Each year, companies add to their seasonal workforce to address anticipated customer demand—by how much depends in part on the state of the overall economy and forecasted holiday spending levels.
According to the consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, companies have announced 589,000 seasonal positions for 2018. Subsuming such a high number of temporary workers into a business can put a strain on corporate HR systems that need to quickly onboard employees and process payroll in a short time frame. Fortunately, modern AI-powered solutions are uniquely suited to help employers manage a large temporary workforce.
On the back end, AI automates routine repetitive workflows across departments, with processes intelligently tailored for each worker. For example, once a temporary worker is entered into HR management software, automations can be designed to create system credentials with the IT department; add workers to the payroll department at the correct compensation rate; or secure appropriate work spaces with the facilities department.
AI is Reinventing How Companies Engage with Workers
Automation of this nature isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but a new generation of automations powered by conversational AI is completely reinventing how companies engage with workers and complete these tasks.
In recent years, the consumer electronics market has been energized by “digital assistants” such as Siri and Alexa, which provide access to information and services through voice interactions. However, robust conversational AI is also making an impact on internal enterprise operations via “digital colleagues,” such as IPsoft’s Amelia.
Conversational AI allows companies to automate responses to common questions across all departments by using an intuitive natural language interface (e.g., a worker could simply ask or type “When is pay day?” “When is my last day at work?” or “Are there any opportunities for overtime?”).
AI Eases the Burden on HR and Managers
This 24/7 access to information can be particularly helpful for addressing the needs of a seasonal workforce that can expand by tens of thousands in a short time without radically expanding internal support overhead. With these AI solutions, temporary workers no longer need to be trained to operate a variety of internal disconnected systems to services. Instead, employees can access a single, intuitive, and integrated interface and receive all the services they need, starting from their first day.
AI can offer workers far more than just an intelligent method to search for information; in more advanced use cases, AI can be used to automate complex procedures with little to no human intermediation.
For example, a digital colleague can be used to lead temporary workers through step-by-step training on company policies and procedures and keep a detailed record that each employee has completed those courses. Furthermore, AI systems, with their ability to learn and adapt, can be quickly modified at scale if procedures change, so temporary workers are receiving the most up-to-date information.
AI Reduces Training Times
Internal AI systems can also reduce training times for many customer service roles by taking on specific tasks for human agents. When a digital AI colleague is tapped as a “whisper agent,” temporary workers can lean on the technology to get quickly up to speed on customer service procedures (e.g., what to do when a customer wants to return a product when the packaging has been opened). This means workers can more or less begin interacting with customers right away, with reduced preparation time.
Conversational AI also benefits temporary workers in many indirect ways. When high-volume employee processes are automated, HR departments are freed to address unique or complex employee needs or focus on the longer-term needs of their permanent staff.
AI Delivers a Uniform Experience for All Workers
AI-powered automations also can deliver uniform experiences to temporary workers located at all offices and outlets, which gives both employees and employers the flexibility to work at multiple locations if necessary. For example, if one retail location is understaffed, a company can shift seasonal workers among locations and be confident that all of them have received the same training on procedures and policies.
Maintaining positive engagements with temporary workers is critical because this (often user-facing) workforce can be transformed into a small army of enthusiastic brand ambassadors, not to mention a pool of loyal future customers after the season ends.
Employers should also keep in mind that if the labor market remains as tight as it is now, ensuring a positive employee experience will help retain quality workers, which will continue to benefit them in seasons to come.
|Timothy Carey is the General Manager, Cognitive/AI at IPsoft. In this role, Timothy is part of the enterprise team working to power the world with intelligent systems, eliminate routine work and free human talent to focus on creating value through innovation. Prior to IPsoft, Timothy has experience in ad tech, cloud and enterprise software. He’s previously worked at companies such as DataXu, Limelight Networks, and Motorola.|