The COVID-19 pandemic unquestionably shaped the way Americans performed their work duties, with nearly half of all employees (44%) shifting to remote work during the shelter-in-place mandate. Not only did this change the way these workers handled their responsibilities, but it also caused many employers to re-evaluate the necessity of requiring these staff to check in at their office in the first place.
For many, the ability to work from home became an unexpected advantage of their employment, slowly evolving from a welcome change to their new normal. Now, however, with many cities starting to re-open, employers — who had once been content to let their staff remain in their home offices — are demanding their remote employees once more resume their workload within a brick-and-mortar facility.
If that weren’t complicated enough, there’s another factor that many of these employees hadn’t considered: some of them might not even have jobs to return to when their workplace reopens. With artificial intelligence (AI) stepping into the roles that were vacated by these distant workers, more and more people are finding that instead of getting a welcome back letter, they’re instead going to find a little pink slip in their inbox.
Fearmongering, Or a Valid Threat?
The concept of artificial intelligence and robots becoming viable members of the employment workforce seems almost like something out of science fiction. These are the myths perpetuated by a P.K. Dick novel, or something that Isaac Asimov might write about. Plus, robots only work in factories, assembling cars or other machinery, or taking our orders at the drive-through. Right? Could they really be coming for us, the average white or blue-collar Joe?
Without a doubt, the answer is a resounding yes. The fact is, artificial intelligence doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care that you answer phones for a living, or you file reports every afternoon, or that you like your lattes with sugar-free vanilla syrup and soy milk. To them, and to the people who are preparing these robots to enter the labor pool, you’re just another faceless entity that will gradually be replaced by AI automation. This isn’t science fiction; it’s science fact.
Entry Level to Skilled Labor: Is Any Job Safe?
When people express fears concerning artificial intelligence, those anxieties are generally grounded in the intangible, such as the concept of the machines rising up and taking over humanity. It’s the dramatic overthrow that has most of us worried, not the steadily encroaching creep of robots quietly replacing us. As it turns out, their usurpation is proving to be quite a bit more subtle and significantly more insidious.
Already kiosks are popping up across the globe in fast-food restaurants and supermarkets, one by one replacing the entry-level workforce. Yet, many people scoff at the idea of skilled labor becoming redundant. A robot can’t create art, or write a novel, or perform surgery… or can it?
Indeed, no job is truly safe anymore. These days, a robot can arguably do anything that a human can, and possibly even better. Even the so-called “human element” is being injected into their work, making it virtually indistinguishable from the authentic, real-deal stuff. Common jobs already being replaced by AI include everything from healthcare roles to the creative arts, meaning that before too long, humans may actually become the obsolete technology.
Which Industries are Most Threatened By AI?
While it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by this emerging threat of AI taking over our jobs, some industries are still at greater risk than others. Sure, a robot can write a book or compose an aria, but for now, we still have a marked preference for work created by flesh-and-bones human beings. Yes, there’s a certain novelty to watching a robot shimmy and belt out tunes to us, but we’re still going to swoon for our favorite human rock bands on stage.
That said, certain industries are at greater risk than others. For instance, telemarketing has swiftly gone the way of robocalls. Fortunately, hanging up on a bot is vastly easier than hanging up on a persistent person trying to sell us an extended warranty on our car insurance. Receptionists are also possibly going to be replaced in the near, as AI scheduling is less prone to errors and far more accurate. Say goodbye to the bored front desk employee, as their days are soon numbered.
Other jobs that may be replaced by AI include couriers and tech support. Already, many companies are turning to drones to deliver packages, and self-driving cars are already growing in numbers on our country’s highways. As for tech support, nobody likes to wait on hold, only to be told by a bored guy on the other side of the globe to ask if they’ve tried turning it off and on again. Both of these industries are sure to be expendable in the coming years.
Even managerial and HR positions aren’t safe, either. Studies have shown that even though human resources and hiring managers are typically necessary for most office workplaces, artificial intelligence is already carving out its role in this industry. Instead of offering a wage based on a potential employee’s skills, AI is guiding the compensation packages based upon complex algorithms. Even the humble employment background check — a must for all workplaces — is becoming optimized by AI.
Is It Really All Gloom and Doom, Though?
