Is your workforce prepared for Artificial Intelligence?
Ikea recently announced its intention to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) through a customer survey ‘Do you speak human?’. It’s a novel idea for a company that makes a living selling flat pack furniture, however, they are right on the money.
AI has grown dramatically over the last few years, and it’s expected that the market will be worth $5.05 billion by 2020. Stunts like Ikea’s provide an intriguing insight into the expectations society holds for AI technology. However, building an intelligence system capable of matching the capabilities of the human brain is no easy feat.
While the creation of such technology is a celebration in itself, what’s really impressive are the real world applications that are only just starting to appear. Imagine having a system that can not only synthesise data faster than a human, but can make better inferences, predictions, and decisions. This has the potential to revolutionise how we live, work, and interact with each other.
But what will this technology look like in the space we spend 50% of our day, the workplace?
According to a survey conducted by Narrative Science, 80% of company executives believe that AI solutions boost productivity. Whether this is by automating labour intensive tasks or improving process efficiencies, AI is becoming an effective part of businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Workforce management companies like Tanda are heavily investing R&D into the potential of AI technology and the impact that it will have on the workplace. Managing a workforce with all the administrative work that goes along with it is no easy task. It becomes infinitely more difficult when managers lack the experience and necessary information to make complex informed decisions. Using AI technology empowers managers with actionable intelligence to make smarter decisions in rostering, wage calculations, and workforce management.
What is the future of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace?
Artificial Intelligence can be used in a variety of ways within workforce management technology. Firstly, predictive analytics is where AI is used as a tool to assist the user to make decisions, such as the optimal number of staff for a shift. The next step up is a completely autonomous system, capable of performing tasks independent of a human. Cognitive Rostering® for example, extends on predictive workforce analytics to create an optimised roster automatically, without human user input.
So what benefits can we expect by implementing AI technology into our workforce?
1. Make faster decisions
Using AI technology to automate your workforce management results in greater efficiency, profitability, and productivity. Rostering is a major pain point for businesses, due the time it takes and the impact of having too many or too little staff rostered. Automating time-consuming tasks such as rostering, assists manages to make faster decisions, and spend more time focusing on priorities.
2. More accurate decisions
It’s hard to make the right decision when you don’t have all the information. There are numerous sources of data that could affect making great rosters, such as wage costs, sales data, and staff availabilities. Using Predictive Workforce™ allows managers to pull useful data sources into one system, which leads to more accurate and smarter workforce decisions. For example, you could import foot traffic data into Predictive Workforce™ with customised ratios. This will inform managers of how many staff are needed, and what specific roles are required. Thus, this enabling managers to not exceed their labour cost budgets, while also ensuring that enough staff are rostered to meet customer demand.
3. Competitive market advantage
Using AI technology to manage your workforce provides an unparalleled market advantage. According to Narrative Science, “by 2020 predictive analytics will attract 40% of new investment made by enterprises”. In a time when operating and overhead costs continue to increase, AI automation assists businesses owners to improve workforce productivity for future growth. Businesses therefore need to be using predictive analytic technology to manage their workforce today, if they want to stay competitive and ahead of the market tomorrow. AI technology and predictive analytics give you the confidence to make great decisions, and capitalise on new exciting opportunities.
Artificial Intelligence may well still be in its infancy, however, it is quickly becoming a necessity for businesses wanting to remain competitive. Using the best workforce management technology leads to faster and more accurate decisions, as well as a competitive advantage within the market. It is therefore vital for key personnel to ensure they are using the best technology to achieve the greatest outcome.
