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Insights and Learnings from a Future of Work Conference

What do you think the future of work looks like? In the current era of rapid technological advancements and changing workplace dynamics, there are some common themes and insights that are reshaping the landscape of employee engagement. This article focuses on AI and employee feedback as two main areas within HR and the Future of Work. If you’re short on time right now, here are a few key points to think about:

  • AI will quickly become an integral part of the employee engagement toolkit, so if you’re not already defining how your department or organisation can use it to enhance their working lives, start making moves now.
  • Employees want more voice, so check that your listening strategy is current and effective. This might involve utilising newer channels, technologies, or taking a step back to ensure you’ve appropriately addressed the feedback you’ve already received.

Over the last year, rarely has a day gone by without AI being at the forefront of many of our conversations. And, of course, a Future of Work conference we attended in London this month was no exception. A live audience poll confirmed that we’ve all tried using AI within the last year, but relatively few of us (only 15%, judging by the number of people left standing) are using it regularly.

We’ve all heard the saying – “AI won’t take your job, someone using AI will.” So, it’s interesting that individuals are holding back on acting on this, despite it being so accessible. Whether it’s simply a lack of habit or know-how, distrust, or denial, it’s well within everyone’s interest to pick up the pace. And judging by the sentiment at the conference, most people are excited by the possibility of reducing burnout and making our lives easier.

We believe there are three main benefits that every organisation can and should be utilising in today’s AI from an employee engagement perspective.

Reduce burnout by sharing the workload

64% of employees struggle to get all their work done in the time they have, yet, on average, employees spend 41% of their day on menial tasks that can be delegated. By automating repetitive tasks, AI allows employees to focus on more meaningful work, helping to reduce burnout. It can also provide valuable insights into employee stress levels and offer proactive solutions.

Increase creativity and innovation 

Luckily for us, computers don’t get bored or lack motivation, making them the perfect delegates for passing off the tasks that aren’t exciting to us. Consider tasks such as reviewing candidate CVs to check if they match the job description or analysing open-ended feedback from your employee engagement survey to find common themes or concerns. This gives you and your colleagues more time to spend on the work that matters, such as exploring creative and innovative ideas that the average AI can’t achieve (right now) and you might’ve otherwise deprioritised.

Increase personalisation to add direct value 

AI-driven systems can analyse individual preferences, behaviours, and feedback to create tailored employee experiences. This level of personalisation fosters a deeper connection between employees and their organisations. Consider tools such as a chatbot to provide instant, personalised responses to employee inquiries or enable it to design and collate benefits packages tailored to each employee’s needs, thus increasing job satisfaction.

Real-life application 

One company that isn’t waiting around is Bupa. Riffat Ahmed and Andy Webb demonstrated that AI isn’t a futuristic concept but a tool we can use to improve the employee experience today. At Bupa, they’re using AI to reduce the number of systems employees need to visit for HR and other admin needs. Starting with an MVP they’ve defined, they’re creating an AI bot for their “most accessible” applications whereby users can ask a question to the conversational bot, which will give them an answer triggered by an automated action or intelligence. Coca-Cola also referenced streamlining the employee experience using AI with a chatbot interface.

Leveraging AI now can be a clear competitive advantage against competitors, providing an edge in attracting talent, improving the employee experience, taking more (frustrating or tedious) jobs off everyone’s hands and more. This creates more time and headspace for connecting with their peers through collaborative learning, an aspect that is often cited as a preferred way of working. 

We’ll be delving deeper into this topic over the coming months, so make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter, but we’ll also be relaunching series two of the Employee Comms podcast with some exciting episodes exploring AI with experts in our field.

Emphasising the employee voice

Another key theme throughout the conference was the significance of employee voice and feedback. Organisations recognise that to truly engage employees, they must actively listen to their needs, concerns, and suggestions. But still, 50% of employees want more of a voice within the workplace. Typically, this is partly resolved by conducting employee engagement surveys, and there was much debate on how often these should be carried out. How regularly does your organisation run surveys? Many only do them once or twice a year, and if it is working for you, why change it? But it’s also helpful to consider the following questions:

  • Are we getting a complete view across the organisation rather than from a few particular types of people who are happy to answer surveys?
  • Are we just gaining a snapshot in time or insight into how people are feeling more broadly?
  • Are we giving the opportunity for two-way communication? Or are employees only able to share feedback within our standardised data collection?
  • Are we really taking the time to understand employee feedback?
  • What are we doing with this feedback? Are we acting on it? Would people across the organisation be able to see this?

Creating multiple feedback loops

Your surveys’ optimum regularity and intensity will depend on your organisation’s culture. What we think is important, which actually wasn’t emphasised much within the discussions at the Future of Work conference, is diversifying your feedback loops.

One newer feedback method growing in popularity is the use of champion networks. This involves identifying a network of internal ‘influencers’ who can provide ongoing feedback on how employees feel about the various aspects of their experience. In turn, these individuals are also great for amplifying messages when launching a new initiative, as they are trusted by their peers.

Another source of feedback is exploiting the accessible data you already have. For example, a change in the percentage of employees opting out of pension contributions could suggest an action needed to enable financial wellbeing. Or patterns in attrition rates can indicate declining cultures across specific departments where more manager training can help. Collecting and analysing this data in real time enables organisations to make data-driven improvements swiftly.

The integration of AI with feedback mechanisms can create powerful feedback loops. AI can help analyse feedback data, identify patterns, and even predict potential issues. This proactive approach can enable your organisation to address concerns before they escalate, resulting in a decline in motivation and trust. Facilitating a process for this to happen regularly will result in continuous improvement.

And, of course, you can collect all the feedback in the world, but if you’re not acting on it, there’s no point. If your feedback rate is low, this might be the reason why. Employees want to see that their feedback is being taken seriously and witness the impact their feedback has on the organisation. Therefore, however you collect feedback, finding the balance between gaining true insight and having time to act on the learnings is vital to your entire strategy.

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