A recent BMA study found, unsurprisingly, that almost 60% of doctors described their levels of fatigue or exhaustion as higher than normal during the pandemic. Many of us are probably slightly amazed that levels aren’t even higher than that.
This week we’ve seen that pressure spread and overflow to other parts of the workforce, particularly amongst junior staff. Forbes and others have reported the experiences of a group of employees in their first year at Goldman Sachs working 95 hour weeks with limited amounts of sleep. The GS employees (admittedly, a rather small pool of 13 respondents) also showed a real deterioration in mental health and indicated that if things don’t change, then they will choose not to be at the same employer in six months time.
Through into the Professional Services and Legal sectors similar traits are being shared. The FT reports concerns in firms of similar challenges for more junior staff, especially for those who are newly recruited, but who have had little opportunity to meet colleagues and, instead, who have been physically solitary during the pandemic. At the same time, there is a degree of anxiety about the impact of technology on jobs in the future. A recent PWC study showed that 60% of the 30,000 respondents are worried that automation is putting jobs at risks.
In the conversations that I, and my colleagues have, this is a theme at a senior level as well - but the fear is of the threat longer term on firms.
AI is being used to automate more and more complex tasks. This could be from verifying whether an SLA has been met, to analysing millions of bits of information to look for discrepancies in contracts. Some of this is work that junior staff would usually have undertaken. But because they’re not doing the more entry level work, they’re not building the expertise needed for later in their careers.
Instead there seems to be a paradoxical storm - junior employees feeling burnt out and disaffected, at risk of leaving firms, whilst not gaining the expertise needed for their advancement because technology is replacing the often complex, but now machine-readable tasks.
Perhaps we can turn back to that PWC Study. 77% of respondents say that they are willing to learn new skills, but only 40% have learnt new skills in the pandemic, and only 46% of post-grads (lowering to 28% of school leavers) are given the opportunity.
Meanwhile, Salesforce Global Innovation Evangelist Brian Solis has written “AI has the potential to bridge current organisational silos between business units. Historically, these departments have been kept separate to maximize efficiency toward the mantra of ‘cheaper, better, faster’. Technology reinforced these divisions as the platforms each team uses seldom communicate with each other. Tools like AI and RPA can create connections across organizations, enabling a holistic view of the customer that enables delivering personalized value in real time.“
Now is the time to marry the two - the desire to learn new digital skills with the potential for improving customer engagement through technology. At the same time, we can help stop the burnout of those who need the most encouragement to stay in their important roles, by giving them the tools to do their job. When it comes to client engagement and employee satisfaction, AI can be an AND, not an OR.