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New AI-Powered Tools Encouraging Collaboration, Inclusivity

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Videoconferencing with Zoom helped a lot of companies like yours get things done during the darkest days of the pandemic. Four years later, one of the latest virtual collaboration platforms to hit the market is Zoom Workplace, which uses AI and internal and external apps to supercharge teamwork.

According to Jordan Zaslav, the chief operations officer at internal communications software company Axios HQ, some employees are still suspicious about using AI-powered tools in their everyday tasks. For example, if workers discover that Zoom Workforce’s AI features are keeping tabs on what they say in meetings, there’s potential for backlash.

In an email Q&A, Zaslav discussed how to get the hold-outs on board, how AI-powered tools and data can be leveraged to make routine work tasks faster and easier, and more.

Do you believe the announcement of Zoom Workplace is indicative of a wider movement toward collaboration and communication in the workforce with AI-powered tools?

We’ve been watching a movement toward AI-powered collaboration and communication for a while now. Organizations like Zoom are expanding the toolkit that workforces can use to increase productivity with AI. The next step is to get to a place where it drives impact for individual employees and businesses on a wider scale.

There’s almost limitless potential for how AI can advance workplace collaboration. What I’m curious to see is how leaders choose to build these AI-powered tools into workflows in a way that actually helps them feel their full benefits. Soon, we’re not going to call this “AI-powered collaboration,” just like we don’t call it “cloud collaboration.”

Beyond Zoom Workplace, are there other AI-powered collaboration tools you find promising?

Beyond our own Axios HQ collaborative software for internal communications, our AI tech stack has tools like Miro for brainstorming and idea sharing, Google Workspace for documents and Notion for project management. These are the tools we’ve found have the most impact on our business.

Overcoming Resistance to AI-Powered Tools

What hesitation are you seeing in the workplace when it comes to employers using AI-powered tools for collaboration tasks at work?

We are seeing a bit of a whipsaw when it comes to AI adoption. Middle managers are holding back while they assess potential risks and figure out how to implement it. Risk functions are dragging their feet, too, hoping to first create a framework to understand AI and roll it out accordingly.

CEOs are pushing to implement it. Most employees are already using AI in their personal lives. Both are hungry to bring that innovation and impact to work.

You need trust and partnership across functions for AI to work. Training on how to safely use AI products will be critical, too.

Could the presence of AI in internal communications platforms pressure employees into a culture of being “always on”?

To avoid that, help employees understand where and why AI is being used, and make it equally clear where it isn’t being used.

If employees feel like AI is forcing them to be always on, I’d look at how it was implemented. Like any new system or technology, we have to talk about it and create a purpose, guidelines and expectations for it. If AI on Zoom and other video platforms means meetings will be more closely monitored, set standards and communicate why it’s helpful. Maybe it’s used for note-taking in all-staff meetings and cross-functional project check-ins. Maybe it isn’t used in one-on-ones or ad-hoc conversations.

If AI can pressure employees to feel like they have to be always on, what strategies can we implement to prevent employee burnout?

Leaders need to prioritize building a culture where trust and open communication are a constant. Without it, every change — AI or otherwise — will feel difficult or disruptive. But when your business decisions start with a baseline level of trust, awareness and open conversation about the why behind the what, your teams are a lot more likely to be willing to listen and feel comfortable engaging in productive way.

It’s really important to talk about how AI-powered tools help everyone. AI can really allow peoples’ ideas to be heard and more accurately credited. A lot can happen on a call. It’s impossible for everyone to hear or remember everything. But these tools are helping teams get closer to everyone operating on equal footing.

How can leaders get employees on board with the integration of AI-powered tools to boost collaboration on everyday tasks?

It’s actually leadership that needs to get out of the way. CEO and workers are excited about AI, but information security, legal and other risk functions are evaluating the downsides and holding up adoption. My advice for organizations is to align getting risk leaders on board early and getting comfortable with how you want and need to use AI. While the technology does present risks, the benefits outweigh the risks and proper training can help reduce them.

AI-Powered Tools and Inclusivity

In what ways can AI-powered tools create a more accessible, inclusive workplace?

Any AI tools that help synthesize and share information from meetings, emails, documents and chats have the potential to make a workplace more inclusive. I think about asynchronous workforces who need transparent access to information even when folks can’t physically be on the same call or meeting at the same time. I think about neurodiverse workers who may value communication in different formats so they have the option of what works best for them.

AI can also help save people from errors they might not even know they’re making — like flagging confusing or non-inclusive language in important communications, proposing alternatives and educating the writer on why that might be a better option.

Metrics for HR

When AI is integrated for collaboration, how can HR leaders measure its success and identify areas for improvement?

The first order for AI-powered collaboration is about saving time, the second order is about bridging gaps in communication, and the third order is delivering stronger business results. So when you measure the success of AI in your workplace, you’ll need to have metrics to determine:

  • How much time AI-powered tools are saving employees
  • Where and how teams are able to spend that time instead, and
  • The downstream impact both are having on your business.

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