The Knowledge Worker and Artificial Intelligence: A Happy Marriage

By Pullak Mohanty

If you have worked for an enterprise company in the last three decades, you were more than likely influenced by the management tactics from the “father of modern management” known as Peter Drucker.

Drucker is famous for coining two terms that are now synonymous with the modern American corporation, the first being management by objectives (MBO), which Drucker said was necessary for the everyday manager to keep them out of the “activity trap,” an all too common occurrence today. In other words, managers avoid the more challenging tasks by completing mundane tasks like answering emails or reviewing excel spreadsheets.

Drucker also coined the now trending term “knowledge worker,” which is used to describe an employee who is valued for their domain expertise. Instead of performing simple, repetitive tasks, knowledge workers are typically required for their cognitive abilities. Now that artificial intelligence (AI) can perform mundane tasks and cognitive outsourcing instead of humans, the highly valued employee of the future will be the knowledge worker. This is how the knowledge economy will help to usher in a transformative era of business innovation.

Enable Artificial Intelligence to Increase Productivity and Efficiency in Workflow

It’s impossible for sales and customer service managers to review every single phone conversation per day when call volume reaches into the hundreds. In this instance, artificial intelligence is perfect for the job. By applying machine learning to natural language processing (NLP), AI can help its human counterparts improve customer satisfaction rates or the ability to close deals over the phone by analyzing the tone of voice and verbiage used on a call.

Consider also when a customer sends in one payment for multiple invoices or a payment with no matching invoice. Normally, there might be someone staffed in accounts payable who is responsible for manually reconciling invoices. Now, instead, workflows combined with artificial intelligence can be used in the analysis. Then a workflow may push a receipt and direct communication back to the customer. Or, take the especially mundane task of processing and auditing employee expense reports. Instead of manually doing so, machines could learn your company’s expense policy, read receipts, audit expense claims and forward questionable claims to humans for approval.

With the automation of data and process intensive routine tasks, AI will significantly reduce the operational cost and optimize your workflow. Then, the knowledge workers could instead focus their efforts on how a company’s current analytics can be transformed into strategic corporate initiatives. Additionally, AI plays an indispensable role in cyber security: It not only fills the gap in cyber security; it truly defends the ever-growing and evolving population cyber criminals.

How to Steer Your Company to Support Knowledge-Based Workers

AI has completely revolutionized the way we hire, engage, develop and retain talents in our companies.

You and your executive team must be open to exploring new technologies. More importantly, you’ll want to determine if you have the right human capital to explore, test and apply the technology to best improve current business processes. To add to the challenge, this type of knowledge worker is greatly in demand right now, which is why some companies opt for a combination of apps and outsourced talent to put together the best solution for their needs.

As a modern manager, your challenge is to build a high-performing team with the right balance of knowledge workers.  There are three important things to consider before doing this.

First, allow your employees to self-manage or be as autonomous as possible. By acting more like a coach than a boss, you will gain their trust and respect. Ask for their feedback and if you’re willing to hear and implement their suggestions, you’ll find that their dedication and passion for their job and the company’s mission will grow quickly over time.

Second, be sure to share the company’s vision with all employees, but especially knowledge workers. Knowledge workers need to know the "why" as much they need to know the “what” or “how.” A deeper insight will lead to increased collaboration and dedication to the company, which often leads to innovation.  This will undoubtedly propel your agile organization into an era of success.

Lastly, encourage active learning for your knowledge workers and those who wish to move up to a knowledge-based role. Instead of creating competition among groups and individuals, promote cooperation, openness and dialogue. For example, create an internal knowledge wiki to share notes, code bases and ideas. Adopt a feedback-based learning system where positive feedback is accompanied with rewards and constructive feedback is embraced as a challenge.

Summary

The new knowledge economy is being ushered in through a variety of technological advancements, including AI and Internet of Things (IoT), just to name a few. These technologies will require the right types of knowledge workers to help businesses and CEOs apply it for the purpose of growth, innovation and improved business operations. The challenge lies in being able to determine when to apply artificial intelligence, a knowledge worker or apply a hybrid approach. But when the right match is made, business operations will improve by leaps and bounds and innovation will flourish. I believe we are entering a customer-centric and innovative era and companies that win at it will undoubtedly succeed.

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Co-founder at Navedas. Let our custom AI solution power your back-office workflow and customer support.

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