Artificial Intelligence is bandied around the office. There’s plenty of information online, but is your business using it? If not yet, where could it be using it sometime soon?
Machine Learning, Biometrics, and Robotic Process Automation are in use right now and growing in popularity, not just with the big businesses but also startups, SMEs and everything in between.
Adext’s report included 19 AI Technologies to look for in 2019, and it’s well worth a read. In this article, we consider three types that mainstream business can no longer live without.
Listed in no particular order, you may have heard of these AL technologies, but you’re not aware of what they do or how businesses use them.
Where Business Is Using AI
Digital marketing & advertising, research and administration, are key areas of business that see a massive change with AI, specifically, these AI techs: RPA, Biometrics and ML. It’s no surprise the outlook is bright for Data Scientists in these areas that companies need to build data science teams to convert their data into helpful business insights.
Let’s now look at the areas using AI in more detail.
A branch of AI, this tech has been around for a while.
Machine Learning (ML) develops techniques so computers can automatically learn and improve from experience. It’s used right now to predict and classify data; hence it’s been a game-changer for advertising platforms like Google Ads.
Analysis of vast quantities of data in quick-smart time while delivering accuracy has relieved many of us from jobs involving mundane, repetitive tasks.
ML gets its data from APIs, algorithms, other machines, and big data tools, to name a few sources, but not all machine learning algorithms are the same.
Machine learning algorithms:
- Supervised – can apply what’s been learned to new data.
- Unsupervised – explores data and describes hidden structures within datasets.
- Semi-supervised – somewhere between the two mentioned above
- Reinforcement – allows software and machines to pick the optimum response within a specific context to improve performance.
More detail found here: ML algorithms definitions.
There are many platforms available now, and you’ll know many of the companies in this space: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a few you may not know that well, including Adext and Skytree.
This AL tech is focused on improving communication and understanding between us and machines. It uses measurements and analyses human behaviour. Interactions, such as touch, speech, images and even body language, are in their sights.
Like ML, this is a big field of AI with huge potential, particularly in market research.
Robotic Process Automation
Think AI workers. That’s this technology. Robotic process automation (RPA) is another area of AI that’s a game-changer for employment, and many of the jobs we used to do, still do and will no longer do. Already RPA has found its way into many industries, and AI workers (machines) have replaced humans in the workforce.
Humans used to do the prosaic and repetitive tasks, which are now done in part or in full by machines. In areas of the business such as accounting, administration, customer support and help desks and websites, AI has found its place.
The ‘chatbot’ is now ubiquitous on websites for products and services and online sales support. Here is a good read on how using a chatbot could benefit business and change the customer experience.
Live Chat is a more human form of the chatbot, and when you’ve experienced it, as a customer, your level of appreciation goes up a notch or two.
There is a flip side for businesses using live chat and chatbot tech. Customers now used to it will expect your business to deliver immediacy and efficiency every time.
With RPA, businesses see lots of upsides, with reduced overheads and improve productivity.
There have been some clever marketing for it, mainly to dissuade negative reaction from workers fearful of job displacement. Business and workers are encouraged to see it as a solution that promotes better use of human workers; though new roles that are infinitely more interesting and fulfilling, while also doing wonders to the company’s bottom line.
AI is everywhere, and depending on how you view your business, career and life, the future is either exhilarating or maybe a bit scary. Whichever way you look at it, there’s no stopping these new technologies.
Why Going Green Is Good For Your Business (& How To Do It)
The more we learn about our environmental impact, the more we understand the responsibility of supporting sustainability efforts.
Adopting a green approach to business practices shows a commitment to promoting future global ecological and social balance.
Sustainability is a long-term goal that can drive positive change in the environmental sphere when incorporated into corporate strategies.
As more consumers align with companies that share their values, going green is good for the environment and is also good for your business. Sustainability has fast become a business opportunity, benefiting your business finances, reputation, workplace culture, and employee morale.
Therefore it just makes good business sense, so let’s look at the why and how of going green.
Why Go Green?
From customer relations to tax incentives, the benefits of going green are a major drawcard for business owners looking to incorporate sustainability in their corporate strategy.
Strengthen brand reputation
Sustainability is a modern expectation of brands these days. For your brand to strengthen and retain its reputation within your industry, it’s essential to showcase your sustainability efforts. How potential customers perceive your brand will come down to multiple factors, with sustainability measures high on the list.
Build customer base
Sustainability is a central factor in how we shop these days. Eco-conscious consumers are on the rise, and this sizable demographic advocate for brands that prioritize environmental, social, and ethical standards.
