Employee or Machine

Adrian Harvey

Adrian started his career as a jeweller but quickly became disillusioned with Retail and waiting for customers to come to him!

He joined ABNAMRO leasing subsidiary LeasePlan aged 23 and spend a decade in corporate finance working with GE Capital and BNP Paribas. He ran his own sales consultancy for 3 years and then Joined the Board of BNP Paribas owned PHH aged 30 and switched codes to join the energy sector a couple of years later.

10 years spent as MD of British Gas and Eon in the UK saw Adrian recruit Dan and together form Green Giraffe, which led to the invention of Clever Nelly and the formation of Elephants don't forget.

Adrian lives in Sunbury on Thames in Surrey. He enjoys sailing, shooting, cycling, fishing, coaching youth rugby and drinking beer.

His pet hate is the word “can’t”!

Listen to my 12 min interview with ScottCundill.com on "L & D Managers, Empoyee... or Machine?"

Has the tide turned at last? Are employers prioritising investment in their employees over investment in technology. In an ironic way, apparently so…

Picture the scene, you need to increase productivity in your business and inevitably face numerous choices for how and where you spend the cash. Investing in the development of human capital, your employees, has in recent times been unpopular, as more and more firms opt for new and shiny technology solutions believing, one assumes, that the technology solution delivers better, more transparent and quantifiable, long-term ROI.

But in an ironic twist, more and more employers are discovering that perhaps the greatest opportunity to improve productivity and reduce operational risk lies with their employees and is now readily harvested using cutting edge technology in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

First Principles

Irrespective of what you choose to do, unless you move to a 100% customer self-serve model you will still have employees driving your systems and processes.

At a first principle level, no employee can act on what they have been trained and failed to learn.

Evidence gathered by Elephants don’t forget from more than 54 million interventions in 2017 illustrates that employees on average present with a 52% starting role-centric knowledge and competency level. Meaning that your employees will on average know about half what you need them to know to perform optimally and within the law (regulated firms). Curiously perhaps, few leaders argue that this data-point fails to represent their firm - although of course, the distribution of knowledge across the employee base will vary wildly between different organisations.

In any event, all things being equal, given the choice between agents who have learned and retained all that you have trained them or agents who have learned only 52% of what they need to know, every employer would opt for the former as every employer recognises this will drive better customer experience and optimal efficiency.

Employee knowledge and competence are critical success factors in any and every enterprise seeking to optimise productivity and profitability.

Lack of Quantification and Measurement Has Fuelled the Fire

Under such circumstances, it really isn’t that surprising that in a commercial world where every penny counts and ROI is heavily scrutinised, that employers have lost faith in investing in improving employee competency in favour of deploying technology.

If as a CFO, you -

  • Cannot accurately scale the extent of the employee competency gap
  • Know the gap exists and that it exists as a function of previous training interventions that failed to deliver the required competency
  • Are hardly likely to sanction the further investment of the same interventions

The phrase “throwing good money after bad” springs to mind. So instead you would look to invest in interventions that can be factually quantified and where the benefits are transparently quantifiable. You would always choose transparent technology over the more opaque employee development. Particularly if you also happen to subscribe to the belief that training employees just fuels staff churn as they leave to get better jobs elsewhere.

“What gets measured (or is possible to measure), gets done.”

Which is why savvy firms invest many multiples more in systems development that they ever do in employee competency improvement.

Were it possible and readily achievable to precisely quantify employee competency in much the same way we can quantify system efficiency and productivity, then CFO’s and key budget holders would once again pay attention, if only to scale the size of the prize available for fixing the competency gap. If it were also possible and affordable to repair the gap and maintain optimum competency and do so without hamstringing the business, then I suspect most CFO’s and COO’s would immediately consider this strategy in preference to systems investment.

Particularly as most willingly accept that current employee knowledge and competency levels are suboptimal and negatively impact enterprise productivity. And even with the best will in the world, many technology solutions have a high ticket value, fail to deliver any quantifiable benefit, can be hugely disruptive to BAU and often take long periods of time to shape, plan, test and implement.

The Solution Would Ironically Appear To Involve Using technology To Solve the Employee Problem

I am not talking about using e-learning, Learning Management Systems, Knowledge Stores or Peer-To-Peer Learning - these tools have been around for years and in most instances are but more efficient ways to deliver training. They do not address the fundamental fact that training does not equal learning and that learning is not a team sport but a solo activity and in every regulated firm it is also not an optional extra.

Recent advances in the use of Artificial Intelligence has meant that employers can now, not only easily, precisely and gently establish the role-centric knowledge and competency profile of every employee, but they can also fix it and maintain the new higher levels.

They can do this using a micro time foot-print, requiring often less than 1 minute an employee, per day. Do so in a way that is completely acceptable, respectful of employees, line management and even hard-nosed sceptical unions. And perhaps best of all, is completely transparent, fact-based and devoid of the emotion that often traditionally clouds and undermines employee based decisions.

So we now have technology that solves the age-old problems associated with investing in improving employee knowledge and competency. Employers can stick to what they are comfortable with and continue to invest in transparent and measurable technology. It just so happens that this particular technology is easily and swiftly deployed, low cost, guaranteed to work and will enable them to harvest huge value from their human capital - their employees.

Elephants don’t forget

Elephants don’t forget are world leaders in the use of Artificial Intelligence for employee knowledge and competency optimisation. We trade in more than 35 countries and 14 languages. We are official suppliers of our AI to UK Gov, Microsoft, GE and a host of household named brands. Many are regulated firms and rely on the AI as a core component of their risk management and governance framework. Each and every one of them recognises value exists in their employees optimising their role-centric knowledge and competency. It can also be used in parallel to target poor performing KPI’s that have a high Human Influence Factor.

And apparently, rather unusually for a technology solution, our technology also comes with a money back guarantee that it will work.

If you would like to know more about how your business could benefit from the deployment of AI to quantify and optimise employee competence and harvest productivity wins please drop Clever Nelly a line at nelly@elephantsdontforget.com and one of the herd will be in contact.


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