The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

AI at the workplace: the sweet spot between stability and change

Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 13:23 Last update: about 5 months ago

Nadia Pace

The evolution of technology at the workplace has instigated the rise of automated processes, AI and robotics. If one couples this with the advent of digital nomads, it is evident that flexibility at the workplace has become critical. This presents numerous challenges to the seamless running of business operations.

The role of the executive management team will continue to shift from one that is operational-based and project-focused, to one requiring more adaptability to changes in the environment. HR managers will be at the forefront to lead these internal realities, where upskilling the workforce and on boarding the right skill set, together with coaching and mentoring the internal team, will predominantly be the role of HR units. This will apply across different industries. Administration tasks ranging from payroll to health and safety requirements need to be either outsourced or handled within a separate, low-cost function.

ADVERTISEMENT

In over 10 years in different leadership positions in the contact centre industry, I have witnessed the fast evolution of the industry in a short space of time. The first level of customer support has been replaced by chat bots and automated responses. Interactive Voice Response (IVRs) have replaced personal interaction and compromised first time resolution metrics. Realigning productivity levels with the introduction of new contact methods without compromising customer satisfaction levels is not an easy feat.

The challenge as a leader and business owner is to constantly question the status quo, realign the company strategy and lead the team in line with industry changes. In order to be successful, one must achieve the sweet spot between moving things forward, maintaining a sustainable operation yet challenging processes that require a revamp. All this needs to be done in an extremely dynamic business environment.

Tamar Chansky, author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, says that changes at work are among the top life stressors that one can experience. We are creatures of habit when situations provide certainty. Humans fear change, because we fear the unknown and consequently, we fear failure.

Creating a positive company culture is one of the main targets if we are to handle changes that will affect operational business models and the management of HR. Instilling values that welcome new ideas and change is a long-term approach to equipping employees with the right skills to welcome change. In practice, this could include continuously asking team members to 'think outside the box' and share online literature, such as articles and that boosts creativity and the concept of thinking differently.

Another important mantra is to communicate often. Part of the fear of change is the unknown. If the organisation is not communicating change effectively, make it your business to be proactive in questioning the status quo, communicating changes and how these will affect the different facets of your business.

Brain-storming in a team environment should also be actively encouraged. Make a frequent habit of drawing your teams away from their day-to-day routines to discuss strategy and future ideas. Off-site meetings, where employees are away from their emails and their office phone, not only create an opportunity for teams to interact but are also conducive to creative thinking.

 It is important that - both as a business owner but also as a team leader - you remain conscious of the changes going on in your industry, to always keep an eye on the bigger picture. Encourage members to do the same by allowing them to attend networking and information sessions. Travel and push yourself to network beyond your comfort zone.

Leaders and managers need to prepare for multiple outcomes. For leaders and influencers alike, vigilance needs to be a priority. This will ensure that the numerous outcomes and results brought about by a change in strategy and or process are actually pre-empted.

Above all one of the main focus points should always be training and up skilling. The fast technological changes taking place may instil fear in employees - we have all heard that robotics may lead to dramatic decreases in employment in favour of automated processes. We need to ensure that employees are sufficiently skilled to consider technology as an enabler in their work rather than a threat.

To sum it up, the advent of disruptive new technology in the workplace cannot be absorbed with apathy but needs to be embraced in a proactive way. Communication will be a key and having an open conversation on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead is the best bet that any leader can place.

 

Nadia Pace is a C-level business strategist focusing on leadership, business development and growth.

 

The Malta Business Weekly, in collaboration with the office of Dr Miriam Dalli, member of the European Parliament, will be organising a business breakfast with the theme Industry of the future: challenges and opportunities. This event will be held on Thursday, 25 April at 8 am at Spinola Suite, Hilton, Portomaso. Anyone interested in attending this event can phone 2134 5888. 
  • don't miss