With Empathy on The Decline, AI Is Helping Brands Connect With Customers In An Empathic Way

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of customer communication, and key to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of customer communication, and key to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Today, leveraging automation in the sales, marketing and customer service arena while balancing the need for empathy is critical.

While empathy is seen as a uniquely human trait, developments in artificial intelligence (AI) to help brands recognize and respond in an empathetic manner are on the rise and come at a critical time. Studies show that human empathy is on the decline – a deficit costing the average brand $300 million in lost revenue every year.

For brands to truly connect with their customers to effectively market, sell and serve, they need to really understand the customer mindset. This is where empathic AI solutions are coming into the picture to complement and empower sales, marketing, and service professionals on the customer front lines to detect the customer’s emotional state and intent and deliver a better customer experience.

Empathic AI capabilities have great potential to augment human empathy. As such, AI is becoming fundamental in the customer experience realm to boost customer satisfaction and improve the bottom line. We know that emotional intelligence can vary from one employee to the next; empathic AI can help level up employees that might otherwise miss the emotional cues from customers.

The importance of emotional intelligence in business

Customers seek easy, effortless experiences that satisfy their existing and future needs; some 86 percent will pay more for a great customer experience. How customers feel drives their purchasing habits. This is where brand emotional intelligence plays a critical role.

McKinsey recently referenced a study that evaluated 170 publicly traded companies on their empathic abilities and found that businesses with empathy within their culture, and toward the customer, will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. The top ten leaders in empathy outperformed the bottom ten by two times on the stock market.

Gartner agrees that companies that deploy empathy significantly outperform those that don’t, in terms of sales and profit. Designing an emotionally aware organization is increasingly becoming a topic at the top of the board room agendas. The truth is, people staff organizations and people have feelings. This goes well beyond the employees of a company; it also extends to its customers.

Empathy: The new frontier for CX success

Empathy is critical yet elusive. According to Forrester, consumers are gravitating toward the brands that prioritize people over profits. While nearly all businesses know the importance of showing customer empathy, most struggle to deliver it on a consistent basis.

Using AI to identify how customers feel, so customer-facing professionals can understand and respond in real-time, has many organizations prioritizing humans and bots working together to bring out each other’s best capabilities. Today, AI-driven sentiment analysis capabilities are supercharging CRM functions such as sales, marketing, and service interactions with the power of knowing each customer’s and prospect’s emotional state and intent.

Paul Greenberg, President of the 56 Group, LLC and author of The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Business Success Through Customer Engagement, has written extensively about the business empathy imperative – the ability to understand what customers and employees are going through, along with the relevant context, and act accordingly.

He states, “One of the highest callings of customer experience professionals and enabling technology platforms is helping customers via an understanding of their struggles and aspirations.”

Empathic AI solutions are becoming increasingly good at using sentiment analysis capabilities to understand the customer better, leveraging a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI to surface next-level or next-best-action for empathic customer engagement.

Greenberg says, “AI-powered sentiment analysis weds customer voice and text to business action, providing every sales and service interaction with the means to account for customers’ emotional tone and attitude – context indispensable to supporting exceptional experiences.”

In addition, business professionals can review sentiment data to evaluate overall customer experience and journey effectiveness – providing the means for continuous improvement in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Human empathy augmented by empathic AI solutions is helping front-line employees who work directly with customers better understand and respond in context to the range and depth of customer behaviors and emotions to ultimately serve them better.

The winning formula

CX is a journey, and businesses need to enable their workforce to deliver something more than a frictionless experience – a human experience that recognizes human emotional needs. On many occasions, customers will desire a self-serve interaction that is quick, easy and makes the best use of their time.

However, at other times when there is a problem or they are wanting to understand how a product or service will best meet their needs, they will want a human to recognize and deliver the requisite emotional quotient for that customer to be truly understood, felt, and heard.

Today, organizations are focusing on harnessing AI to better understand and deliver on customer needs. Empathic AI solutions can empower customer-facing professionals to produce the right answers and outcomes quickly and confidently, commanding greater customer satisfaction and loyalty by detecting customer intent and emotional state.

By identifying and solving the emotions behind the “why,” companies can better serve the needs of their customers. Leveraging AI-powered solutions using sentiment analysis capabilities provides the predictive insights businesses need to recognize customer emotions and intent with accuracy and precision at scale.

