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The hybrid workforce revolution: Is your business ready?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

How we spend our time at work is not the only thing that is changing as a result of technological innovation: we are also undergoing a seismic shift in modern workforces that will transform who we work with.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes an increasingly prominent role in the workplace, more and more people will be interacting with hybrid teams made up of both human and digital employees. In fact, Forrester recently predicted one-tenth of start-ups will emerge with more digital workers than human ones.  What’s more, the unprecedented situation in which we currently find ourselves as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic - and to which companies are having to rapidly adapt - is further accelerating the need to redefine the future of work.

Many companies now recognise the need for establishing a hybrid workforce, but don’t know where to start. Whilst there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a number of steps that companies can follow to help set up their digital employees for success. We explore the best implementation strategy and show how companies, like Unisys and Carestream, are already driving enormous business value from their hybrid workforce.

The journey to full deployment

In order for organisations to begin any hybrid workforce transformation, companies should focus on the desired use case or use cases for deploying AI-powered digital employees. Nevertheless, even with the right resources and clearly defined strategy in place, challenges are bound to arise given the significant technical, process and cultural changes that will take place following an AI implementation. But the good news is that as more and more companies worldwide share learnings and best practices for deploying AI, navigating through the implementation phases is becoming easier.

For example, a new study by HFS Research and supported by KPMG, outlined a number of key principles to adhere to when designing, building and deploying a hybrid workforce. According to the study, which is based upon business leaders’ real experiences of using AI, there are five requirements for businesses looking to develop a hybrid workforce:

  • Empower your employees with intelligent automation to provide superior customer service. AI can be used to help customer service staff access instant information and therefore help them resolve customer enquiries faster. This helps agents work more efficiently, improves customer service and has the added benefit of reducing any element of human error.
  • Train your digital employees to achieve the desired outcomes and set them up to deliver against future use cases. To maximise the value from any AI-powered digital employee, it is vital that businesses have the necessary resources to dedicate both time and money to training the solution in order to deliver on desired outcomes.
  • Design digital employees to be “channel agnostic” to make experiences touchless and seamless. Whilst businesses often want to categorise communications by channel, customers just want issues resolved in the quickest, most convenient way possible. Enabling AI to work across multiple channels will hugely enhance the customer experience in the long run. 
  • Apply smart design tactics to remove time consuming, repetitive and low-value human interactions. When planning an AI deployment, companies should identify the tasks that employees are wasting a significant amount of time on but don’t create significant business value. These can then be analysed to see if they can be taken over entirely by digital employees, to focus human employees on interactions that have a higher revenue potential for the company.
  • Leverage digital employees to drive compliance and security throughout your organisation by having them validate self-serve processes. Whilst cost effectiveness and efficiency are major drivers for the adoption of digital employees, businesses should not overlook their importance in helping make processes more secure, compliant and error-free.

Tailoring the end-user experience

One example of an organisation that successfully integrated AI into its customer service experience is global IT firm, Unisys. The company wanted to optimise its customer service and avoid using traditional call-based interactive voice response (IVR) system, which can leave customers waiting in long hold queues. Equally, the firm didn’t want to create additional manual processes that would require customers to complete long and cumbersome support forms.

Instead, the company opted for a digital employee to underpin its InteliServe platform across all channels. By marrying its services with IPsoft’s conversational assistant, Amelia, the company was able to meet the customer preference for voice-enabled communications, whilst achieving a 32 per cent reduction in repetitive customer service enquiries going via human staff.

Keep the human element in your hybrid workforce

Digital workers can be invaluable in supporting a company’s external customer service function, but a hybrid workforce can also directly benefit back office teams with internal activities such as HR, Finance and IT. When looking at the business case for an AI deployment, companies should explore both internal employee-facing interaction as well as external customer service. Digital employees can be equally beneficial for your customer service centre as they can be for streamlining the employee experience.

Medical imaging firm, Carestream, deploys a digital agent to help familiarise new employees with the company. With the company’s HR team based in the US, a 24/7 onboarding agent means HR employees can sign off — and remain signed off — without having to worry about working additional hours to onboard staff in other regional offices. This also means that new employees can be brought up to speed on processes and company policies, arming them with the essential information they need to dive headfirst into their new role and start being productive from day one.

Digital will drive the future of work

Enterprises are moving towards much more touchless and less physical business models. With today’s consumers and employees alike now expecting information, services and transactions to be instantaneous, a hybrid workforce will enable businesses to manage high levels of demand and expectation. In an increasingly competitive and fast-moving digital market, savvy companies that adequately prepare for the hybrid workforce revolution will be the ones that drive the most impactful business value from AI.

Whether it’s making internal processes easier and more intuitive, supporting your call centre staff or carving out novel and exciting customer experiences, accelerating hybrid workforce creation will be crucial for those organisations that want to remain relevant in 2020 and beyond.

Faisal Abbasi, Managing Director UK & Ireland, IPsoft