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Has AI Gone Too Far? Balancing Efficiency with the Human Experience for Positive EX

Automation has taken over our world. Well, not quite, however, it does feel like we have artificial intelligence (AI) devices for just about everything. There are AI-powered translation services, voice-activated search engines, and self-driving cars! 

By: Luke Jamieson, Top 25 Global CX / EX Thought Leader

Automation has taken over our world. Well, not quite, however, it does feel like we have artificial intelligence (AI) devices for just about everything. There are AI-powered translation services, voice-activated search engines, and self-driving cars!  

The last few decades have seen a proliferation of AI and automation, making things more convenient than ever. This has absolutely boosted productivity and efficiency, especially in the workplace, and new technologies have allowed companies to innovate and create at a frantic pace. Not to mention, we love our gadgets and technology like Siri or Google Smart Homes which are helpful and improve our quality of life. 

However, is it all good? Does AI have a net-positive effect on our lives? Like many things in life, it really just depends.  

We know that despite being the most connected generation in history, there are real concerns about rising mental health struggles and increasing isolation amongst millennials. And in the workplace, studies have shown that technological advancements, when not used carefully and intentionally, can actually increase stress and burnout in the workplace. 

The path forward is not to shun AI and automation as a whole, but it is to look at how we can live in better balance. Human connection is the key piece. It is what makes an impact in our workplaces, promotes health and well-being, and counteracts some of the negative effects of technology.  

Technology impacts different industries in unique ways, so we’ll focus here: AI and technology have the power to negatively impact the employee experience (EX), or it can elevate and improve it through fostering human connection. One tool for this is augmented coaching or the process of leveraging data and information to empower leaders to focus on the human and personal aspects of coaching and leading them in the workplace. Helping leaders get their heads out of spreadsheets and getting their hearts back into coaching by doing the heavy lifting of analyzing skill gaps for the right person at the right time.  

Let’s first look a bit more at the paradox of AI, and how it can be effective, and then specifically identify the opportunities available through augmented coaching as a human resource approach in the workplace. 

The Paradox of AI 

Most people can intuitively identify both the positive and negative aspects of technology and the influence it has on our lives. For example, ordering a coffee through a mobile app and picking it up at the counter may be quick and efficient (pros), but there is no small talk and friendly exchange with the barista—there’s no human connection (cons).  

Extend this to a work context and the paradox is even more clear. Many companies will prioritize cost reduction by increasing the efficiency of their processes and procedures. This includes chatbots or automated phone calls as customer service. Anyone who has used these knows that there is no replacement for speaking to a real-life customer support agent. Chatbots can only do so much—it is the human touch that really makes an effective and impactful customer service experience (CX).  

The other paradox we see with technology is that we now have thousands of ways to communicate—text, chat, Zoom, DM, tweet, hashtag, voice memo, email, stories, project tasks—and yet it doesn’t always lead to better communication or outcomes. A study in the Communications Monographs journal demonstrated how communication technology use (CTU) directly corresponded to employee well-being, burnout, and work engagement. The study found that CTU could either positively or negatively impact these things, so the careful implementation of communication strategies is massively important.  

How to Use AI Positively 

The downsides of AI and automation can be summed up as this: lack of human connection. We are social creatures who thrive in and need a variety of strong relationships to function. To get the most out of AI and technology, we need to use it to complement human intelligence. AI cannot replace a person, nor should we let it. AI must work alongside humans to foster real connections and create a positive impact.  

The aforementioned study determined these best practices for incorporating technology into the workplace in a positive way to reduce employee burnout: 

  • Leadership should focus on technology that supports accessibility and efficient communication in the workplace. This is the technology that gives employees the information they need, when they need it, along with communication channels that are effective and efficient.  
  • Simultaneously, leaders need to minimize or eliminate technology and practices that create constant interruptions and excessively unpredictable work schedules. This could include constant instant messaging, the expectation to always be online, or apps that are heavy on notifications that can be disruptive. 

Another way of looking at this is that technology should amplify the regular, personal communication we already have. It should not add additional burdens, distractions, or challenges. Technology has to be a complement to human interaction, not a replacement for it. 

Augmented Coaching: AI in Practice 

Let’s bring it full circle here and look at a specific example: augmented coaching. We’ve determined that there is a paradox to technology and that it can be both a positive and negative force in the workplace, based on how it is implemented.  

This means that leaders and managers have a responsibility to carefully consider how they are leveraging technology to improve EX and employee engagement. Augmented coaching uses AI by collecting data on employee knowledge gaps and then empowers managers to coach and mentor the right person, at the right time, with the right content and effectively releases them from the burden of crunching data allowing great human connections to take place with each individual they are working with.  

It’s combining the best of technology and AI to collect data and information that promotes real-life-human decision-making. It is truly about complementing human intelligence, not trying to replace it.  

The Way Forward 

It would be easier if this discussion had a black-and-white answer—either that AI and technology are always good and we should embrace it, or it is always bad and we should shun it. Reality is more complex than that, however, once we understand where it fits in our lives, we can leverage AI and technology to improve our quality of life, both personally and in the workplace.  

So, what is the space that AI and technology should hold in our lives? As a complement to and amplification of human intelligence, creativity, and communication. 

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