By Chief Customer Officer, SugarCRM

Source: With empathy on the decline, AI is helping brands connect with customers in an empathic way | ITProPortal

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Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

Sadly, we all get lonely from time to time, and social distancing and self-isolation certainly don’t help. Here, a psychologist offers her advice for overcoming these feelings of loneliness.

Have you ever gotten into bed at the end of the day and realized that you haven’t spoken out loud to anyone since the day before? Or simply found yourself feeling completely and utterly alone?

We live in a hyper-connected world, and yet we’re lonelier than ever before, a situation that is certainly not helped by the current UK lockdown. We have more social media followers than real-life friends, and it’s easier to swap digital messages with strangers on the other side of the planet than it is to sit down for a chat with an actual person – especially now that we’re social distancing and putting ourselves in isolation.

Despite being traditionally viewed as an affliction that’s limited to the elderly, it’s now 16-24 year olds who make up the loneliest age group of all, a finding confirmed in the UK’s largest study on the subject, The Loneliness Experiment by BBC Radio 4. The study included over 55,000 people and found that 34% of 25-34 year olds are lonely ‘often or very often’ while 36% of 34-44 year olds felt the same.

Now, scientists are warning of the damaging effects of a ‘loneliness epidemic’, with loneliness even being equated to the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

As many of us will know, we don’t need to be physically alone to feel lonely. A toxic friendship or relationship can be incredibly isolating, for example, while spending too much time with people we don’t feel close to can have damaging effects on our psyche, even if we’re only interacting with them through our phones. Loneliness affects people in different ways, and for this reason there are four distinct types of loneliness identified by psychologists: emotional, social, situational and chronic.

But how do we know what type of loneliness we’re experiencing and, more importantly, how can we tackle it? Here, Stylist talks to registered psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, and hears from women who have experienced loneliness – and managed to keep it at bay.

Emotional Loneliness

“Those who are emotionally lonely will find it difficult to improve things without tackling the root of the problem,” says Dr Spelman. “Emotional loneliness is not circumstantial but, rather, comes from within.”

Dr Spelman recommends therapy to help tackle the root cause of these feelings of emotional loneliness. “Working with a therapist, possibly with a technique such as behavioural cognitive therapy, or attending group therapy, is likely to lead to the best possible outcome,” she says.

“The person in question can start to understand why they are lonely, how their background and experiences have contributed to behaviours that make things worse, and how they can develop a new, and more useful, set of behaviours.”

Note: Due to coronavirus, face-to-face meetings with therapists may not be possible at this time. However, the NHS is currently working on a new digital therapy programme, and you can find out more information by clicking here

Situational Loneliness

Many millennials choose to work abroad for a few years in their 20s and 30s, and the rise in solo travel means a great number of us are planning to jet off on solo adventures once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

While these plans are undoubtedly exciting, it can also be a period of adjustment as we try to make new friends while simultaneously getting to grips with a new culture and way of life – potentially leading to situational loneliness, says Dr Spelman.

“Situational loneliness can result from being in circumstances that make developing friendships difficult,” she says. “Examples include those living abroad, perhaps in a place where they do not speak the language perfectly, stay-at-home mothers (or fathers) with young children, or those with a physical or intellectual disability that makes it difficult to get out and about.”

Situational loneliness is something that digital writer Susan experienced when she moved to Dubai for two and a half years in 2013.

“When I first moved to the Middle East, I was completely alone,” she says. “I didn’t have a friend or a family member I could call when the going got tough, or even just someone to have a cup of tea with. It was my choice to move there for work. And it was my choice to move there as a single woman. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

“The first month was particularly difficult as I spent two weeks in a hotel on my own, surrounded by a completely different culture, customs and language. I felt the sting of loneliness as I dined on my own every evening and looked for a flat share – going from one viewing to the next without understanding a word of Arabic. But after I found somewhere to call home, I made friends with my housemates by putting myself out there and never turning down an invitation to do something new. Thankfully, I pushed myself to get to know them and my new country of residence, too.”

