Employee Comms

AI for Internal Communications and Enhanced Employee Engagement


 — November 9th, 2023

AI for Internal Communications and Enhanced Employee Engagement

The introduction and integration of AI in the field of employee communication has emerged as a clear disrupter, radically transforming traditional employee engagement methods. Revolutionizing is a word that has somewhat fallen prey to semantic satiation. Still, it perfectly describes the impact of generative AI on the comms profession as it reshapes the conventional approaches to everyday communication and interactions in the workplace.

In this article, we will dig into some ways AI has already made a mark. By leveraging machine learning algorithms to analyze vast amounts of employee data, AI enables organizations to gain insights into the needs and preferences of their workforce. AI-driven tools facilitate personalized feedback, continuous learning, and tailored development plans, fostering a culture of ongoing improvement.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are being used to enhance support, enabling employees to access information more readily. And by automating routine tasks and offering proactive recommendations, AI frees up HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives that further promote employee engagement.

The fusion of AI and employee engagement is not just a technological leap, but a cultural shift, creating a more connected, informed, and motivated workforce.

AI-Powered Communication: A Guide for Internal Comms Teams

I. The Role of AI in Employee Engagement

Over the span of approximately two years, our inboxes and news feeds were choc full of information and insights regarding the impact of COVID-19. No other news story could even come close. But over the past twelve months, the pandemic and the remote working revolution have finally been overshadowed, giving way to a new paradigm-shifting sensation – generative Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI Technology

It began quietly at first, as whispers of Chat GPT emerged in November 2022, and then eventually, by the following spring, the AI juggernaut surged through with a force we haven’t seen since the emergence of email. A force that has prompted many questions (and many, many LinkedIn polls). Is it a friend… or a foe? A potential job disruptor… or the most valuable assistant to the modern-day comms professional?

Ask the experts, and the consensus is clear. Adapt to AI now - or be left behind. Or as Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer, Accenture put it;

“The playing field is poised to become a lot more competitive, and businesses that don’t deploy AI and data to help them innovate in everything they do will be at a disadvantage.”

How its Transforming Traditional Employee Engagement Methods

So, what role can AI play in the future of employee engagement? We all agree that employee engagement is a critical factor in the success of any organization, as it directly impacts productivity, innovation, and overall performance. As has been proven repeatedly, engaged employees are more committed, motivated, and satisfied with their work, resulting in reduced turnover and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Companies that prioritize employee engagement tend to outperform their competitors and achieve sustainable growth.

II. AI-driven Employee Feedback Systems

AI-driven employee feedback systems are becoming key to creating a workplace culture of open communication and continuous improvement. They facilitate a deeper understanding of employee sentiment, leading to more effective strategies for boosting engagement and productivity. These systems are at the forefront of modern HR practices, creating an environment where employees feel heard and valued, thereby contributing to long-term organizational success.

Sentiment Analysis and Employee Satisfaction

We must acknowledge that nothing can truly substitute experiencing the atmosphere or “taking the temperature” in a roomful of employees at, let’s say, a town hall meeting. And engaging in one-on-one, in-person, heartfelt conversations remains the number one approach to addressing employees' concerns. However, practical or feasible opportunities for such interactions are not always readily available. Fast, efficient AI systems are there to augment the way in which organizations collect and analyze feedback from their workforce by offering real-time insights and enabling proactive responses to employee needs and concerns.

Real-time Feedback Mechanisms for Employees

Real-time feedback mechanisms provide employees with the opportunity to express their opinions and report issues as they occur. This immediacy empowers organizations to address concerns promptly, and it is this responsiveness that employees really value.

Chatbots and survey tools can collect feedback continuously, and sentiment analysis algorithms help identify emerging trends and issues within the organization.

Sentiment analysis goes beyond merely collecting data. It employs natural language processing to discern the tone and context of employee comments, enabling organizations to gauge sentiment accurately.

By understanding the emotional undercurrents of feedback, companies can tailor their responses, address concerns, and celebrate successes in a more personalized, meaningful way. This ability to assess employee satisfaction allows organizations to identify areas for improvement and implement changes that enhance workplace conditions and morale.

