By Peter Hughes
Area Vice President
The speed of artificial intelligence (AI) development – particularly generative AI – has caught most regulators and businesses around the world off guard, and many are struggling to respond to the rapid changes both in the technology itself and its impact.
What we can’t deny is that AI is set to play a role not just in the workplace, but in almost every aspect of our lives. However, there is still a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the impact of AI, particularly on our workforce.
“This call will be recorded for quality and training purposes.”
We’ve all had this message played to us when we’ve called to renew our car insurance or discuss a bank loan, but the value of this recording has the potential to grow significantly in value to the business.
In the field of business communications, we are already seeing conversational AI being used to capture and analyse the data that flows through digital unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) and contact centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) platforms.
There are billions of voice and video business calls and meetings made over UCaaS and CCaaS platforms in Australia and New Zealand every year, representing valuable corporate data that can be extracted. Using AI and data-driven applications, these recorded conversations create any number of productivity, business intelligence and automation opportunities.
To help us navigate the right path as we implement AI-enabled UCaaS and CCaaS solutions in the workplace, RingCentral recently collaborated with multinational market research and consulting firm Ipsos.
Our research revealed mixed feelings about AI. While younger Australian workers and decision makers are more likely to see the promise and benefits of AI, there are some clear generational differences. Half ( 49%) of younger workers (21-34 years old) believe AI will positively impact the Australian workforce but that goes down to around a third among older workers (over 45 years old).
Our research shows that AI is already having a broad impact on productivity, particularly for decision-makers: 43% are most excited by the ability AI can have to free up their time, with virtual assistance, note-taking and transcription, knowledge management, and meeting recaps seen as the most valuable AI capabilities.
It’s also pretty clear from our research that there is a lot of apprehension about the future of AI. Workers in general are worried about their future job security, which is not surprising when recent reports like one from Goldman Sachs (The Potentially Large Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Economic Growth) estimate that generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation.
Our report found that one third of all Australian workers (34%) and nearly four-in-ten (39%) decision-makers believe AI will replace many work roles within 20 years, while just 22% of decision-makers are nervous about AI taking their jobs. Overall, 19% of workers are nervous that AI will take their specific jobs, which climbs to 26% for younger workers.
This survey was conducted in January this year, so it will be interesting to see how far these attitudes have shifted when we complete our next round of research with Ipsos on the topic in the next couple of months.
Communicating the impact of AI
What is very clear is that when we are introducing AI technologies into the workplace, it’s important that we clearly communicate the impact that it will have. In the majority of cases today these technologies will be there to augment rather than replace the work we do. A case in point is RingSense for Sales, an AI-powered conversation intelligence platform that provides insights from customer interactions and conversations to drive sales success.
In introducing AI-enabled solutions like this, it’s critical to emphasise in your communications that you are complying with all regulatory and personal security and privacy obligations, and that the information you are capturing is being used to improve the overall productivity and effectiveness of the sales team, with insights to help train and mentor representatives, improve the customer experience and ensure that the team is maximising their sales opportunities.
Addressing the skills shortage
We are constantly being told there is a skills crisis and a shortage in talent. AI can assist in helping us become smarter and more efficient in how we work. However, retaining and attracting staff are still the biggest challenges for most organisations, so as we introduce AI into the workplace, we need to be thinking about the impact the technology will have on our teams, their morale and overall satisfaction.
Younger workers and decision makers are generally more positive about the impact of AI – but how can we bring everybody on board when we AI-enable our operations? There are five key areas we need to focus on:
- Education and understanding – make sure everyone is aware of the role that AI will play in the organisation, and also how they can leverage the technology to enhance their own working life.
- Collaboration and communication – be transparent and involve your teams in the evaluation, feedback and application of AI technologies.
- Proactivity – be upfront, take the time to address any concerns and explain the benefits early in the process, which will help with the positive reception for AI in the business.
- Use AI to enhance communications – you can already take advantage of numerous AI-powered tools which not only enhance communication, collaboration, and decision-making across teams, but are also a living demonstration of the benefits of AI.
- Innovation – encourage your teams to experiment with AI-based solutions. Do this in a low-risk, high-value way without jeopardising your organisation’s security or intellectual property, or the privacy and confidentiality of your customer data.
Originally published 14 Jul, 2023, updated 26 Jul, 2023