Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:

  • AI outperforms humans at tasks like navigation and search, but still faces difficulties with conversations, making today’s AI best suited for internal employee support. — Forrester, 2018
  • AI has the potential to free up human workers to better engage employees in their work, add more customer value, and become more confident in their job. — Forrester, 2018

While many digitally advanced companies are targeting artificial intelligence (AI) efforts directly at customers, employees may stand to gain the most as the technology matures, according to a Tuesday Forrester report.

Global employee engagement has not improved the past 17 years, according to Gallup. The issue may be getting worse, as workers increasingly must navigate a maze of legacy systems, underused and poorly integrated apps, and accelerating training needs. Augmenting human workers with AI capabilities can lessen the burden and offer more time for human interaction, wrote Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report.

Many businesses have turned to chatbots for customer service, with mixed results: Chatbot success rate for service is low, with some early adopters pulling back, the report noted. However, using these technologies internally can potentially increase worker productivity.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

“AI has the potential to connect activity across channels; understand web, social, and phone presence; route calls and resolve issues more accurately; and allow more genuine human interaction time,” Le Clair wrote in the report. “Leading brands will use it to support and incentivize human interaction rather than focusing on capturing efficiency cost savings.”

Machines can be used alongside workers to complete tasks that they are better suited for than humans, such as searching and optimizing information sources, clearing out manual processes and eliminating repetitive tasks, and answering questions, according to the report.

Here are three ways enterprises that augment human workers with AI will free up employee time and boost customer value, according to Forrester:

1. Free humans to plug gaps in institutional knowledge and add customer value

Focusing AI on employee support can slow the rate at which automation replaces jobs, and potentially allow more employees to upskill or expand their job scope.

2. Engage employees and raise the quality of their work

Automation can eliminate routine tasks, and leave more complex work in its wake. To complete this work, employees must integrate ideas, source new information, and leverage past learning. Enterprises that stress innovation to help employees achieve their goals see better attitudes and service to customers.

3. Give employees the confidence they need

AI can help workers with mundane tasks like routine calls, data entry, report preparation, and logs that often dominate their time, freeing employees up to focus more on using AI to improve their human interactions with others. For example, the report said, once workers in an insurance contact center realized that their virtual assistant wouldn’t take their jobs or increase their call-handling time, they found that conferring with the chatbot gave them confidence, made the calls more interesting, and allowed them to address harder questions.

With any internal AI adoption, enterprises should create an education campaign to demonstrate how automation will help workers in their jobs, rather than replace them, the report noted.