But situational loneliness doesn’t just arise in those who relocate alone, as social media editor Sarah discovered when she moved countries with her partner. Sarah left her Sydney home in March 2017 to join her partner in London, where he had arrived a month earlier to start a new job and find the pair a home to live in – although she admits that “didn’t mean it was smooth sailing”.

“On my first night an emotional (jetlagged) me fell asleep whimpering into my partner’s shoulder, ‘I had to give up a lot to be here’. Although very dramatic, I was more right than wrong. I knew making friends as an adult, outside of freshers’ week or a friend-of-a-friend introduction, would be preceded by a stint of loneliness – something I dreaded.

“The reality of that fear set in a week later. Without a job, I had less interaction with people and felt starved of company. I took to being overly chatty to baristas and the person on the till at Sainsbury’s. Each day I would surf LinkedIn and talk about the weather with anyone mildly inclined to respond. I would look forward to my partner coming home after work for the sheer joy of talking to someone who knew me beyond what groceries I was buying that day.”

Sarah did make friends in the city but she is also aware that “having a partner at home slowed my efforts”.

“There would be times I would crave going out with a friend rather than my partner. But the reality was that in those initial weeks he was my only friend in London. And that made me feel tied to him in a way that we never were in our home town of Sydney.

“It did take a considerable amount of effort to form friendships outside of his friendship circle (formed from his middle-school years in south London). Eighteen months on, I keep working on those friendships outside of my relationship – because I now know how very valuable they are.”

Pushing yourself to make new friends – and crucially, maintain those friendships – is exactly what Dr Spelman recommends for someone who is grappling with situational loneliness. And while we can’t currently make an active effort to meet new people in person due to coronavirus, there are alternative solutions.

“The best approach here is a proactive one,” she says. Once we are out of lockdown and able to socialise in person again, she suggests “joining a language class or a hobby group or getting in touch with like-minded people and actively courting friendships, to help overcome loneliness in these circumstances.

“The internet can help. While socialising online is not the same as meeting up with friends for coffee or a drink, establishing a support network online can help to maintain a sense of being liked and wanted, and keep social skills alive.”

Social Loneliness

“Social loneliness is typically experienced by those who have problems in social situations because of shyness, social awkwardness, or a sense of low self-esteem that makes them doubt their capacity to be competent and entertaining in social circumstances,” Dr Spelman explains.

“Different approaches can help. For example, if the root issue is one of low self-esteem, tackling this first should make a positive difference. Trying a structured approach to socialising, such as joining an online or virtual group that gets together to discuss or engage in a particular hobby, can be a good way to start to end a vicious circle.”

Chronic Loneliness

“Chronic loneliness is the term used to describe those who have been lonely for so long that it has become a way of life to them,” explains Dr Spelman. “If solitude has become part of their nature, it can be tricky to break the cycle.”

Chronic loneliness is something that Lyla, now 26, experienced when she moved to London to start university at the age of 18. Lyla had previously lived in Nottingham where she had a solid group of friends who all lived nearby, and spent a lot of time together. Moving to a new city triggered feelings of loneliness for her, which became entrenched over her first two and a half years in the city.

“It was a really bewildering, lonely time,” she says. “The jump of being plonked into a huge arts school, in just one of hundreds of halls of residence in a sprawling city I didn’t understand, made me retreat into myself and I struggled to make friends in the face of it all.

“I spent a lot of time in my tiny room making my mum talk to me for hours and hours on the phone, while I slowly found my footing and met people I connected with. It took me about two and a half years to learn not to hate London, but sticking it out meant it slowly got better, and nine years later nowhere has ever felt more like home.”

Dr Spelman notes that chronic loneliness is often a by-product of circumstance, such as self-isolation, although unlike situational loneliness, it can go on for so long that it almost becomes a way of life.

“Examples include the elderly whose friends have largely passed away or moved into nursing care, while adult children live far away, or those who are inhibited from socializing by a controlling partner or other circumstances that feel out of their control,” she says. “It is important to remember that we all deserve friends and a social life and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or making the first step.”

Are you looking to make new friends? See Stylist’s guide to the art of friendship dating here, or find out what happened when we tried friendship apps here.

By: Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter.

Source: Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

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3 Common Fallacies About Creativity

Why do organizations have so much trouble enabling employee creativity? The answer lies in subtle and deeply ingrained behaviors that prevent companies from creating a creative culture. The authors identify three misconceptions that managers must overcome to effectively build creative cultures.