AI-Powered Communication: A Guide for Internal Comms Teams

III. Personalization and Customization

At times, when we think of AI, we think of an anonymous machine with no capacity to provide the kind of personal touches that internal communication thrives on. But, the converse is true; personalization and customization are intrinsic to AI technology, enabling organizations to craft individualized experiences for their employees, as exemplified by employee training, learning, and development.

Tailoring Employee Experiences

As we have already noted. AI can analyze vast amounts of data on individual employees, from their job roles and performance history to their personal preferences and learning styles. Armed with this information, organizations are providing customized content and learning materials, aligning training and development with each employee's specific needs and goals. This not only increases engagement but also accelerates skill development, resulting in a more agile and competitive workforce.

Adaptive Learning Platforms

Adaptive learning platforms leverage machine learning to assess an employee's strengths and weaknesses, adapting the content and pace of learning to match their individual progress. By offering targeted training, employees can acquire new skills more efficiently, making learning more engaging and effective. Moreover, as these systems continuously evaluate performance, they can suggest personalized development opportunities, promoting a culture of ongoing growth and self-improvement.

IV. Gamification and AI

Many comms professionals swear by gamification as a means to enhance employee engagement. And their endorsement appears to be well-founded - a whopping 85% of employees are said to show more engagement when gamification solutions are applied in their workplace training programs. Yet, the process of planning, designing, testing, and executing original and motivating experiences to promote collaboration among employees is undoubtedly time-consuming.

Algorithms for Customized Gamification

Enter AI. AI algorithms and gamification are a perfect match.

By analyzing individual employee data, gamified elements can be tailored to each employee’s preferences and needs. This personalization ensures that the gamification strategy is not one-size-fits-all but instead aligns with the unique characteristics and motivations of each employee. AI-driven gamification also offers the flexibility to adapt and evolve as employee preferences change, making it a sustainable and continuously engaging approach to boosting employee performance.

For example, employees can earn badges, compete on leaderboards, or complete quests tied to their professional development or goals. This not only makes work more engaging but also taps into employees' intrinsic motivation.

By infusing work with game-inspired elements and customizing the experience, companies can tap into the innate human desire for achievement and reward, ultimately driving productivity, creativity, and satisfaction in the workplace.

AI-Powered Communication: A Guide for Internal Comms Teams

VI. Virtual Assistants and Chatbots

A remarkable 40% of millennials actively interact with bots on a daily basis, indicating a significant trend in digital communication preferences. These interactions with bots exhibit a broad spectrum of engagement, ranging from modest response rates of 35-40% up to 80-90% for superior bot experiences.

This willingness to embrace chatbots is likely due to their early prevalence. Chatbots have, of course, been a form of AI all along, but their early iterations were less capable than contemporary AI-powered chatbots. People might not have appreciated the extent of their AI capabilities at first.

Enhancing Communication and HR Support

These AI-driven virtual assistants and chatbots have redefined communication in the workplace, offering immediate and personalized assistance. They are available around the clock to address employee queries, guide them through HR processes, and provide quick access to relevant information. This instant support streamlines HR operations and empowers employees to resolve issues without delay, engendering a sense of trust and efficiency. And it’s a win-win, as speeding up these processes gives the comms team back time to dedicate to more creative or strategic endeavors.

Use Cases of Artificial Intelligence for Virtual Assistants

Other ideas and use cases include assisting with onboarding, helping new employees navigate company policies and resources, facilitating benefits enrollment, and offering information on wellness programs. AI-driven solutions can also serve as knowledge repositories, providing access to training materials, policy documents, and other resources that aid employees’ development. The versatility of AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots allows organizations to optimize employee experiences and engagement, ensuring that information and support are readily available.

Since most of those tools are large language models, they’re capable of LLM fine-tuning, that is to say, improving their response quality.

VII. Predictive Analytics for Employee Retention

Predictive analytics allows organizations to proactively address issues and take measures to retain their valuable talent. By harnessing the potential of data and artificial intelligence, companies can identify patterns and warning signs, paving the way for more effective strategies to keep employees engaged and committed. The human alternative to predictive analytics involves using human judgment, experience, and intuition to make informed decisions and predictions based on available data and information. Both approaches have their strengths and limitations, and the choice between them often depends on the specific circumstances and the nature of the problem at hand.

