace and economic transformation would be to assume that fewer people are in the workforce and those who have left are the low-skilled ones that were often the crux of employee loyalty and engagement schemes.

Unfortunately, organisations that go through employee downsizing and AI upsizing should not count on decreasing their need for long-term, behaviour-change programs. Two things are certain to happen:

  1. Employees will need to be retrained or upskilled.

  2. Employees will be making much more complex decisions in the positions they hold.

In both instances, the need to align employee efforts and attitudes with the organisation's strategy and values is as important as it ever was, if not even more.

  • Fear is a great motivator, but it's an even greater obstacle. Leaders will need to have a strategy to motivate people through that fear, providing reassurance that the future is stable, planned and inclusive.

  • The focus on ethical decision-making and regulation compliance will require organisations to ensure that employees are consistently and accurately following the strictures it designs and completing the appropriate documentation.

  • With routine tasks, predictive modelling and machine learning replacing many common jobs, employees need to be better decision-makers, strategic thinkers and provide an even greater human component to create the best customer experiences.

Employees are capable of growing and increasing their sophistication, but that growth needs to be developed, just like software for AI needs to be developed. Development occurs through a consistent cycle of communication, education, recognition and evaluation; in essence, a strategic engagement plan.

Over the next couple of decades, AI will continue to grow in influence and necessity. And, while this may ultimately decrease the number of people in your organisation, it will only increase the importance of connecting them to your organisation's strategy, mission, vision and values.

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