Leaders often cite creativity and innovation as critical components of business success. But many businesses fail to create and encourage environments where creativity can flourish. Managers make three common mistakes that prohibit new ideas and suppress suggestions that don’t align with their own.

A 2017 PwC survey of 1,379 CEOs determined that “innovation” was the top priority for most businesses. The same survey revealed 77% of CEOs struggle to find employees with creativity and innovation skills. Last year, a LinkedIn analysis ranked “creativity” as the most in-demand soft skill.

Why do organizations have so much trouble enabling employee creativity? The answer lies in subtle and deeply ingrained behaviors that prevent companies from creating a creative culture. We identify three misconceptions that managers must overcome to effectively build creative cultures.

The Productivity Illusion

A few months ago, articles critical of Google CEO Sundar Pichai argued his slow decision-making process stifled innovation. The articles incorrectly equated decision-making speed with innovation. We don’t have insight into whether his “slow” decisions were innovative, but the misconception that slow decision-making stifles innovation often leads to the illusion that productivity requires speed.

Coupled with other measures that Pichai has taken, notably distributed decision making and cutting down on vanity projects, it is just as likely that he is taking a disciplined approach to innovation and productivity, which is reflected in Google’s increased innovation, and growing stock price.

No matter the size of your company, you have likely come across a persona like the fictional employee we’ll refer to hereafter as “Dave.” Dave is a well-liked leader. He is known for quick thinking and decisiveness, and most people regard him as someone who gets things done. On a typical day, he spends most of his time in group meetings. He listens carefully to the issues his team addresses. He weighs in and helps them resolve the challenges.

He prides himself on not leaving the office until he executes his to-do list. With every item that he ticks off his list, he feels good about his impact. As he leaves the office, he is happy to have had such a productive day. Given Dave’s ability to address issues and help teams make forward progress, most people would consider him to be a great leader. Not so fast (and we mean that literally).

Trying to resolve things too quickly, especially for complex problems, is detrimental to innovation because you fall prey to premature closure. Resistance to premature closure — a key aspect of creativity — is our ability to keep an open mind when we already have a potential solution. Some of the best solutions don’t come in the initial meeting or two, but after a longer incubation period.

While mantras like “move fast and break things” can help push people towards action, they can backfire when the underlying problem is complex. In such situations, resisting the temptation to find a solution quickly (and often less creatively), and instead urging the team (much to their frustration) to keep searching for more ideas can lead to more innovative and far-reaching solutions.

To avoid premature closure, teams should arrive at an “almost final” decision and then intentionally delay action in favor of additional incubation time. During this time, everyone should commit to thinking about the problem and sharing their ideas. If the team can’t find a better approach during the incubation period, they should proceed with their original solution.

The Intelligence Illusion

Creative thinking is more cognitively demanding than logical thinking. It engages more parts of the brain across the left and right hemisphere and places higher demands on working memory. In that sense, creative thinking is a higher-order skill. In practical terms, this means that analyzing an idea is easier than synthesizing a new one from multiple sources.

When presented with a potential solution, it is easier to drill down on one aspect and discover ways that the solution might not work. Narrowly focusing on one dimension of the idea also means that the working memory must keep track of only a few things.

On the other hand, when trying to combine different ideas or perspectives, the brain works in overdrive — engaging both the executive and imagination networks, trying multiple combinations in quick succession to find a solution that might work. Working memory gets taxed more as all elements need to be retained during processing.

In an ideal scenario, organizations would pay people in proportion to their cognitive work. In practice, however, we tend to reward “critics” more than “synthesizers” because critics sound more intelligent. In a study on book reviews, Teresa Amabile found that people who wrote negative book reviews were perceived by others to be less likeable but more intelligent, competent, and expert compared to those who wrote positive book reviews.

Pfeffer and Sutton call this the “smart-talk trap,” where people engage in negative criticisms and complexities to appear more competent and are subsequently rewarded by the organization.

The intelligence illusion might seem mild, but it has pernicious consequences for an organization. When Steve Jobs took over Pixar, it had been struggling to produce a blockbuster despite being home to some of the smartest people. After noticing that excessive criticisms were shooting down creative ideas, he instituted a policy of “plussing,” where one could only offer a criticism if it included a potential solution.

