Employers are increasingly recognising that Artificial Intelligence lifts team morale, makes work fun and ensures the pursuit of smarter goals
The benefits of artificial intelligence go well beyond improved efficiency and decision-making. AI can also improve organizational effectiveness and strengthen teams and enterprise cultures. Artificial intelligence (AI) can generate cultural as well as financial benefits for organizations. With AI systems in place, teams can perform tasks with more pride and confidence and collaborate more effectively: they can get stronger. These cultural benefits can penetrate the foundation of business operations, improving assumptions that drive organizational behaviours and ensuring the pursuit of smarter goals.
AI & Collective Learning
Based on a global survey of 2,197 managers and interviews with 18 executives, an MIT-SMR-BCG report has identified a wide range of AI-related cultural benefits at both the team and organizational levels. Among survey respondents with AI implementations that improved efficiency and decision-making, for example, more than 75% also saw improvements in team morale, collaboration, and collective learning. Culture change from using AI transcends the legitimate, but myopic, promise that AI will liberate workers from drudgery.
Finding new performance drivers
These cultural changes have a cascading effect on other aspects of the organization as well. For example, AI-related cultural and financial benefits build on each other. The survey respondents who saw significant financial benefits from their AI initiatives were 10 times more likely to change how they measure success than those who saw no such benefits. In some cases, AI helped leaders identify new performance drivers, which led to new assumptions, objectives, measures, and patterns of behaviour, along with new areas of accountability. AI also helped these organizations realign behaviours and become more competitive.
Pernod Ricard, the world’s second-largest seller of wine and spirits, offers a case in point. The company has used AI effectively to optimize salespeople’s store visits. The results have excited the sales teams so much that they have now started to add information to enhance the data models with information that they were previously not included in developing it. It’s a unique case of Augmented Intelligence to create new value.
Pierre-Yves Calloc’h, chief digital officer at company said that historically, the sales staff had relied heavily on their own experience to decide which stores to visit. The company expected that its new AI-based system of digital assistants, which uses data to prioritize stores, would encounter resistance.
However, salespeople embraced the technology, which augments rather than replaces their own knowledge. Calloc’h fostered trust in the system by involving recognized business experts in the tool’s design and gathering extensive feedback from pilot users. His team ensured that the reasons for the AI system’s recommendations were clear, and plainly communicated, to the salespeople.
No going back to old ways of working
In addition, his analytics team used interviews with the business experts to explore unexpected insights and feed those insights into the recommendation engine. That bolstered the tool’s credibility among the experts and improved the effectiveness of the tool itself. According to Calloc’h, salespeople told him, “There’s no way I’m going back to my previous way of doing things. I trust that the system has been looking at a lot of options when recommending the 20 stores that I should visit this week. I’ll add some because there is outside information that I have, and the tool doesn’t have.” The technology also provides employees with new recommendations that strengthen their sales pitches.
The survey came up with some amazingly exciting findings such as some executives employing AI to reassess strategic and operational assumptions. Increasingly, executives are recognising that they can use AI to discern performance drivers that they themselves cannot identify through intuition and experience alone.
Radha Subramanyam, president and chief research and analytics officer at CBS, describes the broadcast network’s efforts to critically assess long-standing organizational assumptions about how it measures the success of TV shows. “I gave our AI teams 50 years of KPIs (key performance indicators) and 50 years of consumer research,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Here are the things that we believe are important in this consumer research — quantitative and qualitative. I’m giving you all the raw data. Are the things that I habitually look at the right KPIs to drive my mega-KPI, or are they wrong?’” The analysis affirmed the utility of two historical KPIs but also added two new KPIs to the set. “We got better by going through this AI exercise,” Subramanyam noted. “The analysis changed what we were looking for and helped improve our performance.”
AI lifts employee morale
Among teams that improved their efficiency and decision quality with AI implementations, 79% reported an increase in morale. For example, Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M Group experimented with different ways of using AI to help price products for end-of-season sales. It tested scenarios in which humans priced items, an algorithm priced items, and a human and an algorithm worked together, with the human evaluating and tweaking the algorithm’s decisions. The combination of human and machine worked best, and the retailer’s employees welcomed the technology. This made employees feel more precise, sharper, and make better decisions. It made work more fun.
The survey suggests that even when organizations make substantial changes associated with AI, culture does not suffer — quite the opposite, in fact. For example, implementing AI is associated with better morale in general. But when combined with business process change, the effects are even more pronounced. Nearly 57% of organizations that made few changes in business processes reported an increase in morale, while 66% of organizations that made many changes reported an increase in morale. The more that an organization uses AI, the more opportunities there are for cultural benefit.