Industry Insights |
Women, the Workforce, and What Tanda Uncovered
Kelsey Stay is a Web Developer and Graphic Designer working at startup company Cohort Solutions. Cohort Solutions helps international students get their affairs in order while remaining safe upon arrival to Australia. In 2014, she was selected to participate in the Startup Catalyst Tour, that sends 20 young tech entrepreneurs to the headquarters of Facebook, Google and 500StartUps just to name a few. She was one of the competitors in Tanda’s Annual Open Data Hackathon, encouraging young techies and entrepreneurs of Brisbane to aspire and create great ideas. The hackathon participants uncovered some interesting facts about women in the workforce. She sat down with Meredith McLean from Tanda, to talk about the experience and her thoughts on women in the tech industry. M: Thanks for sitting down with me for lunch. Not a problem at all. But I’m currently having what I call Analysis Paralysis. When you have all these different food options and you have to decide what you’re going to have in a short time. And you panic because everything looks delicious and freeze up, then can’t make a decision. (Laughs) M: (Laughs) I love it. I’ll have to borrow that one next time I’m out to lunch. So, what got you interested in the hackathon? I know Tanda from previous experiences. I went on the Starter Catalyst trip with Alex Ghiculescu, one of the directors of Tanda, so thats where I met them. Previous to that, when I was studying at QUT I had met some of the other Tanda guys as well without realising they had all ended up at Tanda. We did another startup weekend a few weeks back, and were all quite keen on hackathons and anything tech we can get our hands onto. It was also that they actually organised it that gave us a chance to just rock up and enjoy the experience. M: Were you surprised when you noticed you were one of only three women participating in the hackathon? Not really. I think I did pick up on it. I did look around the room to see if there were many other girls. But its not really surprising. I’m just used to being surrounded by guys basically. (Laughs) M: Do you get that a lot in the office as well? Well our office is pretty good. We’re quite diverse and multicultural. There are a few more guys than girls, but its just because were quite a small office. I’m one of the developers so the other woman is business operations. It’s well balanced. M: Were you surprised by any of the facts that came out from the hackathon? One was women arrive to work earlier but men will often stay back later. Not particularly, if you look at it you could assume women tend to go home because generally they are the primary caregivers. Whereas, generally men can stay back because they have the opportunity to. I fall more into the male category, I rock up sometimes a little bit later (laughs) but I usually stay back because I don’t have anything else to do. M: What are your opinions on women often being primary caregivers, while working and still having to go home and take care of other duties? I think it is changing, and becoming more balanced. It’s just a generational thing and culturally, at one point the logical conclusion was to have one parent in the home. And because of the physiological requirements it happened to be the women caring for children. But now that we don’t have to go along that path anymore its changing. My boyfriend wants to be the stay at home dad, he wants to be the primary caregiver and I’m happy to go along with that and i’ll be the person who brings home the bacon. I think its just a cultural shift. M: And what was it like going overseas on the trip and seeing Facebook , Google and all the others? It was amazing. My favourite point was walking into the Facebook campus and its just wow. You feel like you’re in disneyland for a techie. The whole culture over there is completely different. You dont have to explain what a software developer is. Actually, over there you get the name engineer. Theres a completely different approach to it. It was really interesting to see how they approach the whole tech industry over there compared to here in Brisbane. if I tell someone I’m a software developer or that I code they might not even have any idea what that is, and I’ll have to explain what that entails. M: What was it like trying to do the hackathon in 2 hours, with the mad dash to get something up and running? It was actually quite funny, because I really like the high pressure environment of hackathons. When you’re coding for a long time you get in that groove, and the longer you stay in that groove the longer you can stand long runs of coding. The accomplishment that you feel at the end knowing that you’ve put in such a big chunk of time and then to see it work is such a good feeling. But it was funny because on the Friday night I pitched 4 different ideas,.Then we ended up choosing one that’s pretty much like Tinder for Tanda called TandER. Basically when you clock in you’d get a selection of 9 faces, and you could choose people with similar interests that you might like to go to lunch with. Then it would figure out when people are going to lunch and pair you up with that person who has similar interests and availabilities. Then I woke up the next morning and thought what would be really cool and probably easier with the dataset we had is automatic roserting. So using the data to instead of getting people to figure out conditions and make sure everyone’s working enough to just automate rosters and get better results from the employees. M: I love the tag Tinder for Tanda. How did you feel at the end of it? We got an honourable mention, so i guess you could call that second place? We won a free business lunch with Tanda because they’re doing similar things and might want to work with us. There was also the Spirit of the Weekend award, I didn’t know until the very end during pitches but there was a high school team there. That was really cool to see they got similar statistics to the older teams. Which is great for them to confirm their abilities. Then there was the Best Selfie award. Which I had to apologise to the girl who won it, because the printed selfie on the shirt she won was actually my idea. So now she’s got this awesome shirt with her worst selfie ever that she’s never going to wear anywhere. But it was really cool to see some of the other StartUp Catalyst people on the winning team. M: Yeah, the winning team Two Weeks Notice was so professional in that pitch. it was great. Oh, thats just the way Matthew Brown is. He’s very business oriented and charismatic. He can really get you excited for whatever it is he’s talking about. M: Maybe not specifically at the hackathon, but have you ever had any reactions when you say I’m a female coder? I’ve actually been reading a lot of blog posts lately where people say that they say they’re a female coder and people laugh or don’t take them seriously but luckily I haven’t had that yet. I’ve never had a surprise look or a “Really?” reaction. It’s always been “Oh, thats cool”, and its really positive and encouraging. M: It’s good to see there are positives coming through now, and the reactions aren’t so ridiculous. I’m sure I will encounter it at some stage in my career. But I’ve been really lucky to surround myself with people who are positive and encouraging. M: What future plans do you have for yourself or the business? Well, I’m currently at Cohort Solutions and I really see that succeeding so I’d like to stay there for a while. I’ve been with them for a while, but eventually I would like to have my own startup and bring my own ideas and help change the world in my own way.