That simple strategy pushed people from being criticizers to creators, changed team dynamics completely and led to a string of successes starting with the development of the movie Toy Story.

Leaders can improve group creativity by paying close attention to how ideas are discussed in diverse group settings. They should encourage team members to build on each other’s ideas instead of pushing individual ideas. This doesn’t mean that ideas should be accepted blindly when they contain flaws; instead, they should approach ideas with an open mind to acknowledge useful aspects and improve weaknesses using plussing or the similar “yes, but, and” approach.

The Brainstorming Illusion

One of us recently chaired the search for a senior academic leader. The search committee consisted of a diverse set of faculty, staff, and students operating virtually. It soon became clear that following a traditional group brainstorming approach would not work well, because several disenfranchised participants tended to self-censor.

To overcome this challenge, the group created a cadence of process meetings preceding decision meetings. In process meetings, protocols of inclusion (e.g., specifically including student voices) and “rules of the game” for the decision meeting were established. Although this took more time, it led to a high-trust process that resulted in the hire that had the confidence of the community.

When you ask people to describe an ideal brainstorming session the most common elements you hear are: people getting together, an energetic and exciting mood, and lots of ideas flying across the room. Simply put, most teams associate successful ideation with group work. Surprisingly, that’s not true.

Group brainstorming feels more productive, not because of the number of ideas that are produced, but because of social effects. The social connection we experience with each other during brainstorming makes us happier and we confuse that with productivity.

In practice, nominal brainstorming (where individual team members think independently before sharing their ideas) consistently outperforms traditional group brainstorming, especially for diverse teams. A Yale study found that the number of ideas produced by individuals and then aggregated (nominal group) was twice that of ideas generated by the group working together.

Ideation can be limited in group settings because of production blocking (when people don’t get a chance to interject their idea), evaluation apprehension (a fear of being judged negatively), lack of psychological safety (entrenched power structures) and social loafing (hiding in the group and not contributing a fair share).

To promote more creative ideas, leaders should utilize simple tools to capture individual ideas before they are opened to the whole group. Group discussions should be conducted asynchronously, where team members look at each other’s ideas and use them to refine and create new ideas. If done remotely, leaders should find other ways to bring the team together to bond and build trust with each other.

Business leaders agree that creativity and innovation contribute fundamentally to competitive advantage. Companies with an innovation-focused culture are three times more profitable. Leaders who seek to initiate a new creativity practice must consciously avoid the three illusions.

This work requires supporting clear and consistent political commitment, inclusive leadership style, thoughtful organizational structure, and an explicitly earmarked budget. Creativity programs are an urgent imperative. In a conceptual economy, these programs are the path to growth and an engaged workforce.

By: Pronita Mehrotra,Anu Arora, Sandeep Krishnamurthy

Source: 3 Common Fallacies About Creativity

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China’s Burned Out Tech Workers are Fighting Back Against Long Hours

1The draining 996 work schedule—named for the expectation that employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week—has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. Even Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma once called it a “huge blessing.”

In early October this year, it seemed the tide might have been turning. After hopeful signs of increased government scrutiny in August, four aspiring tech workers initiated a social media project designed to expose the problem with the nation’s working culture. A publicly editable database of company practices, it soon went viral, revealing working conditions at many companies in the tech sector and helping bring 996 to the center of the public’s attention. It managed to garner 1 million views within its first week.

But the project—first dubbed Worker Lives Matter and then Working Time—was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. The database and the GitHub repository page have been deleted, and online discussions about the work have been censored by Chinese social networking platforms.  The short life of Working Time highlights how difficult it is to make progress against overtime practices that, while technically illegal in China, are still thriving.

But some suspect it won’t be the last anonymous project to take on 996. “I believe there will be more and more attempts and initiatives like this,” says programmer Suji Yan, who has worked on another anti-996 project. With better approaches to avoiding censorship, he says, they could bring even more attention to the problem.

