Guest Comment by Chris Ellis
The rise in AI technology has injected businesses with newfound optimism. Many business leaders anticipate that the spread of AI tools will transform the economy as they unlock a new wave of productivity.
From streamlining workflows to accelerating automation, AI will alter what day-to-day processes look like for many employees.
Capital Economics’ AI Economic Impact Index shows that AI technologies have the potential to deliver substantial productivity gains – and the UK ranks as the third best-placed country to benefit from adoption.
Productivity gains from new technologies have been materialising at an increasingly fast pace. According to the report, just one decade after the successful adoption of AI, countries witnessed productivity rises by 1.5 percentage points year-on-year.
Yet, AI alone is not enough to solve the country’s productivity puzzle. The report highlights that a major barrier to achieving productivity gains as a result of technological development is the inefficient or delayed adoption of such technology across organisations.
AI technologies must be constantly tried and tested across the implementation process. Furthermore, making the most of it requires significant organisational and process changes to make full use of capital investments. For example, to accurately feed AI algorithms with up-to-date data, all data collection must be digitised.
UK businesses were least likely to invest in development, HR systems, and processes, with just 23% of respondents doing so in the past 12 months, compared to 37% of French firms
The data suggests that to efficiently incorporate AI, managers must change tack and focus on two things – their processes and their employees – and do so quickly.
The G7 productive business index commissioned by government-backed charity Be the Business found that, crucially, a lack of investment in management and leadership, training, technology adoption, and innovation were primarily responsible for the UK’s productivity stagnation.
Interestingly, the areas in which the UK is lagging behind the most are related to development and workplace training.
Pointedly, UK businesses were least likely to invest in development, HR systems, and processes, with just 23% of respondents doing so in the past 12 months, compared to 37% of French firms.
Furthermore, only 30% of UK business leaders plan to increase training and development for employees. This is 19% lower than France, for example. Britain was also the least likely country to introduce new initiatives for improving employee motivation, investing in new systems, or increasing focus on employee performance reviews.
Business leaders need to take the first step towards ensuring their digital transformation initiatives are centred around their employees’ well-being and are set up to yield result
Overcoming the UK’s productivity challenge will almost certainly be a lengthy process. But data shows that just a tiny 1% annual improvement in the productivity of SMEs over five years would add £94bn in revenue across companies and the economy.
If AI is to drive long-term productivity gains, scaling AI-powered solutions across an organisation should come with new training and development opportunities to enhance the skills as well as the well-being of employees. AI developments need to be accompanied by employee-centric digital transformation.
Business leaders need to take the first step towards ensuring their digital transformation initiatives are centred around their employees’ well-being and are set up to yield results. Processes are fundamental to an organisation’s operational success and business leaders who lack clear visibility into their processes might find it more challenging to improve productivity through digital initiatives.
Process mapping enables businesses to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and manual tasks that are ripe for automation. By re-engineering workflows to enhance speed and accuracy, employees will see their time being freed up to focus on activities that bring greater value to the business.
Optimising processes lays the groundwork for digital transformation initiatives to create a tangible impact for employees in their daily tasks and the organisation as a whole.
Equally, it is important to augment jobs with automation, instead of replacing them. Rapid developments in AI and other emerging tech have left employees fearful of their future job prospects. Thirty-eight percent of 18-34 year-olds fear that AI will undertake at least 50% of their job role in the next ten years. Business leaders must ease the anxieties of their employees through a strategic approach to digital transformation that emphasises augmentation rather than replacement.
Training and upskilling initiatives can bridge knowledge gaps and help employees feel confident in using new tools. These efforts empower employees to embrace technology
Many no-code and low-code platforms are incorporating AI into their solutions, making this technology accessible even to non-technical users. From creating their own ML models to harnessing the power of AI to build out workflows, no-code solutions empower employees to take control of automation.
Drawing on employee knowledge of which processes are the most time-consuming or repetitive, and giving them the tools to streamline workflows, will boost individual productivity. With more time to focus on tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, employee morale stands to benefit from low-code automation.
Teams should be actively supported to drive greater technology adoption. The success of any digital transformation journey hinges on employee engagement. Small businesses can foster technology adoption by involving employees from the outset, seeking their feedback, and addressing concerns.
Training and upskilling initiatives can bridge knowledge gaps and help employees feel confident in using new tools. These efforts empower employees to embrace technology, furthering the transformation agenda.
The path to enhanced efficiency and growth isn’t solely paved through new technologies, but with a profound reimagining of how employees work.
By placing people at the centre of the transformation journey, companies can unlock the true potential of their workforce and emerging technologies. Process optimisation, augmentation through technology, reliance on accurate data, and unwavering support for employee growth stand as the pillars of this new paradigm.
As the UK strives to break free from the constraints of its productivity puzzle, the way forward becomes clear: when AI is adopted and employees flourish, so does the entire business landscape.
Chris Ellis is Pre-Sales Director, Nintex
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