An opinion piece by the CEO of United Language Group, a global provider of translation, localization and interpreting services.
Artificial intelligence is no longer the domain of futurists and technologists. AI is increasingly playing an integral role in our daily lives — and businesses, too. Today, AI offers hundreds of applications that promise increased productivity and positive ROI for your business, but only if you know when and how to use it.
What AI transformation means for your business
Your team may be hesitant at kickoff, and that is to be expected. Many employees naturally fear how their roles and responsibilities may change as AI joins the workforce.
While it may significantly impact your employees’ day-to-day lives, AI adoption provides many benefits not just to the company but also to the individuals on your team. AI can alleviate the burden of a growing workload, looming deadlines, and quick turnaround times. It can also eliminate much of the manual load of tasks. Our team has come to see the technology as a valuable addition to their production toolkit.
It has freed our teams to focus their attention on their most unique skill sets and, in doing so, it increased their enjoyment of those tasks because that is where their value really lies.
For example, a well-trained AI can provide a ‘base translation’ in seconds, reducing translation time and enabling people to focus on driving engagement with the right voice, tone, and style that will attract new international customers. This helps both customers and linguists achieve their goals.
Beyond this, AI presents many other benefits for your team and your company’s long-term success. With the help of AI, your company can
- Create faster workflows
- Drive down total operational costs
- Maintain and improve your products or services
- Increase the value conversion of each of your employees
How to make the shift to AI
Here are some guidelines from our own experiences in harnessing the potential of AI while strategizing about your teams’ roles and functions.
1. Address the fact that AI might replace some, but not all, of your human workforce.
AI presents clear operational advantages. In the language translation industry, it can detect incoming languages and reroute to the proper channels, as well as provide the end user with basic initial translations.
However, AI also has its shortcomings. For example, AI can’t accurately convey cultural complexity or explain the emotion or nuance in a dialogue with consistency. AI can detect some colloquial expressions, but it tends not to keep up with idiomatic language.
This is where our human teams intervene. Rather than becoming obsolete, human translators and interpreters offer highly valuable contributions in voice, tone, and style that cannot be replicated by a machine today.
Think through the intersection of human and machine, and consider the necessary role and training changes to create a unified workflow.
2. Identify the true value you and your team offer.
How do you decide who takes on which type of task, human or machine? Have conversations with your team to define where real human value resides and how each team’s daily tasks can best harness this value.
With this initial implementation cycle comes natural anxieties. For employees still on the fence about how AI will affect their role, this can be a touchy subject. Leaders and supervisors should speak with sincerity and clarity while reinforcing that humans do have an essential role to play, even if that looks different in the future. In the world of translation, this value can be found in cultural engagement, voice and tone, extensive industry knowledge, and post-production editing.
3. Time is of the essence if you want to remain competitive.
AI moves at lightning speed. If you want to keep up with your competitors, you’ll have to accelerate AI adoption and tighten your integration timelines by up to 50% compared to other enterprise technologies, so you can remain both relevant and competitive.
Humans are notoriously resistant to change, and often for good reason, but AI evolution is very fast. You could be left behind by thinking AI won't come to your industry or letting your teams push back on adoption without talking through implementing this new technology and its challenges.
At United Language Group, for example, a situation with an existing customer forced us to rapidly prototype and adopt a new AI workflow model for insurance claim processing. We had sat on our laurels with our traditional process and assumed that AI couldn't work in insurance industry language solutions because of regulatory control and risk.
A year ago, we would have been right to resist the technology, but fast forward 12 months later resistance to the technology had almost cost us a key client when a competitor came in with an AI solution that offered significant benefits.
Under pressure, we followed the guidelines we are sharing with you. We did the tests, forced the discussion with our teams, did the training, and block-and-tackled the solution. Thankfully, we were able to retain the client, but it was a wake-up call that AI changes rapidly and we could not afford to ignore it.
4. Refine and optimize your process as you learn how best to leverage AI.
Over time, continue to optimize your processes to support the collaboration of AI technology and human intervention. Start by tracking the progress of machine learning as initial mistakes are made.
Then track the time it takes humans to intervene to complete each task. Finally, identify new areas for either AI or human intervention, or both, based on the quality and efficiency of your team’s output.
AI is a unique technology because it constantly evolves. Typical enterprise systems do not add functions or features each week. You do not log into a content management platform and find that it can now also do your invoicing.
However, AI is constantly evolving. Within your AI strategy, build in reevaluation and reconfirmation to ensure your practices are evolving on pace with the technology.
As you refine what the technology does, also consider how you can improve success with buy-in from your teams. Gain the respect and trust of your team members by compensating them fairly for the value they add to your company. Align that value with training and role definition, as well as compensation that is driven from the very real human value they bring.
Expect Bumps in the Road
Remember, initial hiccups are normal as you first begin to implement AI technology. The trick is how you respond and keep pace with your customers and your competitors. Trust the process as you look toward new horizons in your industry with AI technology.
AI is the new reality. It’s time to prepare your company for the highest level of success with streamlined AI integration. By identifying early roadblocks, listening to the concerns of your team, and striking a balance between AI-first solutions and human intervention, you can build a lasting model for your business’s success.