Tracking hours

Working Time started with a spreadsheet shared on Tencent Docs, China’s version of Google Docs. Shortly after it was posted, it was populated with entries attributed to companies such as Alibaba, the Chinese-language internet search provider Baidu, and e-commerce company JD.com.  “9 a.m., 10:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m., six days a week, managers usually go home after midnight,” read one entry linked with tech giant Huawei. “10 a.m., 9 p.m. (off-work time 9 p.m., but our group stays until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. because of involution,” noted another entry (“involution” is Chinese internet slang for irrational competition).

Within three days, more than 1,000 entries had been added. A few days later, it became the top trending topic on China’s Quora-like online forum Zhihu.  As the spreadsheet grew and got more public attention, one organizer, with the user name 秃头才能变强 (“Only Being Bald Can Make You Strong”), came out on Zhihu to share the story behind the burgeoning project. “Four of us are fresh college and master’s degree graduates who were born between 1996 and 2001,” the organizer said.genesis3-1-1

Initially, the spreadsheet was just for information sharing, to help job hunters like themselves, they said. But as it got popular, the organizers decided to push from information gathering to activism. “It is not simply about sharing anymore, as we bear some social responsibility,”

The spreadsheet filled a gap in China, where there is a lack of company rating sites such as Glassdoor and limited ways for people to learn about benefits, office culture, and salary information. Some job seekers depend on word of mouth, while others reach out to workers randomly on the professional networking app Maimai or piece together information from job listings.  “I have heard about 996, but I was not aware it is that common.

Now I see the tables made by others, I feel quite shocked,” Lane Sun, a university student from Nanjing, said when the project was still public. Against 996 According to China’s labor laws, a typical work schedule is eight hours a day, with a maximum of 44 hours a week. Extra hours beyond that require overtime pay, and monthly overtime totals are capped at 36 hours.125x125-1-1-1

But for a long time, China’s tech companies and startups have skirted overtime caps and become notorious for endorsing, glamorizing, and in some cases mandating long hours in the name of hard work and competitive advantage.  In a joint survey by China’s online job site Boss Zhipin and the microblogging platform Weibo in 2019, only 10.6% of workers surveyed said they rarely worked overtime, while 24.7% worked overtime every day.

 Long work hours can benefit workers, Jack Ma explained in 2019. “Since you are here, instead of making yourself miserable, you should do 996,” Ma said in a speech at an internal Alibaba meeting that was later shared online. “Your 10-year working experience will be the same as others’ 20 years.” But the tech community had already started to fight back. Earlier that year, a user created the domain 996.icu.

A repository of the same name was launched on GitHub a few days later. The name means that “by following the 996 work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU (intensive care unit),” explains the GitHub page, which includes regulations on working hours under China’s labor law and a list of more than 200 companies that practice 996.  Within three days, the repository got over 100,000 stars, or bookmarks, becoming the top trending project on GitHub at that time. It was blocked not long after by Chinese browsers including QQ and 360, ultimately disappearing entirely from the Chinese internet (it is still available through VPNs).

The 996.icu project was quickly followed by the Anti-996 License. Devised by Yan and Katt Gu, who has a legal background, the software license allows developers to restrict the use of their code to those entities that comply with labor laws. In total, the Anti-996 License has been adopted by more than 2,000 projects, Yan says. Today, 996 is facing increasing public scrutiny from both Chinese authorities and the general public.

After a former employee at the agriculture-focused tech firm Pinduoduo died in December 2020, allegedly because of overwork, China’s state-run press agency Xinhua called out overtime culture and advocated for shorter hours.This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but workers pay the priceSouth Korean e-commerce giant Coupang uses AI to promise almost-instant delivery. But speed comes with troubling labor issues—including worker deaths.

And on August 26, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Supreme People’s Court jointly published guidelines and examples of court cases on overtime, sending reminders to companies and individuals to be aware of labor laws. But even though authorities and state media seem to be taking a tougher stand, it is unclear when or if the rules that make 996 illegal will be fully enforced. Some companies are making changes.quintex-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-2-2-1-1-1

Anthony Cai, a current employee of Baidu, says working six days a week is quite rare in big companies nowadays. This year, several tech companies including and ByteDance, the developer of TikTok, canceled “big/small weeks,” an emerging term in China that refers to working a six-day schedule every other week. “Working on Saturday is not that popular anymore,” Cai says. “However, staying late at the office is still very common, which is not usually counted as overtime hours.” 

