Head to any news site or tech blog, and you’ll see evidence that artificial intelligence, more commonly known as AI, is fast on the rise.

Over the past several years, that artificial intelligence technology has really taken off, becoming more and more integrated into society. No longer does the term AI merely conjure up the image of robots; in 2018 we know that it’s so much more, and we’re starting to appreciate its variety of practical uses.

Making its way into nearly every facet of our life, it’s no surprise that AI is emerging increasingly in the world of business. Employers, for their part, seem to be ready to embrace AI in the workplace. According to WorkMarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report: What AI and Automation Really Mean for Work, employers believe that automation will significantly increase productivity. Of those employers surveyed, a vast majority (78%) indicated that they thought automation and AI could save their business as much as 360 hours every year.

Business leaders are jumping on board, and many other professionals are ready to do likewise. It appears that AI could produce major benefits for a business, but what will artificial intelligence in the workplace look like?

Some Current (& Potential) Uses of AI in Business

Many industries have already adopted AI or are working to do so. Some of the applications of AI that have already been developed are nothing short of miraculous. For instance, the medical field has found plenty of advantages to incorporating AI, from robots that can perform surgical procedures to analytic systems that can more quickly and accurately diagnose and treat patients.

AI is alive and well in the agricultural industry, already making waves on the Australian farming scene. Agricultural robots have been developed that enable automated ground preparation, planting, and even harvesting. With their smart capabilities, some of these “agbots” have learned to identify ripe produce and pick it at the precise time. These intelligent systems also help to minimise waste by delivering exacting amounts of water, pesticides, or other treatments.

Let’s not forget transport. While a fleet of driverless cars seems to be on the not-too-distant horizon, what about the potential for driverless trucks, trains, or even planes? This could have massive impacts on a range of industries.

But artificial intelligence is about so much more than these major innovations. It’s about the small, infinitesimal ways in which AI can transform our everyday tasks and activities. In every type of workplace, there are plenty of opportunities for AI to lend a hand.

The Power of AI in Business

What’s so amazIng about artificial intelligence is that it’s already all around us, and it isn’t always that obvious. In fact, many of us might not even notice as it becomes increasingly incorporated into our workplaces. Working with subtlety, AI is set to infiltrate our common tasks, bringing about small changes that, nonetheless, have enormous results.

It’s not only the large business or corporation that will benefit, either. AI can be just as useful in small and medium-sized enterprises, levelling the playing field and helping small businesses to be just as competitive as their larger counterparts.

Let’s take a look at all that AI might contribute to our professions and enterprises:

A lower cost of doing business

It’s highly possible that AI will lower the overall costs of doing business. That may depend largely upon what type of technology a business incorporates---significantly advanced AI-driven tech may mean a hefty upfront investment---but over time, AI should ultimately decrease expenses for businesses.

One reason for this is the natural reduction in employees that AI can bring. Don’t worry; experts say robots won’t be replacing all of our jobs, and there’s an indication that AI might even create jobs. But in an individual workplace, automation and AI may take over some of the tasks typically performed by employees, meaning companies can hire fewer people. With a reduction in employees, there’s the potential for ample savings for a business, leaving resources to funnel in other directions.

Better hiring practises

At first glance, recruitment and hiring seem like very human-driven arenas. While hiring decisions ultimately do have a lot to do with attitude and personal connection, science can expedite the process. That’s where AI comes in.

Many companies have already adopted an artificially intelligent testing system for prospective employees. One such company, Pymetrics, uses the research of neuroscience combined with machine learning to help companies identify talent. This technology sorts applicants based on behaviours known to be common in strong candidates. Cofounder Frida Polli said, “We realized this combination of data and machine learning would be hugely powerful, bringing recruiting from this super-antiquated, paper-and-pencil [process] into the future.” Utilising the power of patterns, AI can streamline the hiring process, bringing the best candidates to the forefront----and all without human legwork.

AI can benefit the job seeker, as well. Intelligent recruitment software can assist job seekers to find suitable positions. One software that has been tested operates via the Google search engine, and combines Google’s AI and machine learning capabilities to advise job seekers on the most relevant vacancies.

Heightened employee productivity and efficiency

Artificial intelligence should serve to lighten the load of many an employee. Immediately, it’s easy to imagine how the assistance of AI could open up more room in one’s daily schedule, providing more time to get things done. It especially would leave more room for those time-consuming, thought-driven tasks, as AI may ostensibly assume the more mundane duties.

