A customer care agent, Stephanie, logs into her system and finds a surprise waiting. A program pops up, greets her, and displays, “Hi Stephanie, I am Melanie, your new supervisor. I have got some feedback for you. Please put on your headphones and make sure you are not disturbed for 30 minutes.”
Startled, Stephanie does as she is told. Over the next 30 minutes, Melanie, an AI bot, gives Stephanie her productivity data and shares its observations on the improvement areas and the ways to improve. Melanie signs off by saying that Stephanie’s performance will be regularly monitored and accounted for in the appraisal.
Are you thinking like Stephanie… “Did that just happen?” Well, AI has already been taking on a few roles that manage employee performance, with companies like Amazon and IBM already using automation and AI to manage employee performance. So, don’t be shocked if you find a Melanie popping up on your screen in the future.
There are at least three cases of AI managing employee performances, with one of those cases generating a lot of controversy and criticism.
Amazon ‘Automates Process of Monitoring and Firing its Workers’
Amazon is accused of using automation to supervise and dismiss workers from its warehouses.
Any lapse in productivity and you may be gone. Amazon is accused of using automation to identify and terminate around 10% of its employees annually from its warehouses, an action that has invited severe criticism.
Amazon denies the allegations, but according to a document procured from Amazon, “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each associate’s productivity and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.”
Elsewhere, IBM’s predictive attrition program, a patented program, enables HR to identify employees who can quit and arrest attrition. It can predict the possibility of quitting with a 95% accuracy. IBM also uses an AI virtual assistant called MYCA (My Career Advisor), which enables employees to upskill based on their aptitude and aspirations.
What next? AI CEOs?
CEOs, CFOs, vice presidents, all C-level executives, and managers, don’t start worrying about your job – AI might not yet be ready to step behind your desk.
But AI can be a tool for many positions, a helpful assistant that enables you to execute your responsibilities better.
Imagine being able to ask: “Hey, can you pull up the sales analytics product-wise in the eastern region for the last three months? And bring me the data in easy-to-understand graphs and tell me any trends you spot.”
But hopefully, your own initiative, decision-making, and ability to act under pressure are difficult for your AI assistant to emulate. So, there is no role-swapping between the AI and the C-level executives, at least for now.
Humans vs AI: Who Leads Better?
While a human manager or C-level executive demonstrates certain unique capabilities, they can also demonstrate certain bad traits such as a love for power, toxic organizational culture, greed, inadequate treatment of employees, nepotism, and more. History has too many examples of poor management that has led to the downfall of organizations. Unfortunately, some negative traits remain the exclusive domain of humanity.
That creates a reasonable case for AI to take over managerial roles, bringing to the boardroom table:
- Reliability over time: Unlike humans, AI will not experience cognitive decline. On the contrary, with more learning, decision-making will improve. It can make good, data-driven decisions in the interest of the organization. It can learn and apply as many skills as required at appropriate places.
- Non-emotional responses: AI is not prone to negative human traits like nepotism, megalomania, insecurity, politicking, and greed. It’s just a rational tool that can be trained to act with integrity and rationality.
- Learning ability: It can mimic specific human abilities such as learning from the past, avoiding pitfalls, understanding people based on data, and making decisions based on past and present data.
It’s too early to conclude that you will have AI bosses, but cases are on the rise, and AI will, at least for now, be used to complement managers.
Robot CEOs like Mika are rare, but with some examples to watch, companies will observe how Mika does in her role with great interest.
But a day may come when your career — even your marching orders — come from a heartless boss…