 Source: https://www.technologyreview.com

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Future of College Will Involve Fewer Professors

At a large private university in Northern California, a business professor uses an avatar to lecture on a virtual stage. Meanwhile, at a Southern university, graduate students in an artificial intelligence course discover that one of their nine teaching assistants is a virtual avatar, Jill Watson, also known as Watson, IBM’s question-answering computer system. Of the 10,000 messages posted to an online message board in one semester, Jill participated in student conversations and responded to all inquiries with 97% accuracy.

At a private college on the East Coast, students interact with an AI chat agent in a virtual restaurant set in China to learn the Mandarin language. These examples provide a glimpse into the future of teaching and learning in college. It is a future that will involve a drastically reduced role for full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty who teach face to face.

Fight back against disinformation. Get your news here, direct from experts

I forecast this future scenario and other trends in my 2021 book “Human Specialization in Design and Technology: The Current Wave for Learning, Culture, Industry and Beyond.” As a researcher who specializes in educational technology, I see three trends that will further shrink the role of traditional college professors.

1. The rise of artificial intelligence

According to a 2021 Educause Quick Poll report on AI, many institutions of higher education find themselves more focused on the present limited use of AI – for tasks such as detecting plagiarism or proctoring – and not so much the future of AI.

AI’s use in higher education has largely been concerned with digital assistants and chat agents. These technologies focus on the teaching and learning of students.

In my view, universities should broaden their use of AI and conduct experiments to improve upon its usefulness to individual learners. For example, how can colleges use AI to improve student learning of calculus or help students become stronger writers?

However, most universities are slow to innovate. According to a 2021 poll, some of the challenges to acquiring AI included lack of technical expertise, financial concerns, insufficient leadership and biased algorithms.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are leading the way with new uses of AI. In an immersion lab staged as a food market in China, Rensselaer virtually transports students learning Mandarin Chinese into this market to interact with AI avatars. MIT has devoted millions of dollars to faculty research in AI. One of MIT’s projects – called RAISE, for Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education – will support how people from diverse backgrounds learn AI, and human learning in general.

Professors from the baby-boom generation are retiring, and I expect some of their jobs will not be filled. In many cases, these coveted positions will be replaced by part-time and temporary faculty. I believe the rising use of AI will contribute to this trend, with universities relying more on technology than in-person teaching.

2. Erosion of academic tenure

Tenure is a status that grants professors protections against being outright fired without due cause or extraordinary circumstances. However, the pandemic became a means to dismiss, suspend or terminate tenured faculty. For example, the Kansas Board of Regents in January 2021 voted to allow emergency terminations and suspensions – including for tenured faculty – to alleviate financial pressures placed on universities by the pandemic.

News reports continue to show a steady decline in the number of tenured faculty positions. According to an American Association of University Professors report, the proportion of part-time and full-time nontenure-track faculty grew from 55% in 1975 to 70% in 2015. Conversely, the proportion of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty fell from 45% to 30% in that period.

Universities used the pandemic as a reason to override and diminish the power of shared leadership with faculty. That included voiding faculty handbooks, regulations and employment contracts.

Ultimately, the pandemic was an opportunity for universities to downsize unproductive faculty and keep “active practitioners.”

3. The flipped classroom

The flipped classroom provides students with opportunities to view, listen and learn at their own pace through video instruction outside the classroom. It has been around since at least 2007.

This teaching approach is similar to the way people learn from one another by watching videos on YouTube or TikTok. However, in college the flipped classroom involves prerecorded faculty lectures of course content, whether that be on the causes and effects of the Civil War or the origins of white rice. In class, students build on the professor’s prerecorded lecture and work on activities to assist discussions and expand knowledge.

The classroom becomes a place for social interaction and understanding course content. The flipped classroom maximizes instructional time for the professor and students because the lecture comes before the course’s in-class session.

As an example of the operation of a flipped classroom, a professor records a video on a subject area. This allows the same video to be viewed by one student or thousands of students. A human teaching assistant, avatar or chat agent conducts all in-class activities, tests and group work. No additional professors are needed to teach multiple sections of the same course. Professors, in this example, serve a limited role and ultimately will be needed less.

These trends illustrate a profession that I see as being on the cusp of radical transformation.

By:

Source: Future of college will involve fewer professors

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