The experts agree. In a recent State of the Industry report, Jenkins Freshpac Systems had this to say on making the shift to more sustainable practices:
Some businesses question – why make the switch from plastic packaging to something more sustainable? Well, from our viewpoint, a better question is: Why wouldn’t you? Consumers are making more and more purchasing decisions with sustainability in mind, so this should be enough incentive for any business to become more environmentally friendly.
A corporate sustainability strategy will help you tap into this market and build your base.
Increase customer loyalty
Plus, going green is also an opportunity to increase the loyalty of your current customers.
Sustainability is the way of the future, and we’re all jumping on board in our own time. Whether associating with ethical companies or ditching plastic packaging, consumers take their own steps to cut their environmental impact.
Many consumers are eco-warriors, so there’s an opportunity to show them you’re aware. You care too about your carbon footprint and sustainability giving your existing customers the motive to stay loyal.
Improve employee happiness
Your employees are a top priority. Did you know that employees of green companies are happier, more motivated, and feel more valued? This is because sustainability initiatives show a business has a social conscience, resulting in positive company culture and higher quality of (work) life.
Employees like to know the company they’re working for is a force for positive change. Going green will not only strengthen employee loyalty but improve applicant numbers for vacant positions.
Enjoy tax benefits
Governments worldwide incentivize corporate sustainability, offering tax-related benefits to companies that invest in green technology and renewable energy. Check out your local tax systems to see what sustainability measures to adopt to qualify for tax credits or deductions.
How do you go green?
Now that we know the business benefits of going green, it’s time to look at how to go green. Going green requires an open mind and a willingness to see the bigger picture. The sustainable measures of eco-conscious corporations – big or small – have the potential to impact our world significantly.
Employee workplace flexibility
Giving your employees the option to work from home is a win-win for you and your staff. Not only good for productivity but working from home is also an excellent sustainability initiative. Working from home requires no commuting, reducing fuel emissions with fewer cars on the road. Less staff in the office also means reduced workplace energy consumption, and there are opportunities to save on energy while running your business from home.
Innovative technologies have given us an array of simple ways to reduce energy consumption. If you’re serious about going green, consider adopting the following energy-efficient initiatives.
- Swap outdated light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs
- Install heating and cooling with a high energy-efficiency rating
- Invest in electric or hybrid vehicles to slash company fuel emissions
- Replace glass windows with double-glazing
- Upgrade to energy-efficient staff room appliances
- Improve office ventilation and insulation
Packaging is a leading contributor to the world’s growing plastic problem. No matter how many ‘green’ measures your company takes, all your efforts go out the window if you package products in plastic. You won’t be taken seriously as a sustainable business if you’re stuck in the dark ages of plastic packaging.
With so many sustainable packaging options available, there is simply no reason to use plastic. Sustainable packaging is compostable or biodegradable while still offering a durable and protective seal for your products.
Digitalizing your company’s documentation can significantly reduce – possibly eliminate – the need for paper in the office. Going paperless is cost-effective and environmentally friendly. If it’s necessary to use paper, opt for recycled paper and ensure your employees print double-sided to halve your workplace consumption.
Employee sustainability training
When your business has officially ‘gone green’, sustainability will become part of your employees’ job descriptions. Staff sustainability training ensures all of your employees share and support your environmental values and understand their role in implementing them.
Green businesses understand the global dependence on sustainability. While the prospect of going green may be daunting, small steps towards a more sustainable business can have major benefits for both your business and the environment. There’s no time like the present to go green. It makes good business sense, especially when consumers are all for it!
What The Pandemic Has Taught Businesses About Staff
Businesses can be optimistic about their future post-pandemic. Countries are opening up, and customers are leaving their homes to frequent their favourite stores. If your company was performing well before the pandemic and enforced lockdown, then it stands a great chance of a quick recovery and in time thrive again.
However, there is no hard and fast rule for success; there will be challenges ahead. If your business is in a sector drastically affected from closed borders, then your business will be on a slower recovery trajectory and in the meantime, rely on Government support.
As many businesses have never been tested, COVID-19 was a shot in the arm of a new reality. Not only did owners realise they failed to have a disaster recovery plan they also had no contingency funds to see them through three to six months of low or no sales. There is a new routine and pre-pandemic business, as usual, will never return.
Company boards and owners and management team will not make the same mistakes again. Albert Einstein famously said:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
The time has come to try different approaches to every aspect of the business.
Staff Resilience and Resourcefulness
Managers have learned a thing or two about their workers’ resilience and resourcefulness during the enforced ‘working from home’ aka remote working.
No longer will managers micro-manage their team as they did before COVID-19. Remote working has thoroughly tested self-management with accountability monitored online with tracking software, social intranets, video conferencing and other team collaboration software.
Workers now want to work part of the week from home, and businesses should encourage it. Why? Well, our best work happens when we are fully rested and relaxed. The workplace has many distractions, and some people don’t get along, which is stressful for them and the coworkers around them.