There’s one glaring caveat to this burgeoning threat that requires weighty consideration, though, and it’s one that simply cannot be overlooked. Ultimately, using AI is fraught with risks and currently cannot be left on its own, unattended. As it stands, it still requires human supervision, as it’s highly prone to errors and can veer off into the, well, surreal and even downright offensive if left unchecked.
For instance, one company decided to let AI design phone cases for them. In a relatively short amount of time, it went from generating cute puppies and kittens to creating phone cases with macabre medical imagery emblazoned upon them. In a less humorous example, a Microsoft AI chatbot was released into the Twitterverse to engage with other users. In less than 24 hours, the once-innocent bot was taught hateful ideology, sexism, and racism.
AI isn’t perfect or without flaws, and we’re still far too early in this technology to make a final call as to whether or not it is going to replace us. While a racist chatbot is certainly an issue in itself, it pales in comparison to a robot making a grave mistake during a surgery or a self-driving car navigating its passengers off a cliff. Yet we can’t forget that artificial intelligence has been an incredible gift to humanity, allowing us to develop vaccines at an unprecedented rate and restore vision in the blind.
In a way, our relationship with artificial intelligence is almost symbiotic. We’ve grown dependent upon it, but it can’t operate successfully without our guidance. By recognizing this intricate relationship, we can better harness AI’s power and mold it to our demands. And at the same time, we can also identify our own fallibility in the evident imperfections hidden inside of artificial intelligence’s potential. In turn, we can help ensure we continue to thrive together, both now and in our tentatively optimistic future.
5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology
“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.
One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.
Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.
1. Automate repetitive manual processes.
Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.
McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.
To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.
Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.
2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools
Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.
The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.
A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.
3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.
You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.
Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.
Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.
4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.
Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.
You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.
Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.
5. Invest in a branded mobile app.
Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?
This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.
How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.
You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!
The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication
Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.
This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.
What is Mobile Authentication?
Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.
Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.
Mobile Authentication Methods
Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:
- Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
- Restricting the use of common passwords
- Blocking the use of profile information in passwords
These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.
Patterns and Digit-based Authentication
The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.
Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.
Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.
Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.
Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).
It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.
Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication
Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.
Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:
- Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
- External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
- Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
- Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
- Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.
Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.
Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.
10 Practical Ways to Maximize Your After-Work Time
After work, you probably want a relaxing, stress-free night. And that makes sense. Planning activities like reading or meditating can help relieve stress when things get tough at work.
In addition, you can use this time to expand your knowledge or develop your skills. Additionally, you can engage in new experiences or pursue a passion.
The benefits of participating in these activities can range from increasing your productivity to improving your health and general well-being.
With that said, here are 10 practical ways to maximize your after-work time.
1. Tie up loose ends.
My mom had a tradition that she followed every evening when I was a child. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clean up the house. It wasn’t a long bit of cleaning — usually, she set a timer for 20-minutes. Obviously, we whined about this and the time trying to get out of it was likely longer than the actual time spent. But this effort and habit kept the house tidy and saved us from major cleanings if the cleaning had waited until the weekend.
After I finish working for the day, I will set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tidy up. Or, I can handle items on my to-do list I couldn’t do during the day. Even though that’s not a lot of time, you’d be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
You can clean dishes, fold laundry, make a grocery list, clean your calendar, or send an important email. In addition, a timer can be a great way to tie up the day’s loose ends and help your transition from work.
2. Get a weeknight hobby.
Commit to an out-of-the-home activity after work. Some ideas could be an exercise class, volunteering, or a night out with friends. Then, rather than spending your time at home, you’ll have more time to do what you care about.
“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”
3. Sweat it out.
Yes, I am aware. You’re well aware of the importance of physical activity. However, this still can’t be stressed enough. There is no doubt that a regular exercise program boosts your creativity, confidence, and resilience — whether in the workplace or the home.
In short, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity. After all, exercising relieves stress and relieves mental strain. The result? You’ll sleep better and be more energetic.
So, block out time at the end of the day — to go for a run, ride a bike, or join an exercise class. Other ideas would be playing with your pet or kids, dancing, or getting caught up on a chore.
4. Enjoy the company of those you love.
Spend quality time with those who are important to you, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Not only does it make life worthwhile, but it’s good for you too. It releases endorphins and lowers stress when you talk to your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, or friends. Even a simple phone call with a loved one can benefit your well-being.
What’s more, with friends and family, there are lots of fun things to do, such as;
- Go to a restaurant or host dinner at home.
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Host a game night.
- Attend a concert or sporting event.