Identifying Patterns and Warning Signs

When it comes to large organizations with extensive employee data, AI can quickly and efficiently sift through the haystack to find the needle - to discern patterns and early indicators of potential turnover. By analyzingvarious factors such as job satisfaction, performance metrics, attendance, and even social and professional interactions, predictive models can identify employees who may be at risk of leaving. This early warning system provides HR departments with valuable insights to help them intervene before it's too late.

AI-Powered Communication: A Guide for Internal Comms Teams

Proactive Strategies for Retaining Talent

With the insights gained through predictive analytics, organizations can implement proactive strategies to retain talent. These strategies might include tailored career development plans, mentorship programs, or addressing specific issues that contribute to employee dissatisfaction. By intervening early, companies can take corrective actions to enhance engagement, job satisfaction, and overall workplace experience. This not only preserves valuable talent but also saves on the costs associated with recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

VIII. Companies Successfully Using AI in Employee Engagement

So, who is already taking advantage of AI? Most internal communication professionals are testing the waters, with some already demonstrating the impact and sharing results.

Maximus, a global health and human services provider with over 36,000 employees, has judiciously embraced AI. Before making any commitments, they conducted thorough research. A 30-day study compared content creation by the IC team and AI technology, evaluating time savings, engagement rates, and readability. An IC team survey also covered three content types: human-written, AI-generated, and a combination. The findings demonstrated that a fusion of human and AI-produced content achieved superior readability and higher employee engagement in all categories. Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Jared Curtis concluded that AI, while valuable for content ideation, lacks the essential human touch required for genuine employee engagement and resonance.

Here at Poppulo, we incorporate text analysis into our newsletter, pop:VOICE, to conduct sentiment analysis and pinpoint essential themes for action planning in collaboration with our survey partner, Qualtrics. For content ideation, Head of IC, Andrew Hubbard uses our new Poppulo AI offering to help draft copy. He can automatically polish content, fine-tune its tone and length, and generate captivating headlines within seconds. Our AI Content Insights identifies and categorizes communication themes throughout our organization, providing valuable insights into the topics that engage employees and allowing for ongoing optimization of our communication strategy.

The key takeaway: tailor your AI solution to your organization's unique needs and culture and then continually adapt and refine. Technology evolves, and so do employee expectations.

IX. Conclusion

According to IBM, the global AI adoption rate is reported to be at 35% and growing steadily. As we are only at the start of the AI story, the ending remains uncertain, yet the prevailing narrative is unmistakable. We are in the midst ofa transformative shift in how organizations interact with their workforce. AI offers innovative, data-driven solutions that minimize errors and enhance precision, bringing uniformity to communications. It's a time for exploration, experimentation, and understanding the potential of AI in your comms role while being mindful of potential job transitions. Experts envision a transition in skill requirements and talent reallocation rather than mass unemployment.

The World Economic Forum concluded in October 2020 that while AI would likely take away 85 million jobs globally by 2025, it would also “generate 97 million new jobs in fields ranging from big data and machine learning to information security and digital marketing.”

The complexity of human thought and emotion allows human content writers to choose words that resonate with other humans far better than AI. As Jared Curtis, Maximus puts it, “No matter how we use artificial intelligence, we’ll always preserve the human relationship and those connections because machines lack empathy. It takes a human touch to understand what our audience needs and wants, so we have tomaintain that personal connection.”

Lastly, it's important to acknowledge that exercising prudence is crucial when it comes to the ethical and legal aspects of AI. The collection and analysis of vast amounts of employee data raise concerns about privacy, consent, and the potential for bias in AI algorithms. Organizations must prioritize transparency, data security, and fairness to ensure that AI benefits both the company and its employees while respecting their rights and values.

In light of these considerations, companies should embrace AI cautiously and responsibly. Comms professionals should carefully evaluate the potential impacts and ethical implications and develop strategies that prioritize the well-being and engagement of their employees. By putting employees and culture first, organizations can navigate the evolving landscape of AI in employee engagement while ensuring that their workforce remains motivated, satisfied, and empowered.

As the future unfolds, the effective use of AI will not only enhance employee engagement but may also define the success of forward-thinking organizations.

AI-Powered Communication: A Guide for Internal Comms Teams

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