The empowered employee: How 6 companies are arming their teams with data

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Big data was the first step in creating value from transactions and accumulated data. Now that we have warehouses filled with data the challenge has turned to delivering actionable insights to not just customers, but also employees. Smart businesses have realized that their employees, across teams, can make better decisions and scale expertise by democratizing the access to real-time data insights.

These six companies are just a small sampling of how AI is helping companies empower all their employees to be as good as their best ones.

1. H&R Block: Combine the brainpower of Tax Pros with cognitive computing

H&R Block trains its tax pros to create tax returns for its customers but understanding and interpreting the 74,000 page tax code is daunting. H&R Block believes it can do better by enlisting IBM Watson’s natural language processing to analyze tax documents and find deductions and credits, lower the amount of taxes people pay, and maximize their refunds. Customers get better results and employees can be more confident in their recommendations. In doing so, they’re combining over 60 years of tax expertise with Watson’s cognitive computing technology to put all that knowledge at their employees’ fingertips.

They’re also using Watson to create more personalized customer experiences. For example, customers who walk into an H&R Block location will have their own monitor allowing them to follow along with their Tax Pro and Watson. The customer’s screen will show all their info, credits, deductions etc.

2. Tesla: Employee engagement as a core business strategy

Tesla drives engagement within its employee base to drive the company’s business in innovative ways. The company believes that having an actively engaged workforce is not an option but a requirement for success, and high on their list of requirements is making business-critical data accessible to teams. Tesla found that engaged teams drive 15% more profitability, are 30% more productive, and lead to 62% less safety issues,

For example, Tesla created a dashboard that delivered results from a valuable (and anonymous) internal survey that let employees share feedback and concerns to better understand employee engagement. Employees could view top-level results of this survey quickly but Tesla also provided deep-dive options through the same dashboard for those interested. According to Tesla, this kind of data sharing is critical to increasing employee involvement and commitment to company initiatives.

3. Woodside Energy: Learning to think like a 1000 engineers

Woodside Energy, Australia’s leading oil and gas company, uses IBM Watson to ingest millions of documents related to their deep ocean gas platform operations. After more than half a century of creating, collecting and archiving engineering research, ideas, breakthroughs and explorations, it became apparent that Woodside would need to enlist help to continue to not only leverage that knowledge but also literally put it to work. Experienced and expert employees retired from the company, taking their insights with them, and left decades of documents for new hires to learn from.

Woodside needed to replace its heroes, and get the new recruits up to speed in a short amount of time. The effort delivers real-time information to Woodside’s experts in language tailored to their work. Woodside’s goal, in addition to saving money and making conditions safer for workers on their rigs, was to develop ‘heroes,’ employees who use the best tools to make a positive difference.

4. Capgemini: Using AI to better assign employees to projects

Capgemini assigns employees to projects based on their specific skills and their fit with their client’s needs. This process puts a load on their HR department that searches through resumes, administers tests, and conducts interviews. The Paris-headquartered firm has reduced the workload done by its resource management group by 30-40% by employing IBM Watson. By using Watson, the company also hopes to reduce the number of resumes it evaluated in order to hire a single employee from 100 to 20 and better target new staff members.

5. Walmart: Helping employees get answers to HR policy questions from anywhere

Independent labor group “OUR Walmart” provides answers to Walmart employees faced with navigating the company’s 250 pages of human resource policies. The group was formed because Walmart’s HR policies were initially only available during working hours and at workplace computers. The OUR Walmart group fed answers to employees’ questions into Watson and built their WorkIT app that answers group members’ questions automatically, and transfers any questions it can’t answer to the group’s peer experts for personal attention. Even though Walmart now allows employees to access the information from their own computers some of the workers prefer the privacy offered by the external app.

6. IBM: Helping their employees fight cancer with Watson

In a first-of-its-kind program, at IBM we are providing our Watson services to our employees who are fighting cancer. The company is providing a suite of cognitive services to employees who are eligible for its self-insured medical plan. The range of services include “Watson for Oncology,” “Watson for Genomics,” and “Watson for Clinical Trial Matching.” While Watson’s typical clients are health care providers and medical institutions, opening up these critical services to employees puts the advanced intelligence resources directly into the hands of those who need them. IBM is also simplifying the process for employees by working with the third-party company, Best Doctors, a global medical information services company that helps collect medical and lab information and coordinates with the Watson services as appropriate.

Empowering your employees with Watson

Enterprises have plenty of opportunities to leverage their growing big data stores but need to find the right tools to transform that data into actionable results, then deliver those insights to their staff. But even more important than delivery is to be able to make it accessible in a form that employees can take advantage of, even without technical skills. In each of these cases the data and uses are different and the users are individual employees. Enterprise executives need to understand the information that will best serve their employees and then deliver information to them in the most appropriate and usable formats. An empowered employee is an engaged and efficient employee.

Looking forward, 2017 is set to be a huge year for the advancement of AI especially around how businesses will continue to empower their teams to make better decisions. Businesses already investing in AI and advanced analytics are in the process of building our future, creating a clear path to business success, and gaining a competitive edge in their market. Learn more about how Watson’s cognitive APIs can help your business and your employees do more with data. Sign up for a free trial online.