AI and the bottom line

Introducing artificial intelligence into a business is about people as much as it is about efficiency. Sarah Dawson explains why you need to be a good change manager to get the balance right.

With the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in business comes the challenge of what to do with the humans no longer needed.

When it comes to supporting businesses, often we talk with clients about the best course of action for them. Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t all about immediate bottom-line gain.

According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2018, companies are faced with two decisions in formulating a proactive response to the new tech world:

1. Do we prioritise automation?
2. Do we invest in workforce re-skilling?

The same report highlights some of the roles relevant to our industry becoming redundant through the implementation of AI, including administrative and data entry roles, accountants, auditors and general operation managers.

Software enhancements mean tasks that would otherwise have taken inordinate hours are done much faster, including AIRE or automated communication with tenants and landlords and cloud trust software.

In some instances, AI enhances the human, providing an opportunity for improved performance, and in others it removes a portion of the human’s role, such as auto arrears emails and SMS.

While it’s great to enhance the human, what does the human, who now finds themselves with more time, do?

Do you cut people or enhance service?

How do you know which is the best option for you?

Here are three options to consider:

Considering pure mathematics, if you have five property managers and with AI you reduce the time it takes to do their job by 20 per cent, you could cut a staff member and redistribute the workload among the final four.

If this method isn’t well-managed it can spell uncertainty for the remaining team, and cultural damage can negatively impact business moral and service levels.

Your new team will also have a revised role, so change management and retraining with new methods will be paramount to its success and retention of the existing crew.

Consider it as a solution for a business in a maintaining phase.

Natural attrition is a fact you can rely on. You will have a pattern of churn in your business, and it’s important to know what it is.

When reducing the number of hours to serve, you may allow staff reduction to occur naturally, by not replacing employees who retire or resign.

The benefit of this option is that it will allow people time and space to grow into a new way of working.

While AI will still replace specific tasks, employees will naturally adjust to the new way of working.

Supporting them will mean identifying early on how much time the software gives back in their day and providing them with new productive tasks to do that are in line with the business strategy.

An example of this could be one-off projects to work on, increasing service levels, or growth initiatives. Consider this as a segue into repurposing.

Growing a business takes an ever-changing set of skills, including strategy, service and marketing.

When AI absorbs a role, and new growth-related roles are created, existing team members have the chance to step into the new space.

As an example, a business looking to move from the traditional property manager model to an account management model may take this opportunity to rewrite the job description of a property manager.

It may remove tasks that are no longer manually managed and create new KPIs and goals around improving service levels, raising team profiles and securing new business.

This is considered vital for a growth focused business. There is an unquestionable need for individuals to take responsibility for learning and career development as the adoption of technology increases.

It is equally clear that employers need to be supportive and encourage those looking to evolve.

If people are truly our most valuable asset, perhaps the true measure of success in the implementation of AI is finding the balance between bottom line benefit, team retention and growth.

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Sarah Dawson

Sarah Dawson is the Head of Growth at Real+. For more information visit realplus.com.au.