- Go to the movies.
- Participate in a group activity, like bowling.
- Attend classes together.
5. Address your needs.
“This may seem totally out of place in an article about getting a lot done after work, but hear me out,” writes Rachell Buell over The Muse. “While it’s very important to make the most of your time, the only way you will have enough energy to do so is by first attending to your basic needs.” Also, get plenty of sleep, eat, and relax. “By addressing these needs, you allow yourself the quintessential element to productivity: sustainability.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a serious moment of panic,” Buell shares. “Feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I lost my cool.” Regaining my composure, I came up with a brilliant idea: a sanity list,” she added.
“The list included things like doing daily yoga and drinking 64 ounces of water every day of water and cuddling with my husband. Whenever I cross everything off my list, I feel like a million bucks, and I’m fired up for more.”
“After a long day of work, most of us need time to switch gears and give ourselves a mental break before we try to accomplish anything else,” Buell says. “Whether that’s plopping in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s news or going for a jog to take the edge off, take a moment and consider what you need to feel recharged during the week, and keep it on your sanity list.”
6. Write out your priorities.
Is there ever a time when you feel like something is a high priority when it’s not? When prioritizing productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done rather than considering what is really important.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to prioritize everything on my to-do list. Then, during the week, I navigate my time more efficiently by determining how essential a given item is. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist me with this.
By figuring out where each item fits in, you can focus on where to begin. For example, when doing home projects, start with the most essential stuff — then move to the middle and lower priority stuff. With work projects, you can start the next day knowing what needs to happen in what order.
Best of all? Creating a list of priorities can help you feel accomplished even if you don’t start the project yet.
7. Get outside.
Are you familiar with “nature deficit disorder”? Initially, Richard Louv used the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv says our indoor lifestyles are causing a lot of health and behavioral issues.
Even if you think that’s a stretch, studies have found that we spend 92% of time indoors. And that can negatively influence our physical and mental health. Why? Because it’s a simple way to reduce stress, increase happiness, and live healthier.
Moreover, connecting with nature and the outdoors can replenish your energy.
With that in mind, Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, suggests that you live by the 20-5-3 rule;
- 20-minutes. Twenty minutes is how much time you should spend outside, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week.
- 5-hours. Five hours is the minimum amount of time you should spend each month in semi-wild nature, like a forest, city, or state park.
- 3-days. You should go camping or rent a cabin three times a year to escape it all.
8. Power down.
In today’s culture, many of us are overly attached to social media and our smartphones. In fact, DataReportal estimates the average American looks at a screen for 7 hours and 4 minutes a day. So why’s that a problem? Research has found too much screen time cal lead to digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and diminished mental health.
Furthermore, too much screen time can result in information overload. And it’s also distracting when we’re trying to get things done.
Therefore, setting boundaries around your phone and social media use is vital. For example, set a timer to limit how long you play games, watch videos, or scroll on social media. If that doesn’t work, keep your phone in a different room or make sure you shut down all social media at a specific time each night.
Initially, this will be awkward. But you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens. Eventually, you’ll feel re-energized rather than worn out after work.
9. Invest in yourself.
Did you know that the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, studied improv comedy? Why? Learning improv comedy improved his leadership skills.
Investing in yourself is vital to success, whether that means getting some coaching, participating in psychotherapy, taking a workshop, working on more hours for graduate school, or completing a certification program. You could also learn how to play a musical instrument, join a book club, watch a documentary, or take a language course.
Overall, you’ll succeed in your professional career whether you invest in your mind, body, or spirit.
10. Follow an evening routine.
“It’s clear that you need a specific morning routine to optimize each day and be more efficient,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar post. However, “a successful morning routine actually starts the night before,” she adds. “Simply put, you need an effective evening routine to maximize efficiency and productivity the following day.”
So, what should your evening routine consist of? Well, that’s up to you. But, here are some suggestions worth exploring;
- Plan out your day. Look at your calendar to find out what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Doing so gets you mentally prepared and makes any adjustments.
- Pick out your clothes. The task may sound insignificant. But it will save you a lot of time and energy that you could use elsewhere.
- Eliminate negativity and reflect. You can reflect on your day in the evening and choose gratitude over negativity.
- Read. Turn off the television and read a book while you wind down for the evening.
- Prepare meals. Mornings are already hectic. Save your sanity and energy by preparing your meals the night before.
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Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!