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Intelligent Work: Zarion Project

Background

The recent development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has brought significant changes to the workplace, giving birth to the concept of Intelligent Work. While many AI and machine learning applications have been adopted in the business processes, how these changes affect workers’ wellbeing and consequently impact the company’s revenue remain neglected.


Operations management usually focuses on business processes, business units or departments, as well as the corresponding tools or technologies to achieve the economic goals for the company. Often the ‘human factor’ and worker wellbeing in the system are not well understood, leading to errors, suboptimal performance, worker burnout and challenges to professionalism. From a business perspective, this has a cost implication (for example, costs of delays/worker productivity, staff retention, sick leave, cost of errors etc.).


The impact of new working practices and trends – such as the blended workforce (i.e. mix of human and intelligent agents), the flexible workforce (virtual/remote work, gig economy, work teams with varied contracts) and new IT enabling workforce analytics, surveillance in work, and workflow orchestration and management, presents both risks and opportunities.  There is a strong human/moral imperative along with a business case to move towards ‘responsible work’ concepts.
Millennial and Generation Z employees are looking for more autonomy and flexibility in work. With the increased adaption of automation in work, and the use of mobile apps and health monitoring technologies (for example, Fitbits), work/life balance is starting to mean something more than was traditionally understood.


Future human resource management requires better safeguarding in relation to human assets and the application of AI and machine learning to ‘human in the system’ problems (i.e. link between performance management, operations management, wellbeing protections and data analytics).New intelligent work concepts/systems must be premised on a rich picture of the human role and requirements from a worker and customer service perspective. Further, it must address the potential barriers to adoption and issues pertaining to stakeholder acceptability and organisational change.

Project Objectives

The aim of this research project is to study how AI technologies and workers can work together more efficiently and intelligently to improve the workers’ wellbeing and the company’s long-term revenue. We would like to investigate how to augment automated work and people so that work is healthy, workers are healthy, and workers are set up for success.

Specifically, this project will demonstrate how the application of new intelligent work models, concepts and technologies (using machine learning and artificial intelligence) will deliver value at a human level (i.e. a healthy and productive workforce), at a commercial level (i.e. company profit and sustainability) and from a societal perspective (i.e. responsible business, ethical automation, role of human/worker in technologically mediated system).

Ethics & Underpinning Values & Vision

Human activity should not compromise the long-term balance between the economic, environmental, and social pillars (i.e. the triple bottom line).


New concepts of ‘responsible business’ and ‘regenerative business’ reflect a shift from a model of responsibility to shareholders (i.e. shareholder primacy) to responsibility to all stakeholders (includes staff). The introduction of the tripartite labour collaboration includes a third stakeholder—society.


Work is part of our wellbeing and a key driver of health.


Many companies treat workers in terms of enterprise resources. Workers are more than commodities/resources. They are human beings! And there are benefits to designing workplace procedures and technologies with the human in mind. Further, there are benefits to employees and employers for promoting self-efficacy for employees.


Workplace IT systems were historically introduced to promote efficiency – there was insufficient attention to issues around the human role in the system, promoting healthy work and worker wellbeing, enabling worker self-efficacy and augmenting team performance and trust. Now, there is a greater emphasis on fostering trust, the promotion of psychological wellbeing in the workplace, the avoidance of work-related stress and absenteeism and developing ethically aligned technologies (and specifically technologies that prioritize human wellbeing). This change is to be valued. This change is at early stage. We need to design the work and workplace of the future.

Approach

This project uses human factors, operations management, business process analysis and artificial intelligence knowledge to define innovative and human-centred work concepts (i.e. the workplace of the future) which will optimise worker wellbeing, safety, productivity and efficiency, using novel ‘intelligent work’ concepts and allied technology systems. Critically, these systems will deploy artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies in an ethical manner.

Funding

This research is funded under the Innovation Partnership Programme (Enterprise Ireland).

Publications & News Items

Dr Cahill speaks about automation and the requirements for healthy and ethical work at the Automation & Robotics Summits, January 2020.
Link to be included
Dr Cahill speaks about workforce diversity, workforce monitoring and robotic process automation (RPA) at the Inspire Event, Analytics Institute Ireland, March 2020.
Link to be included

Project Parnters & Contacts

For more information, please contact

Dr Joan Cahill cahilljo@tcd.ie Centre for Innovative Human Systems

Prof. Yufei Huang yufei.huang@tcd.ie Trinity Business School

Mr. Stephen Ralph sralph@zarion.comZarion Ltd.