Industry Insights |
What the hell is happening at 7 Eleven’s head office?
The Australian Senate enquiry into franchise business 7 Eleven’s alleged underpayment of staff has heard that two thirds of stores have been underpaying staff – that’s up to 10,000 people. In a scramble to resolve the issue, 7 Eleven’s management recently wrote to 15,000 former and current staff, encouraging underpaid workers to come forward. Early results have shown the underpayment has been endemic across the group. Where did 7 Eleven go wrong? As the enquiry rolls on, 7 Eleven will likely claim the data was unavailable to have enough oversight into the practices of franchisees. The other side of the argument will claim the 7 Eleven was simply hiding from a tough business conditions, and was happy to underpay staff to get ahead. What’s going to happen to 7 Eleven? The total liability of the losses is still unknown, but 7 Eleven has set up a third-party company “Independent Claims” which will hide the balance sheet liabilities, handle the underpayments and manage the claims. Head office is going to back pay staff directly, and then attempt to recover underpaid amounts from franchise owners. The big questions is how widespread this is across other groups. The fundamental economics of the competitive pricing models in franchise groups will likely come into question as the enquiry rolls on. It wasn’t too long ago that Dominos and Pizza Hut franchisees were up-in-arms about $5 pizzas, claiming it would force them to find cost cuts in other parts of the business. What should 7 Eleven and other franchise groups do? Head offices should review IT systems and get with the times. Franchise models are successful because of the combination of hard-working and well incentivised owners and best-practice scalable business systems. The best franchises are the ones with the best systems. It was this formula which saw the franchising model take the world by storm in the 20th century. Everyone is talking about big-data and the potential to be unlocked in customer data. A better place to start is to get all of the financial and payroll data in once place. Not only does this give full oversight into wages, but also allows head office to focus on optimising labour costs. The most successful franchisees we work with do one thing very well – they correlate their wage cost with their revenue extremely tightly. Only time will be able to tell the outcome of the enquiry. Our guess is this just the start and the recent Fair Work amendment bill will throw some serious fuel on the fire.
Industry Insights |
The case for small business tax reform
“Can I pay you earlier?” It’s pretty unusual for someone to ask to pay for something sooner than they have to. Yet, this is what’s happening at an astonishing volume all around the country in June. This is the only time of year when people care about timing more than pricing. Everywhere in Australia, offices are upgrading their computers, restaurants are ordering extra stock and tradies are buying new tools. And they need it done this week. This flurry of economic activity looks like a strange and wonderful occurrence at first glance. Just what the economy needs! At least until you think about the maddening cause of this last minute rush to spend spend spend. It’s tax time. The whole purpose of this mad rush is to rack up as many tax-deductible expenses as possible before tax time on June 30. I’m all for tax planning, but this madness isn’t good for anyone, nor is it necessary. The mechanics of the tax system that causes this otherwise irrational behaviour is infuriating. Company tax is often misunderstood in Australia. We have what’s called a dividend imputation system. Under this system, private individuals get credits for income generated by companies which have already paid tax. In simple terms, if Company X makes $100 profit and pays $30 tax, company shareholders can get a $30 credit on their tax bill. In Australia, the ultimate calculation for who pays tax lies with the individual, not with the company. Under the imputation system, a cut to company taxes by 20% would result in a corresponding increase in personal income tax. For small business owners, the choice is usually whether to pay tax inside the company, or as an individual. If company taxes were lower, what would the consequences be? There would simply be more money left over after tax time to reinvest in the business. Wouldn’t it be better if at the end of the year a tradie who made $100,000 had the option of either paying $30,000 tax for their personal income or using that windfall to employ an apprentice? This way increased profits would grow the size of the taxable pie. That’s what would happen if company tax rates were 0%. Contrary to popular political discourse, a cut in company tax rates in Australia won’t line the pockets of wealthy business owners. It will stimulate a new wave of investment across the economy. People start small businesses because they’re optimistic about the future and willing to invest in our economy. Small business owners must make smart investment decisions to survive. Every time a tradie re-tools, they are investing in their own productivity. These incremental gains are what makes an economy grow. We’re talking a lot about innovation at the moment at all levels of Government. What is it that will drive Australia’s economy forward? Surely the fastest route to driving a new wave of investment in innovation across our nation is to distribute the responsibility of investing to those closest to the problems – small business owners. It seems obvious, yet we purposely stifle investment in productivity every day with company tax. Tax cuts for small business are the fastest and clearest route to innovation without monumental government waste. It’s time for a serious talk about small business tax reform.