Why every employee now wants their own intelligent virtual assistant

Employees want better at-work experiences, and this begins, argues Serkan Ibrahim, by embracing intelligent virtual assistants and the AI that goes behind it:

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May 28, 2024

Richard Branson famously said: “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.”

But as things currently stand, employers are simply not doing this.

Employees aren’t just wanting better pay, or benefits, or future career opportunities. Right now, in the here and present, they’re after something much more elusive (and which they’re not getting) – a great employee experience.

According to PwC’s ‘Tech at Work’ report, employers aren’t getting it right when it comes to the technology they’re providing in the workplace. Not only does it say it creates unnecessary at-work frustration, but it also highlights how the subpar employee experience this creates can have dramatic ripple effects on people’s enthusiasm to deliver in their role. It found that while 92% of C-suite execs say they’re satisfied with the technology experience their company provides for making progress on their most important work, only 68% of staff agree.

Embracing AI

These statistics though are only likely to get worse, considering the tech landscape is changing rapidly, particularly with the increasing use of AI.

Now, more than ever, it’s important business leaders fully understand both what it can do – but also what their employees want from it.

‘Experience’ is going to have to be redefined

Everybody know the rise of large language models (LLMs) and generative AI (GenAI) is changing the game in natural language processing and AI, offering huge opportunities for innovation.

According to Mckinsey’s latest report on GenAI, its impact on productivity could add trillions of dollars in value to the global economy (the equivalent of $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion annually). This would increase the impact of all AI by 15-to-40%. Clearly, the expectations for GenAI are huge.

The benefit of GenAI models is that they can come up with outwardly realistic and contextual content – providing fast, personalized and contextual responses or answers to users queries or interactions.

It’s because of this, that they have the power to greatly simplify the way virtual AI assistants (like chatbots) are built and managed – and it is this that can create a better employee experience, increase job satisfaction and productivity.

Employee experience and the ‘IVA’ revolution

Enterprise AI solutions that combine conversational AI (CAI) and GenAI enable businesses to develop high performing intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) for their employees.

IVAs optimise productivity by automating mundane and repetitive tasks, adding efficiency to processes and reducing employee stress and workloads. This is important in a world where many employees struggle with a good work-life balance.

In our recent survey of 1,000 workers, we found that the majority of employees (76%) cited knowing they were productive at work to be the most important aspect of being happy in their roles.

Moreover, the same number cited having access to the right tools and technologies as being an important aspect of their job satisfaction.

Workplace technology is nothing new and we’re seeing more applications than ever before. Zoom, Google Docs, Slack, Teams, Outlook etc.. and the list goes on.

But are those applications helping employees to do their best work? 

A significant 74% of polled workers told us they spend up to 4 hours a day on repetitive, manual computer-based tasks at work everyday.

Not only is this worrying for businesses, it also highlights the sheer volume of admin-based work employees do every day – when their time could be better spent elsewhere.

By contrast, IVAs deliver in four key areas:

* IVAs can help employees to receive fast HR-related information:

Almost half of the workers we surveyed (44%) said that basic HR requests should be automated. This would greatly speed up routine inquiries such as holiday requests, questions about pay and training requests in a seamless, efficient manner. In turn, this allows HR teams to concentrate on different matters, where they feel their time is truly valued too.

* IVAs that can assist with IT support FAQs:

With an integrated virtual assistant, employees benefit from self-service support across a range of queries and efficient handling of calls. This can drastically reduce the number of direct queries to a manned IT service desk, which is particularly helpful for large organisations.

* IVAs can support employees that work in the customer service industry:

In retail for example, employees can support customers by providing them with the latest information and history when talking with a customer, know their preferences based on user history and react more efficiently to their questions as a result.

* IVAs can help employees find information they need quickly to increase their performance and knowledge:

Organizations can use AI-powered conversational and cognitive search assistants to provide a frictionless, personalized search experience, along with contextual recommendations.

Increasing time to value

IVAs on their own though, won’t change things overnight,

Implementing GenAI and automation into daily business practices is key to enhancing employee productivity for the long-term. Employees should feel empowered that IVAs can support them to do their job better, with a personal assistant of their very own.

But there is a balance to be struck when it comes to utilizing GenAI in the workplace, which is why it’s so important that employees feel they can also reach out physically to teams when needed.

Working closely with an American data management company, who found that employees were struggling to find answers through its existing HR portal while HR staff were inundated with repeat queries, we were able to support with implementing two IVAs for HR and procurement.

The HR IVA was trained with the 80 most commonly asked questions, serving a purpose as the HR FAQ bot on the company’s HR portal.

This helped employees and HR staff to access information quickly, reducing direct queries to HR by 40%, allowing them time to focus on high value matters.

At the same time, employees can now get answers to their HR questions quickly, so they can get back to work. But, at the same time, they know they can reach the HR team if they are in need of further support and this would be timelier too.

The company is now able to build and maintain virtual assistant solutions on their own, adding questions where necessary and enhancing and personalizing the employee experience to fit their needs.

Invest in AI or be left behind: by your competition and employees

IVAs powered by CAI will be fundamental to the future workplace.

Though AI can be feared by some – with the prospect of it taking their jobs – those that truly embrace it stand to gain significant benefits.

Soon, every employee will want to have their own personal GenAI assistant to help them with their day-to-day work.

Those organizations not willing to invest in this will quickly find themselves left behind.

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