Augmented organisations, augmented collaboration and AI
The good news is that technology can be leveraged to promote collaboration, augment engagement and develop important employee skills. To succeed in a changed world, leaders need to create “augmented organisations” and “augmented collaboration.”
An augmented organisation with augmented collaboration applies technology, and in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI), to enhance and/or automate functions and processes, and to augment capabilities in order to create a more efficient, agile and innovative organisation. Typically, augmented organisations use technology in every part of the organisation – to improve personal relationships between employees, to improve virtual team collaboration, to manage the supply chain, and to collect data and turn it into business intelligence.
Augmented collaboration makes it possible for employees to feel engaged, be creative, and continuously learn and improve their organisation, product/service ideas, and themselves by replicating informal interactions. It removes the friction that distance creates by going beyond simple communication to real collaboration when face-to-face interactions are no longer possible to improve the culture, promote innovation and increase productivity.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) changes the landscape of all industries, it is vital to rethink how organisations must adapt and evolve. Augmented collaboration, therefore, is a solution that not only uses technology, but also requires a change in thinking within organisations in order to adapt to the decentralised way of working. Traditional organisational structures and culture are not the most suitable for the current or post-Covid-19 environment.
Some of the important aspects that can be improved through technology when work is done in a distributed environment, are:
Flipping the traditional organisational structure to become agile
A common experience during Covid-19 is a feeling by managers that employees are less productive when working from home, since they are not physically in an environment that can be managed and controlled by the manager. The pandemic, however, is forcing us to rethink the traditional command and control structures and if it really increases innovation and productivity.
Several studies indicated that traditional organisational structures often hindered collaboration and productivity. Despite these findings, most organisations remain hierarchically structured, with cross-functional work merely at team level. Recent research has indicated that agile organisations are much more likely to achieve high-performance results when compared to traditional organisations.
During the Covid-19 crisis it became evident that it was mostly agile organisations that were able to rapidly shift how they are operating. However, an agile and adaptive organisation needs empowered individuals. This is where employee-centred software that puts employees at the centre of the organisation becomes important. Software is available that assists organisations and employees to create diverse, self-organised, cross-functional, collaborative and autonomous teams. It further enables them to learn continuously, think creatively and systemically, and to be agile by adapting to the “new normal” quickly and effectively.
Creating a better company culture and connections through technology
The importance of the human element and inter-connectedness in organisations are widely recognised since they promote employee engagement but are often neglected in a distributed work environment. Leaders should therefore do more to promote the human element since research has indicated that it assists in retaining talent and promote integration and company growth. To overcome the challenges of a remote workforce, leaders need to establish new organisational structures and take steps to maintain the culture of the organisation, as well as the inter-personal connections.
Artificial intelligence (AI) software, for instance, could be used to foster personal connections and build the culture of the organisation. AI platforms are available that could assist organisations in effectively managing a remote workforce while maintaining close personal and human relationships.
Some of these platforms also assist leaders in network analyses, in order to understand how employees are connecting and relating to each other. These software platforms further assists in understanding the human fibre within the organisation by uncovering cultural insights and recovering interactions that have been lost in light of face-to-face office interactions (e.g. feedback tendencies, engagement prediction, and diversity dynamics). This activity is of the utmost importance, since it is often said that the culture of an organisation can make or break the organisation.
Technology and virtual collaboration tools can thus indeed help to foster collaboration and personal relationships between employees, thus creating an atmosphere where people are passionate about their work and enthusiastic to do their best. The technology enables the celebration of successes and accomplishments and allow employees to help each other grow. It makes the invisible in the organisation visible and give recognition to employees by sharing the most important news, best innovative ideas, employee generated important moments in the life of the organisation, insightful feedback, and the values and vision of the organisation. The software assists in emotionally connecting employees to one another, as well as to the customer.
In the report “Powering a people-first culture” it is mentioned that 83% of employees would be more engaged if they knew their co-workers better; 87% believe attrition is an issue in their company; 72% are not satisfied with their organisation’s feedback process; 97% say it is important to have their strengths noticed at work. Eventually, through technology, data and business intelligence, it is possible to transform the culture of the organisation. With a good understanding of people’s behaviour and what is happening in an organisation, leaders can easily identify strengths, as well as opportunities for improvement in the culture.
Augmenting teams’ capabilities through artificial intelligence
Informal office dynamics are an important element of innovation but are unfortunately difficult for distributed teams. However, in an environment where employees do not have colleagues sitting next to them or in the next office to consult, ask for suggestions, or to learn from, artificial intelligence (AI) could be a solution to augment the skills of teams and their inner collaboration. AI could shorten the learning curve as they make suggestions to employees on how to improve their work, as well as provide examples of different solutions.
Agile teams typically use machine learning to help them develop more precise estimations. AI can significantly increase the productivity of workers by making suggestions while working, almost like Google makes suggestions when writing an e-mail.
Organisations need profound transformations to stay ahead of their markets and function optimally in the Covid-19 environment. An augmented organisation uses technology in every part of the value chain, as well as to improve personal relationships between people and to assist teams to improve collaboration dynamics through augmented collaboration. Digital transformation is the “ace up the sleeve” of organisations, people-centricity is the new “secret ingredient,” Artificial Intelligence the work dynamics enhancer, data the new asset, and relationships the differentiating factor of sustainable organisational growth in the new normal.