I recently read an article that had me asking, “Is it going to be fashionable to tap into the digital afterlife of an ex-employee?”. The write-up referenced a report that stated; for a large organisation, it can take an average of 28 weeks for new workers to reach optimum productivity level. So, therefore, losing an employee can come at a cost. The solution could be for companies to use a kind of technology that would help their new recruits get up to speed via an ex-employee’s digital doppelgänger.
Why Digital Doppelgängers Could Be In Our Future
With costs estimated to be around £30,614 to replace a departing employee, the primary challenge is transferring the knowledge that the ex-employee accumulated in their role at the company to a new, greener employee. I am not talking about handover notes or a ‘how to’ guide that most businesses have, I am referring to the kind of implicit knowledge, experience, context and interpersonal relationships that can only be duplicated by technology.
“The type of work you do, what you write, and the patterns of your activity can all be recorded. Realistically, you could feed this data into an algorithm, and within a week it would have determined how you work”.
The idea of a digital version of you remaining at a company that you no longer work for sounds scary, in a body snatchers kind of way. Can you imagine an employer creating a digital version of you, with eerie accuracy, that is capable of retaining your knowledge and experience? It would have the ability to help a new member of staff get up to speed almost instantly so they can slip quite nicely into your role without a problem. The whole idea sounds a lot like an episode from near-future drama Black Mirror.
Luckily, the process of creating a digital avatar of a departing employee is not something that all companies are looking to do (at the moment). That being said there are a few “progressive” organisations already embracing such technology. “Corporations could quite easily key log an employee’s activities through their keyboard,” says Marcus John Henry Brown, a Munich-based technologist, speaker and author. “The type of work you do, what you write, and the patterns of your activity can all be recorded. Realistically, you could feed this data into an algorithm, and within a week it would have determined how you work.”
Knowledge Transfer, Setting The Stage For AI
It comes as no surprise that companies like Intel are already participating in knowledge transfer. According to the article I read, they are currently doing this using Intelpedia, an internal, company-wide Wiki for employees to reference. By collecting data, they are able to find out the skills they need to preserve so they can use them to help socialise new employees. Another company turning to technology is Altify. They are using insight gleaned from interactions with more than a million sales professionals to train salespeople. On their use of AI technology; “If a salesperson is expected to sell £100,000 every month, it’s crucial they get up to speed as quickly as possible,” says Altify’s executive chairman, Donal Daly. “Otherwise, every month equals £100,000 in lost revenue. If you have 50 new salespeople, it becomes a £5m problem.”
If knowledge transfer is something that you as company would like to explore then you will be happy to know that there are AI tools that can help you achieve this. An example of this kind of tool is Deepgram. It transcribes insights from phone calls, video footage and online. On this Marcus John Henry Brown told writer Oliver Pickup, the London-based writer, who wrote the piece ‘Goodbye employee. Hello, digital doppelganger’, “If technology and AI can take on more of the tasks that humans consider chores, our employment will become more enjoyable and rewarding. It won’t be about technology dehumanising the workplace – it’s allowing technology to take away all the work that dehumanises us.”
So in the end what does the future of the workplace look like for ex-employees? Well, it looks like if the creation of digital doppelgängers of past employees was to ever to become the norm, then I fear that the value of what you can offer as an individual will loose its appeal to future employers. The fact that an ex-company has no problem duplicating your knowledge and keeping it for their own usage, makes me think that this should be something that they should pay for, because in the end knowledge is power, and if you want to own my knowledge, then it comes at a price.