On-the-job training with IA
Intelligence augmentation has the power to transform labour markets forever.
If the flood of headlines is anything to go by, everyone with an eye on the future of work is concerned with the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI). The direst predictions warn of mass job losses, with machines able to perform tasks more efficiently and affordably than humans.
But, what if that didn't have to be the case? What if humans could be empowered to thrive in any working environment in a matter of hours instead of days, weeks and months?
It just so happens that by using something called intelligence augmentation (IA), this can transpire. IA has the potential to fundamentally change labour markets by turning hiring and training models upside down.
Square pegs, square holes
Under the current model, people need to possess specific knowledge and skills before they are allowed to perform certain roles and responsibilities. This means they are either hired because they come with these skills, or they have to be trained for a number of weeks before they are any use to the company.
This cost of hire, either for new hires or for internal transfers, adds to the overall cost of doing business. It also impacts a company's ability to adapt to changing market forces. Every time roles or responsibilities change, affected staff need to be 'reprogrammed' to perform the new activities in line with prescribed business rules. And every time an experienced staff member leaves, the company is forced to invest in upskilling a new person.
Employees also lose out with this model. By being forced to learn specific knowledge and skills before they qualify for any role, they soon become trapped in that given role. The longer they stay in that role, the more proficient they become, the greater the cost to company to replace them. And so they get pigeon-holed into specialist roles that limit their growth and career development.
This is where intelligence augmentation (AI) comes in.
Rather than asking people to learn prescribed decision-making logic they then need to apply in order to perform prescribed tasks based on defined product, policy and procedure rules, they can simply be offered access to a digital expert.
IA offers countries like South Africa a way to grow jobs, rather than destroy them.
This allows them to tackle known challenges with confidence, as the digital expert can guide them, in real-time, to know exactly what questions to ask. Based on the answers, it guides them as to what decisions to make and actions to take. In other words, they no longer need to learn prescribed logic in order to perform known activities. IA can help them do it in real-time without the pre-training.
By removing the need for staff to first learn prescribed logic before they can perform defined tasks, they are freed up to focus their efforts on adding value to areas not yet prescribed. This includes focusing on handling nuanced conversations with customers, and on solving challenges not yet known or clearly understood. IA liberates people to develop their skills in areas that can add new value to the company - areas where robotic replication of known formulae are of lower value.
This allows companies to rapidly respond to changing customer needs, without being held back by their staff's current levels of knowledge and experience. They can achieve this through the deployment of fluid teams capable of rapidly taking up different roles and projects, with the assistance of real-time digital experts.
IA also changes how companies recruit. Rather than hiring and developing experts in defined specialisations, companies will look to invest in building digital experts that can help any staff member make required decisions and take required actions. The company can then hire more adaptive thinkers who share the company values and culture, and who thrive on change, teamwork and execution excellence.
For contact centres, for example, this means hiring conversation specialists who, with the help of call navigators, can be empowered to field any call like an expert, with minimal upfront product, policy and procedural training. It means sales teams can hire people who excel at customer engagements rather than product knowledge. And it means technical teams can give preference to hiring practical problem-solvers who, with the help of digital intelligence, can be empowered to tackle wide-ranging technical challenges without having to first learn everything beforehand.
IA offers countries like South Africa a way to grow jobs, rather than destroy them. It breaks the dependency on people having knowledge and experience before they become hireable. It gives a person with the right attitude and aptitude the chance to add value without adding operational costs and risk. And it offers companies the agility required to move people into new roles and functions rapidly, without having to weigh up the cost of retrenchments and retraining.
Ryan Falkenberg is co-founder and co-CEO of CLEVVA, a company that specialises in artificial intelligence for people. Prior to founding CLEVVA, he co-founded Hi-Performance Learning, which created new ways for staff to learn more in less than half the time. In 2014, Falkenberg co-founded CUDA Technology, a company that developed enterprise learning and knowledge management technologies. He and his brother and long-time business partner Dayne sold both HPL and CUDA to form their Human Capital business. The two partnered again to start CLEVVA in 2011.