In October last year, during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oracle and Workplace Intelligence surveyed 12,000 employees globally about their mental health. You won’t be surprised to know that three-quarters rated 2020 their most stressful year ever. But you might be interested to hear about their approach to dealing with it. About two-thirds said they would rather talk about their problems to AI (artificial intelligence) than to their manager, and 80% would even consider an AI counsellor.
When I posted about this on LinkedIn, it got a big response – much higher than my usual posts – with over 26,000 views and 150 comments:
The responses were mixed, and were in two opposing camps.
On one hand, many people – especially mental health professionals – disputed the claim that robots could be an adequate substitute for decades of experience, expertise, and human connection. But that’s missing the point – because we shouldn’t expect AI to do all of that!
The other people were more positive, and recognised AI doesn’t replace their job; instead, it simplifies, complements, and enhances it.
Machines and humans are better together.
This was reinforced in the 2021 version of the same report, which found:
- 82% of employees believe robots can support their career better than humans can
- 85% want technology to help define their future
- 75% would make life changes based on robot recommendations
Again, this isn’t an either-or scenario. We want technology to help us, just as it already helps us with street navigation, advanced driving features in cars, finding answers to facts, remembering telephone numbers, and in myriad other ways.
Make AI your servant, not your master.
AI is already working successfully in many parts of a business. Here are just 10 examples:
- AI chatbots answer questions instantly in sales, customer service, and internal support.
- AI helps recruiters find suitable candidates and helps managers identify potential people problems.
- AI performs repetitive tasks like answering frequently asked questions and scheduling meetings.
- AI and IoT devices monitor workplaces to create safer and more effective work environments.
- AI performs complex language tasks, such as reading and interpreting legal contracts.
- AI records meetings and transcribes conversations to simplify search and retrieval.
- AI monitors assets and inventory to manage stock levels and maintenance.
- AI analyses user sentiment about your brand on social media and other communication channels.
- AI listens to sales calls and offers coaching advice to help salespeople improve their future calls.
- AI integrates with online learning tools to assist staff to craft a customised learning journey.
The bad news is, according to that same report from Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, only 47% of people say their organisation is currently using AI in their workplace, and 31% say their company is not even discussing AI.