Bana Jobe

Balance Human and Machine to Make AI Work for Your Business

Decades from now, students in grade school may learn about the “AI Revolution” in much the same way we learned about the Industrial Revolution. But unlike the slow rise of steam power and machine-filled factories, some scholars say artificial intelligence in the workplace is arriving at a mind-boggling speed — and will leave lasting changes in its wake.

For the most part, large companies have already felt some of the effects of this shift. But there’s huge potential in AI for small businesses, too. From streamlining the way you hire, train and retain workers to automating tedious administrative tasks, artificial intelligence could hit your office sooner than you might think. But at what cost?

Swinging the pendulum too far could strip away the human component of business — a critical element that keeps small business running well. But rejecting AI could mean missing out on the bottom-line benefits of intelligent machines, such as operational efficiency.

That’s why implementing artificial intelligence in the workplace requires reaching a delicate balance between human and machine, ensuring that technologies enhance, rather than replace, workers. And while it can be tricky to toe this line, many businesses have started doing just that.

5 Areas of AI-Powered Growth

When AI is integrated well, it’s seamless and nearly invisible. Whether algorithms hum silently in the background to assist human resources or admin support, these five applications of AI for small business could spell big changes ahead.

1. Hiring

From the second you click “submit” on an online job post, you likely receive a mountain of applications — many of them irrelevant to the job’s criteria. That’s why a growing number of companies are using AI solutions to prescreen candidates. Of course, this doesn’t remove the “human” from human resources: Staff are still the ones who select the right candidates from the bunch. But thanks to AI, they have more bandwidth to make a thoughtful decision.

2. Internal Communications

AI-powered chatbots are the new darling of internal communications, and for good reason: They’re intuitive, data-driven and can personalize responses based on employee needs in real time. Unabot, a natural language processing bot, does just that. To handle more complex cases, these bots may route employees to humans who can answer questions more fully — but in all cases, chatbots afford humans more time to handle the more skilled labor while leaving the “How many PTO days do I have left?” questions to the machines.

3. Admin Tasks

AI personal assistants automate recurring, predictable tasks like scheduling meetings or project management so that humans can save their energy for more meaningful — and potentially higher-revenue-generating — work. Bots like X.ai, Butler and Slackbot are great examples, but at the enterprise level there are even more options for small and big businesses alike.

4. Customer Support

Experts say customer service is an area prone to some of the most sweeping effects of AI. Technologies like IBM’s Watson can automate queries, decision trees and more — all while retaining human agents to handle trickier cases and elevations. As a result, the adoption of AI for customer service could grow as much as 143% in the next year and a half. They’re not just for the benefit of customers, though. They also support the employee experience by enabling workers to focus on more fulfilling work and less on the trivial, redundant interactions.

5. Health Insurance Optimization

AI also has the potential to optimize your organization’s health benefits package — or even help employees make the most of the one they have. For example, predictive analytics can forecast trends, patterns and needs for insurance offerings, while AI-powered technologies like health chatbots connect employees to care, no matter where they are.

Making AI Fit in Your Workplace

Of course, as AI begins to change the nature of business, there’s a growing chorus of people who fear they’ll be outpaced (and eventually replaced) by the technology. That’s why it’s essential to consider how these changes could affect your business, including the human talent it relies on.

If you introduce AI-powered technologies into the workplace — whether they’re simple bot assistants or more advanced, enterprise-level systems — take the time to educate employees on their benefits and get them excited about the prospect of smaller workloads and more meaningful, higher-level work.

After all, research shows that the majority of workers do think AI will enrich their on-the-job experience — but when employers don’t talk about the technology, employees start to worry. Let them know that you understand their concerns and will implement their feedback. Most of all, reinforce that humans and technologies share, and will likely always share, a symbiotic relationship: Both are needed to improve business. One can’t function without the other, so as AI grows, the need for humans will too. Pay attention to that balance and everything else will fall into place.

Stay up to date on the latest health care regulations and trends for your small business: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.