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How Companies Are Using AI to Alleviate Labor Shortages

Three of every four companies have reported talent or labor shortages and difficulty hiring–a 16-year high. Profound social, economic and demographic changes have created unmet demands for workers in industries ranging from hospitality to logistics to healthcare. Executives across sectors are struggling to attract and retain talent and it’s likely that labor shortages will remain a critical issue for many organizations moving forward.

However, the rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to significantly disrupt labor markets. Leading organizations are using AI technologies to reduce the impact of labor shortages and improve their competitive position, while also saving on costs.

Here’s how they’re putting AI and big data to use:

They’re improving retention

Departing employees most often report low pay and insufficient benefit packages as the primary reasons for their resignation and labor shortages. Some say a non-supportive and unpleasant work environment is the reason their employees quit, creating labor shortages. But every company is different, which is why leading organizations are pulling internal data and using technology to determine the exact reasons why their talent is leaving so they can make data-driven decisions to solve their talent issue.

You may be thinking: What kind of tech are they using?

Machine Learning algorithms are available, for instance, to determine when remote employees are most productive. Employers who use these tools can build schedules that tap into remote workers’ best hours while also accounting for the needs of employees’ personal lives. The result: Higher employee satisfaction.

Other employers turn to AI tools to reduce mind-numbing routine tasks. Customer-service representatives, for example, are far happier when they devote their days to meaningful relationships with customers rather than the tedious, repetitive jobs that can be handled by AI-based chatbots. Employers demonstrate respect for their workers when they automate the tiresome tasks. The effects ripple through the organization and happy employees build relationships that create loyal, profitable customers.

They improve productivity for the long-term

When existing workers become more efficient, employers need to add fewer employees to handle a growing volume of business. AI-powered tools provide dynamic productivity gains across a wide variety of industries.

For example, look at the productivity gains in field service knowledge management — the sector that ensures that service workers have the training, experience and analytics tools they need to fix something right the first time, whether they’re repairing an oven in a suburban home or a big piece of industrial machinery at a remote location.

AI-based tools can provide historic data on breakdowns and their causes, determine the best potential solutions and track down the necessary parts. Some organizations even analyze their historic data to determine which field service technicians are best at certain types of assignments, increasing the likelihood that a service call will be successful the first time.

In Rock Hill, S.C., 3D Systems uses service intelligence, which is technology (powered by AI) that mines and analyzes traditional service data and institutional knowledge from a company’s highest-performing employees. Service intelligence helps 3D Systems sort through service data, diagnose a problem, and suggest solutions that can be implemented remotely. As a result, the manufacturer reduces technician travel time, cuts parts consumption and improves the speed of repairs, subsequently reducing costs.

This is not a short-term solution or band-aid. But rather a way to improve productivity across the workforce in a meaningful way. Similar stories of productivity gains are being reported across numerous industries, particularly those most pressed by labor shortages.

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They upskill workers quickly

Organizations committed to the development of the skills of their workers can recruit from a wider pool of candidates — not just experienced workers, but eager newcomers as well.

AI-based tools can take practical information gathered from veteran workers, combine that with historic data and mix in information from clients and vendors to create training materials that support new workers far more effectively than traditional onboarding methods. AI tools also provide fast and invaluable data on the progress of a new employe, including any skills that may need additional attention.

Newcomers are less likely to become frustrated — and less likely to leave for other jobs — when they feel the satisfaction of improved skills. And, the promise of training can be a powerful draw when employers are recruiting.

Good upskilling also reduces costs. A recent survey in one industry, for example, found that performers in the bottom quarter of the workforce cost organizations 84 percent more than top performers.

They retain institutional knowledge

Every day, 10,000 people in the United States reach age 65, the traditional retirement age. A lot of institutional knowledge and company expertise is walking out the door with those workers.

To transfer institutional knowledge, companies and other employers are introducing phased-retirement and part-time work opportunities that allow younger workers to continue to tap the experience of retirement-age employees.

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But leading organizations are taking things further as they gear up AI-based initiatives intended to capture and “save” the knowledge that retiring workers have accumulated throughout their career. They’re then applying machine-reasoning to that data to help make decisions long after the retired worker has split ways.

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AI-based tools are making a substantial contribution to employee retention, training and productivity — the key elements in mitigating the effects of labor shortages. There’s no question AI will play an even greater role as economic challenges grow and the need to attract and retain workers escalates. As we enter into a period of economic uncertainty, companies should take advantage of the opportunity to streamline operations and cover for employees leaving, simply by leveraging AI to augment their human intelligence.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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