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Let’s Give Employees Some of the Generative AI Benefit

Many times, I’ve pondered why the full-time work-week is defined as five days on, two days off. Why not four days on, three days off, or some other ratio that gives us more time to enjoy our lives?

In the businesses I’ve run, I have always focused on output rather than the number of hours someone works. If two people have a job to finish in a day—say, write a report—and it takes one person four hours and the other eight hours, shouldn’t the person who completed the task in four hours be able to lay low the rest of the day? Work hours vs. productivity is always an interesting debate.

Let’s take it to a contact center. If an outbound sales rep can close 30% over a five-day quota in three days, should that person get the rest of the week off? In our workaholic world, the answer is typically “No! Keep going and get to 50% above quota!” When employees are super-productive, we just keep raising the bar. And at what expense? Employees are stressed, tired, and anxiety-ridden because they spend too much time working and not enough time enjoying life.

Can we start hiring and managing based on productivity vs. hours?

Yes, and generative AI may be able to help us do just that.

Because of its speed and massive scale, generative AI has the potential to reduce the number of hours required for a full-time workweek for many types of jobs. Generative and all types of AI improve business metrics—specifically productivity, but also revenue and customer satisfaction. The most successful companies using any type of AI in CX initiatives reported revenue increase by 38%, customer ratings improve by 45.8%, operational costs drop by 5.6% and agent efficiency rise by 36%, according to the same study.

Already as of June 2023, 27.3% of companies were using generative AI, and another 47.2% plan to do so by the end of the year, according to Metrigy’s CX Optimization 2023-24 global research study of 641 companies.

However, too many business leaders see generative AI as a catalyst for higher profits, while avoiding any paradigm shift away from the 40 (or 50, or 60+)-hour workweek. Why not, instead, see it as a catalyst for improving more than just the bottom line? Though there are valid concerns about malicious use of any type of AI, business leaders must also spend time thinking about and educating on how the technology can change workstyles and lifestyles. Let’s look at an example.

An investment company pays its client engagement managers $100,000 per year to regularly engage with a list of customers, averaging 10 calls per day. During each call, the managers must listen to the customers’ goals, determine an investment strategy, think about stock recommendations, and take notes after each call, along with using a task management tool for follow-ups. Each call takes about 30 minutes, with 15 minutes of after-call work—for roughly an eight-hour day with a lunch break.

Suppose the company pairs a virtual assistant with each client engagement manager. During the call, the virtual assistant is listening, providing context, looking up stock performance, and helping to determine the investment strategy, shaving about 10 minutes off the call. What’s more, its predictive analysis capabilities recommend additional services—and about 30% of the clients end up buying additional services, though that adds another 7 minutes to the call. After the call, generative AI summarizes the content and action items for the manager to review, reducing after-call work to 4 minutes, on average. Now, that workday becomes about 6.5 hours—but the company sees more sales revenue.

What will business leaders do? Most will simply add more clients to each managers’ portfolio. The more innovative ones will say: “Let’s move to a 33-hour workweek.” Gasp! What’s the benefit to the company? More than most imagine, including the following:

  • It increases employee loyalty and reduces attrition, which saves the company from about $1,500 to $25,000 in recruiting, hiring, and training costs per employee
  • It reduces work-related stress, resulting in happier employees
  • It keeps the team creative and enthusiastic when talking to clients, increasing the likelihood of upsell
  • It makes it easier to attract new, better, and more experienced employees
  • It keeps customers happier when they are dealing with well-rested employees who have a solid work-life balance; as research has shown, employees are more clearly prioritizing work-life balance as part of the employee experience, so this aids in retention

Of course, there is more to the math here than just employee productivity and revenue. Virtual assistants powered by generative AI, predictive analytics, and Natural Language Processing are not free, so there is a cost side to this equation.

This is what Metrigy is now researching: What is the true ROI of a scenario like this? What could the workweek be to increase company profitability while also improving employee and customer satisfaction? Those research-backed models will be available soon.

My hypothesis is that we can reduce the workweek to four days for many types of jobs, while driving more profitability into companies, because of AI. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on whether a shorter workweek—at the same pay—will ultimately result from AI deployments.

This reminds me of the shock my pal Erin got in her first office job. She finished all her work at 1 p.m. on the first day, so she left. Same thing happened on the second day. The third day, her boss pulled her aside and said, “I know you finished your work but we’re not actually paying you for deliverables, we’re paying for your availability.”