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How to use AI and VR to engage the workforce of the future

Written by: Prasad Poosarla
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Organisations are investing an intimidating amount in AI and VR, building new capabilities and transforming operations. But that is largely on the outside. What is happening on the inside to add value to the workforce?

Six out of 10 Indians are not working to their potential, says an NRE survey by BI WORLDWIDE Global Research.

This finding is a wake-up call for many organisations, and a huge indicator of falling workforce engagement levels across industries. While organisations are fast realising the need to up the ante when it comes to workforce engagement, the ‘how’ still remains the question.

As Cedric Price said, technology is the answer. By making artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) an integral part of engagement strategies, organisations can lay the foundation of an innovative and empathetic Employee Value Proposition (EVP). It is about time organisations start building and modifying engagement systems with these technologies, to deliver a transformational experience to their workforce, paving the path to their success.

Where to begin?

With the basic definition of workforce shifting from mere employees to a larger mix of digital, gig and physical workforce, the ground is ready for this change. Past engagement strategies (focusing on just employees) are on their way out as new strategies catering to a diverse set of experience, skills, needs and desires are kicking in. The need for personalised engagement strategies, complementing instead of competing efficiencies of this diverse workforce, is more than ever before.

Technology can help uber-ise the workforce experience. It begins with building capacities at three levels:

1) the capacity to analyse the real needs of the workforce,

2) the capacity to assist these needs through technology and

3) the capacity to simplify the tasks, making it easier and quicker to add business value to organisation.

With robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive bots and advanced machine learning, organisations will be able to implement this futuristic EVP for their diverse workforce. With some smart and strategic investments, tools can be built around these technologies to ease the mechanism and optimise the time spent in performing monotonous tasks, thereby sparing crucial hours for more productive tasks such as innovation, ideation and strategising among others.

How to uberise workforce experience across their journey with AI and VR?

The key lies in creativity. The more strategic, innovative and adaptive your EVP program is, the better would be the results. By leveraging AI and VR in amplifying key moments in the employee journey, right from the first day to achievement day and referral day, you will be able to meet the enhanced engagement needs of your workforce.

Take for instance, First Day. AI can help making the first day of an employee special by simplifying process with automated joining formalities, driven by data captured through social media profiles such as LinkedIn (with consent), helping them experience hassle-free onboarding. VR, on the other hand, can gamify the induction experience and make it more enjoyable and memorable.

For the managers specifically, the focus is fast shifting from measuring efficiency to mapping effectiveness. Hence, the internal system of recognition should have the ability to identify and map tasks that directly impact business results. Event-driven architecture and real-time AI can leverage on the enterprise data repository, to connect the KPIs that reflect business effectiveness with the internal tasks executed by employees. A mechanism that triggers a prompt to the manager to recognise the employee whose actions had impacted business positively—in real time—can thus be implemented.

Companies can also use automation strategies such as robotic process automation and cognitive bots to shoulder the delivery of time-consuming, repetitive and administrative tasks such as invoice processing, accounts, technology support and so on. This will also give a big push to workforce morale.

AI can also be leveraged for rewards selection. VR, on the other hand, can make the whole rewarding experience more immersive. Winning employees can race the clock to ‘grab’ as many awards as possible in a thrilling virtual world, making rewards much more impactful.

What does this all mean?

From when AI and VR were used to cater to specific needs to them becoming integral in decision making, technology has come a long way. With a ‘human in the loop’ system running algorithms to make recommendations, the future of workforce engagement is becoming much more exciting. By building nudges at the right spots, creating stronger abilities in workforces, and leveraging immersive experiences to reward and recognise good work, there is no doubt that AI and VR will play a pivotal role in shaping brand advocates of the future workforce.

What remains to be seen is whether industries, both global and local, will adopt these technologies in their engagement interface. Will they adapt them to meet evolving demands of new-age workforce, or miss this exciting opportunity of growth?

Also published in Forbes India:


Prasad Poosarla

Prasad Poosarla

Prasad is a veteran among Digital Engineering Champions with over 20 years of experience in transforming operations across organisations. Prasad has amassed his technological prowess from the gamut of roles that he has managed across MNCs, Cloud Computing Product organisations, large IT service MNCs as well as GICs. From core software development and management to sales and client-serving roles, Prasad has constantly delivered with high standards throughout the entire software lifecycle.

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