Governments around the world are beginning to introduce laws that govern the use of artificial intelligence algorithms in monitoring employees’ work. But while it’s easy to see AI as the enemy, it offers many ways to boost employee engagement and work-life balance, argues Pierre Lindmark.
In a work setting, most people would associate the terms ‘algorithmic tracking’ and ‘measurement’ with an overbearing control that is placed over the employee’s life.
Staff might then become worried about how these tools could potentially be exploited to increase micromanagement and have a negative impact on their mental health. Governments in Europe have already introduced legislation to monitor the use of algorithms and a UK government review into bias in algorithmic decision-making has recommended greater governance among employers here.
While these negative connotations are grounded in reality and these practices can be used for negative purposes, AI can also be used to reinvent traditional HR practices and improve overall employee wellbeing and productivity.
This is why we shouldn’t dismiss all use of AI in the workplace – and certainly not when it comes to employee engagement. That said, effective use of AI in employee engagement requires an employee-first mindset.
One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic was that it has forced organisations to re-examine the way they operate, especially in terms of employee management.
As hybrid and remote working became the norm, HR professionals were forced to re-evaluate their attitude towards employee experience and revisit policies that were strongly embedded in traditional workplace systems.
AI in the workplace
While most struggled to cope with the various challenges imposed by multiple lockdowns and social distancing, organisations with an AI enabled, agile HR system were able to quickly adapt their processes in accordance with the rapidly changing needs of their employees.
In fact, the more progressive organisations have discovered numerous ways to make the best out of their employee experience management tools and have used it to reinvent their HR processes.
These organisations understand that if implemented properly, AI-enabled employee experience management tools hold the potential to help employers become more aware of their employee’s needs, increase job satisfaction and improve the work-life balance of their staff.
To do so, companies should follow three principles.
1: Focus on the employee experience
Enriching the customer experience has been popular in recent years; despite this, the importance of the employee experience is only now starting to attract considerable attention.
The employee experience encompasses everything from how businesses attract, introduce and develop their personnel to the wellbeing of each employee in the workplace, both mentally and physically.
This has become even more critical as more businesses embrace a hybrid model, where the boundaries between personal and professional lives are much more porous.
As a result, businesses are increasingly dedicating resources to health and wellness training, flexible working hours and other features designed to help improve employees’ work life balances as part of their new employee experience.
Implementing these initiatives is only the tip of the iceberg: HR leaders need to measure the effectiveness of these measures on employee engagement and wellbeing.
This is where AI comes in. Real-time employee engagement can be measured through AI-enabled, automated “temperature measurements” utilising frequent employee feedback. Through visualisation of the collected data, enterprises can gain an overall picture of how each member of their organisations is doing and then make adjustments to strengthen the employee experience.
We must not forget the link between profitability and the wellbeing of the organisation – it’s easier to retain employees than hire and onboard on a regular basis, and engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile to support their business, making them a company’s best brand ambassadors. A better employee experience also leads to a better customer experience.
2: Help employees attain better work-life balance
The widespread adoption of remote working over the past 24 months has had its perks: employees could forego their commute to spend more time on personal endeavours, for example.
Yet, it also comes with a potential challenge: the lack of differentiation between the work and personal environment means that employees can find it more challenging to clock in and out of work.
When all staff members are physically present in the same working environment, managers can identify employees who regularly spend long hours in the office, or witness when someone is having issues, and take action accordingly.
If implemented in a transparent way, AI-enabled employee engagement platforms can be a powerful tool to improve the employee experience.”
Without any in-person cues, employee challenges can go unnoticed much longer. This can have a detrimental impact on mental wellbeing, and even lead to burnout in the long run.
Regular temperature checks are critical to identify patterns early and remedy them. This process must start with running dedicated wellbeing and employee engagement surveys to set a benchmark with clear metrics, and implement changes as and when appropriate.
For example, if employee wellbeing metrics are consistently low in a specific division over the course of three months, HR can work with the division lead to identify areas of improvement. These could include activities to improve team bonding and belonging, reducing working hours or streamlining workloads and, if justified, even increase headcount.
Running regular surveys also shows all employees that they have a voice to the chapter, including those that would struggle to express their feelings to their line managers or HR in a traditional environment.
This improves the wellbeing of all employees, regardless of their role within the organisation. It also ensures that managers can address trends with each member of their team to help create a positive environment that respects each employee’s work-life balance needs, making workplaces more inclusive in the process.
3: Use insights to make informed decisions
As discussed previously, AI can enable HR leaders or teams to make sound decisions based on the data gathered from employee feedback.
AI will also learn from the responses to each survey to create sophisticated questionnaires used for the employee engagement and wellbeing feedback loops. By exploring past survey responses, AI is able to identify meaningful patterns, which can help design customised questionnaires for each employee.
The insights derived from these questionnaires are particularly valuable to the organisation, especially when it comes to reducing employee turnover: well-designed questionnaires can help better understand the thought processes of the employees and help employers detect patterns associated with job dissatisfaction.
This not only eliminates any human biases or inconsistencies but also enables the HR department to become more agile and make faster decisions regarding employee retention, including promotions and other perks that suit the needs of each employee.
Overall, an employee engagement tool helps to create a work environment that is more responsive to addressing each employee’s needs.
The data derived from these tools can also help employers make the most out of performance evaluation meetings. In fact, it can be used to hold meaningful conversations with the employees to better understand and analyse conditions responsible for lower productivity or discontentment with work.
To ensure maximum employee engagement with these tools, businesses should ensure they communicate their use to employees in a transparent way.
This starts with informing employees of how information is being gathered through these surveys or questionnaires, whilst maintaining respondent anonymity, and how it will influence decision making for their division and the wider organisation. It is also important to let the employees know how long the data collected from these tools will be stored (securely) within the organisation’s database.
If implemented in a transparent way, AI-enabled employee engagement platforms can be a powerful tool to improve the employee experience, help managers and HR make faster, more effective decisions to retain employees, and improve workplace inclusivity.
This is critical for any business who not only wants to retain existing employees, but also to create a positive, inclusive culture that will stand the test of time.