Therefore if the solution to keeping all your talented staff is remote-working part of the week and the outcome is your business has harnessed higher productivity that will deliver more value to the company. A happy team are more creative, and innovation is required in downturns, i.e. recessions.
Empower your staff to do their best work and to use their remote working time not stuck at their workstation but getting outside in the fresh air exercising. Being in the zone in a repetitive activity inspires new thoughts and inspiration.
The recovery of your business will need to lean on its workers to come up with the goods and also mix it up. They need to seek opportunities to improve on your company’s existing products and services as well as design and develop new tools and features to meet the needs of consumers today.
Invest in Online Resources
If ever there was a time for improving your online resources for customers – now is it. Even the most reluctant online user is now up to speed with online shopping, social media and video chat.
Make sure you a chatbot, so your visitors have instant access to your business support crew. Also, remember your front window is now many sites, not just your website.
Social Media Presence
Your business Facebook page, Instagram account and Twitter feed are just a few of the many sites available with millions of users. Find the social media platform that works for your business. For example, LinkedIn is typically the site for professional services, whereas Facebook and Instagram are perfect for hospitality and retail.
Dedicate ample time to these channels and delegate the task to the team members best suited to the role. Remember if you enjoy something you will spend more time doing it. Therefore give the responsibility of managing your Facebook page to the employee who gets a lot of satisfaction from it.
The pandemic has taught businesses to trust their workers while they work from home. Reverting to how it was before is not an option, so changing it up to meet the new normal is the path to success.
How To Grab Attention On Video Conference Calls
We are in the age of ‘COVID-19’, and our lives will never be the same again. We’ll be working from home more often and using video conferencing for meetings with colleagues, management and customers. In-person meetings allow for verbal and non-verbal cues. Body language can play a significant role in negotiation, for example.
Changes in body language or small facial expressions can provide observers, i.e. the meeting attendees messages on how to respond to get the right outcome. If you’re someone who uses non-verbal cues to sway discussion in your favour, then video-conferencing is a challenge. So how can we get what we need from these online meetings using what we have at hand, i.e. the small visuals of meeting attendees?
In this article, we provide tips on how you can get your points across, even when the other attendees are more extroverted than you.
Use The Camera
Focus on the camera and what it can do for you. There is a temptation to stare at your screen and the other attendees in the meeting. Get past this action as soon as you can. Allow yourself a few minutes to view all the other participants then turn your attention to the meeting’s contents.
Active listening is required and if it helps you to remember what is being discussed – take notes. To assist this action further say which participant explained the point, for example, Attendee John (Manager): “we will now always work from home two days a week”.
When you’re talking stare into the camera and not at the attendees faces on your screen. While this is very unnatural, and at first, you’ll think you’re rude or ill-mannered by not looking at the attendees like you would if you were in an in-person meeting. However, looking deeply into the camera not only focuses you on what you’re saying, but you also won’t get distracted with attendees non-verbal distractions.
Mastering the skills for video conferencing productivity will take practice. The multi-tasking of taking notes while actively listening and remembering to optimise the time spent looking into the camera will be your juggling act!
What you’re working against is human nature and the obsession we have with ourself. Dale Carnegie says if we’re not thinking about a project, we’re thinking about ourselves. A lot of time is spent and indeed wasted thinking about how we feel, what we want, and what other people think of us, so you can see what you’re up against to master video conference meetings as an active participant or meeting lead.
Use Your Voice
Understanding the basics of human nature can be gained from studying neuroscience or neurolinguistic programming. Introverts are less likely to sit tall or speak up than extroverts; however, they can practice doing both, and without the non-verbal cues getting in the way, video conferencing is a great levelling feature.
When you’re on a video call, always speak louder than your usual speaking voice. Plus use your voice to express yourself through using pitch, high and low, vary it to keep your audience engaged. For extroverts, they are experts in changing tone and adding volume to grab attention and express themselves. Introverts will also master this skill in the knowledge that they are in the room with the meeting attendees and that no one is spending much time thinking about them!
What is in the background when you’re on a video conference call? Take care to have a bland background, so your frame is not the meeting’s distraction! Ideally use a plain white wall for your background. If that’s not possible, make sure the shelves behind you have only the objects you don’t mind your work colleagues and customers viewing, i.e. do not place intimate or personal items on the shelves that will end up being the topic of discussion.
Even though you’re working remotely and most often from your home, avoid wearing your leisure apparel. Your appearance should be what your colleagues would expect to see if they were sitting next to or opposite you in a meeting room. Once again, the objective with your appearance is to avoid being the distraction.
If you’ve been reluctant to use video conferencing, these tips will boost your confidence to use the technology without distraction.
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