But employees will utilise AI directly in ways that will enhance their productivity and efficiency. Many of us already do this with digital virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. Responding via voice commands, these bots can manage a great deal, from performing basic research to making a note in our calendar or scheduling a reminder for us later on. These may seem like small things, but they add up to a significant portion of time saved per day.

As AI gets more advanced, we’ll be able to save even more time and work more effectively. AI will eventually help revolutionise entire business processes. By using predictive analysis, AI can determine patterns in the workplace to see when teams and individuals are at their most productive. This can help create a better structure for the work day, prioritising tasks in the most useful order. It can also show companies where to funnel their attention and resources to have the greatest impact.

AI will take businesses forward, but people will remain integral to the workplace. In fact, there may be nothing more effectual than AI and human power working together. A great example is an Amazon fulfilment warehouse which uses robotic shelves to swiftly move products. This shows a prime instance of how the strengths of AI and human workers can combine, maximising efficiency and organisation in a business.

Stronger analytics with less room for error

AI, unsurprisingly, plays a huge role in analytics. Whereas traditionally, employees would have to leaf through data manually, consuming hours of time and effort, artificial intelligence can gather data and analyse in seconds. This is especially advantageous for marketing and advertising, helping businesses to accurately pinpoint their customer base and better target the right demographic via segmentation. Ultimately, this can lead to better sales and higher profits. Research suggests that, in the US alone, AI could boost economic value by $14 trillion across 16 industries.

AI will influence analytics in many other ways. Using collected data and an intelligent understanding of patterns, AI can identify the potential for problems and help businesses avoid trouble. The capabilities of AI with regards to data are far superior to our human understanding, not to mention they operate a great deal faster. AI can equip you to make decisions faster and with increased confidence by automating and prioritising routine decision-making processes.

AI also is beneficial when it comes to sensitive data. Because human error is reduced or even eliminated, cybersecurity is ultimately strengthened. For many businesses, the removal of this important concern can allow employees and leadership to focus on other areas of growth and development.

Improve the sales skills of employees, too

Imagine if AI could help your sales personnel close more deals? This is possible.

Some AI-driven tools can coach your team to be better on sales calls. These tools record and transcribe conversations between your team members and potential customers. Using machine learning, the tools can then analyse several variables (such as word choice and the ratio of speaking vs. listening in a dialogue), comparing conversations against one another to discern what is most successful. With this data, the AI tools guide your team through prompts, helping them to improve their sales methods.

Want to learn more about the tools already available for businesses? Check out this article: 21 Ways AI is Transforming the Workplace in 2018.

What role will AI play in the average business?

Will most businesses rush to welcome AI into the fold? The probability is high, especially as the benefits of AI-driven tools become more and more apparent. And since AI is already fairly commonplace (such as talking to Siri on your smartphone or conversing with a brand’s chatbot), its inclusion in business tools is essentially a no brainer.

Speaking of chatbots, experts believe they will play a larger role in the spread of AI. Currently, on Facebook Messenger alone there are over 100,000 chatbots in action. This is an increase from 33,000 in 2016. Chatbots could be extremely useful in the business setting, in instances such as HR. A recent survey of HR leaders indicated that 92% feel that chatbots could be a good solution for serving employees. Team members could connect with the chatbot to find answers to common questions. This is just one of many ways chatbots could be used in the workplace to streamline processes and generate greater efficiency.

But there’s a great deal more AI can deliver. Providers like Google are already beginning to identify the positive intersections between AI and business. Google Cloud is currently unveiling prepackaged AI services which are designed specifically for businesses. These include things such as Contact Center AI which will route customers to agents based on machine understanding of conversation content.

It’s very likely we’ll see more of the same from numerous other providers. Much like the Cloud, AI may become an integral part of the modern business tool.

The Change Will Be Monumental

Opinions differ about AI and what the ultimate outcome of its spread will be.

Some hold a positive outlook on its potential while still other maintain a sense of worry about the possible ramifications. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of thought, it’s certain that the next few decades are going to be interesting and the changes will be gigantic.

If you haven’t yet started planning for the role of artificial intelligence in your business, it’s time to begin your considerations. In a survey of 1,200 C-level executives from across the globe, 75% report that they are ramping up investments and research in AI.

Learning to work alongside AI and use it to our advantage---both personally and in business---will be imperative. Business plans and hiring strategies will take on a new meaning, as business leaders determine how to incorporate automation into their individual, unique business, and how to best use their human employees at the same time.

What form will the future job market take and will we harness the power of AI to work in our favour? It may depend on business embracing the technology as much as possible and innovating together. It’s an unknown landscape, but we can help to shape it.

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