artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Why Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Hybrid Workforces

Artificial intelligence and automated assistants are here to make life easier. Despite this fact, many startups let fear prevent them from taking advantage of new technology.

One recent survey found that 56 percent of Americans believe that automation destroys more jobs than it creates. In this study, a third of respondents expressed personal fear of losing their jobs to automation. Even though most people acknowledged that automation made their lives easier or more convenient, less than half of survey respondents agreed that automation provides more benefits than detriment.

Fears about automation software replacing humans, while understandable, are misguided. Artificial intelligence is not here to jettison people from their livelihoods. In fact, the truth lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. Beneficial AI applications can make entrepreneurs happier and more productive than they would be on their own.

Related: Wired Magazine Co-Founder on Artificial Intelligence Breakthroughs

Automation’s impact on the workplace

A recent report by the World Economic Forum illustrates that more women than men face the possibility of losing their jobs to automation. The report dives into the projections calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which suggests that 1.4 million jobs nationwide will either be automated or transformed by automation by 2026. Fifty-seven percent of these jobs will belong to women.

Those who believe automation might replace them are likely to be hostile toward adoption of the technology. To them, it doesn’t matter if the odds are 1 percent or 100 percent — they don’t want to invite the risk. Fear of the unknown is one of the oldest fears in the book, but when we turn the lights on regarding automation, we see that it’s not nearly as threatening as naysayers would have us believe.

Humans will not be replaced by automation technology; rather, they should learn to work alongside it.

Research from Dell discovered that 82 percent of those surveyed believe humans and automation will work together on teams within five years.

Several factors contribute to this impression, including rapid advancements in AI technology and the increasing use of virtual reality outside entertainment sectors.

However, while Dell’s research predicted an increase in collaboration between humans and machines, the survey found that only about half of people expected automated assistants to make them more productive. Of those polled, just 42 percent thought teaming up with machines would increase their satisfaction at work.

Will machines make life easier, or will they cause more problems than they solve? Modern workers don’t know the answer — and with so much conflicting information on the topic, they’re afraid to find out.

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The friendly conversation bot revolution

While companies and workers might not be sure whether the advent of the hybrid workforce will be a positive change, they don’t need to wait for the future to arrive to find out. Modern tools like conversation marketing automation and chatbots are already here to help startups (especially B2B ones) find their footing in a new kind of workplace.

Today’s tools can assuage fears about the long term and make jobs easier in the short term. Conversation chatbots, for instance, will empower employees to be more productive. B2B salespeople can create conversation bots to qualify leads online, making it easier for them to close deals and for marketers to optimize their campaigns.

In these scenarios, conversation bots don’t replace people. Rather, they augment the abilities of human workers, allowing them to do more than they would be able to on their own. Salespeople hate answering repetitive support questions. They prefer interacting with qualified leads. Conversation bots free them from mind-numbing duties and allow them to focus on what they do best: engage with prospects and close deals.

Company leaders who fear that their prospects won’t like talking to AI-powered conversation bots can relax. Research from 2016 found that 89 percent of online visitors prefer to discover information through bot conversations instead of through online browsing. Conversation bots, unlike websites, can respond to specific queries and provide relevant answers, including helpful next steps. Users see this as a helping hand — and savvy salespeople recognize it as a lead nurturing tool.

Chatbots don’t stop at customer acquisition, though. Automated conversation bots can also increase customer retention by providing deeper engagement with online visitors and making them more familiar with the brand. Where traditional content creates static, one-way relationships, conversation bots facilitate two-way dialogues that make users feel both heard and informed. That means more informed customer interactions and fewer frustrating complaint calls grounded in miscommunications.

The conversation about automation in the startup world (and beyond) still has a long way to go before workers and managers understand the role conversation bots will play at work. However, automated assistants are not coming to destroy — they’re coming to build, develop and cooperate within existing infrastructures.

Entrepreneurs don’t have to wait to see the results for themselves, though. They can give employees a taste of life in a hybrid workforce by bringing chatbots into the fold right now. With increased automaton and human-bot collaboration on the horizon, the companies that embrace hybrid workforces will be better equipped to navigate future challenges.

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