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How AI in the workplace is helping teams do more with less

A recent surge of AI advancements has been a spark of hope in a challenging time. See how teams are using new technologies to control costs and increase employee productivity.

By Sarah Olson, Staff Writer, @seolson5

Last updated April 25, 2023

Economic pressure, austerity measures, and layoffs have cast a dark shadow on the workplace in recent months, but recent advancements in AI have brought hope for brighter days ahead.

More than two-thirds of HR, IT, and Ops professionals who use AI for employee experience say that bot performance has improved significantly in the last year, according to new research in the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2023.

With the whirlwind of new AI tools and capabilities coming onto the market, organizations need to be thoughtful and strategic about how they use AI. Though it is still in the early days, organizations should be prepared to move swiftly because the future of work is already here.

Here are five AI trends that could transform the workplace as we know it.

1. More organizations are onboarding AI to help control costs and deliver faster employee service

Organizations are under pressure to control costs while simultaneously delivering more value. For cash-strapped companies, the acceleration of AI technologies could not have arrived at a more opportune time.

According to new Zendesk research, 68 percent of employee experience professionals believe that AI/bots will drive large cost savings over the next few years.

68% of employee experience professionals believe that AI/bots will drive large cost savings over the next few years.

Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2023

Many organizations are already realizing the benefits of AI in the workplace, like chatbot integrations in Slack and AI cues to optimize employee help content.

In truth, it’s still early. We’re likely to see a rapid expansion of AI capabilities and use cases in the next few years.

In the meantime, leaders can breathe a sigh of relief because AI has arrived just in time to relieve some budgetary pressure.

2. Bots have evolved past simple deflection and are becoming more natural and human-like

Bots have come a long way since the failed attempts of IBM’s Watson and Microsoft’s Tay bot.

Nowadays, bots can do a lot more and with greater accuracy. Capabilities that once would have taken years to build can be deployed in a matter of days when you use Zendesk bots for the employee experience.

Among the IT, HR, and Operations professionals we surveyed, 66 percent agree that AI/bots are becoming more natural and human-like.

AI has become a viable option for organizations that want to automate more complex tasks. Someday in the not-so-distant future, AI could write your emails and summarize meetings for you.

Could bots be at the helm of your employee service desk someday? Possibly. Though Cristina Fonseca, VP of Product at Zendesk, cautions that generative AI still makes a lot of mistakes.

“ChatGPT is great at finding general responses that are highly conversational, but it doesn’t have the context to answer questions about your business.”
Cristina Fonseca, VP of Product at Zendesk

“ChatGPT is great at finding general responses that are highly conversational, but it doesn’t have the context to answer questions about your business,” says Fonseca.

Ideally, you’d create a feedback loop between AI and human agents to ensure accuracy and optimize performance.

Image showing three employees standing next to each other smiling and laughing

3. AI can help break down silos and deliver a unified employee experience across HR, IT, Ops, Legal, etc.

Internally, teams are still struggling to break down silos and deliver unified experiences across the entire organization—limiting their potential uses for AI.

More than half of the IT, HR, and Operations professionals we surveyed acknowledge that siloed data across departments makes it difficult to use AI in more advanced ways.

Unifying a vast network of internal data, applications, and tools is a challenge—one that requires more powerful and extensible solutions.

Zendesk helped Workrise, a workforce management solution in the energy sector, build a custom solution for EX and CX that allows its team to streamline operations, reduce costs, and free up bandwidth for agents and system administrators to focus on more high-impact tasks.

“When you put Zendesk automations into practice and utilize them in real-time, it is game-changing. That’s how we move mountains.”
Zachary Seay-Klatt, Systems Administrator at Workrise

By pairing a PDF reader with an API, Workrise was able to save eight hours of work per week, equal to $20,000 in quarterly savings–all from a single change within Zendesk.

“When you put Zendesk automations into practice and utilize them in real-time, it is game-changing. That’s how we move mountains,” says Zachary Seay-Klatt, Systems Administrator at Workrise.

As AI continues to advance, IT, HR, Operations, and other internal departments can apply it internally to deliver a more holistic approach to employee experience, which can help to control costs and increase productivity.

4. AI could become like a virtual assistant, helping with tasks like writing and editing, generating reports, and identifying the next best action

We are just beginning to see what AI can do in the workplace.

Recent AI developments from Google, Microsoft, and others point to a future where AI could act as a virtual assistant that helps with mundane, time-consuming tasks. This could help workers by freeing up more time to focus on project work and minimizing distractions in their day.

With AI assistance, organizations have an opportunity to boost employee productivity like never before. Here are a few examples:

  • Steer employees toward the next best action: Based on historical data, AI could suggest the next step an employee should take to move a project forward.
  • Coach employees on how to improve performance: If an employee is underperforming, AI could identify areas for improvement and give helpful tips.
  • Improve the quality of work by giving actionable insights: AI can review employee help articles and suggest optimizations to improve performance.
  • Automate employee onboarding processes: AI could guide employees through routine training and answer questions in real time.

5. Bots are poised to take on more nuanced, emotional tasks in the years ahead

What will employee experience look like in the future? It’s anyone’s guess. But we think it’s safe to say that AI will play an increasingly important role in the workplace in the years to come.

We’re already getting a taste of the AI-powered future. One organization is experimenting with using AI to conduct performance reviews, according to HR Brew.

Some experts speculate that AI could take on more emotionally nuanced tasks, like checking in with a new employee after their first week on the job or asking how they feel about their manager.

It’s possible that many routine functions could be fully automated in the future. According to our research, 65 percent of EX professionals expect AI/bots to replace some human agents over the next few years.

But it’s worth noting that there is still no replacement for personalized interactions and human connection—especially at a time when workers are chronically stressed and burned out.

AI is an incredibly valuable tool, but it shouldn’t be the only arrow in your quiver. You still need talented support staff and leaders to guide your strategy and optimize performance. But if AI can take some of the pressure off of under-resourced teams, that’s certainly a plus.

The future of AI in the workplace

Employee experience professionals are exploring new ways to harness AI for the employee experience and seeing some early successes. There are many reasons to be hopeful, and just as many reasons to be cautious. It’s still early days. No one has all the answers. It’s good to be discerning when you onboard new technology and have a strategy for how you’ll harness it safely and efficiently.

Wondering how your team can make the most of AI in the workplace? We surveyed more than 370 employee experience professionals in 20 countries about how they’re using and thinking about EX technology—download the report to see how you compare.

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