Artificial Intelligence and the Workplace of the Future

Artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize the workplace in the coming years, making it easier to complete routine tasks and allowing workers to be more productive. As companies develop and implement AI systems to streamline their employees’ workloads, the elusive idea of work-life balance may become a greater reality for many overworked, time-starved employees.

The idea behind AI is to use computer-generated processes to assist employees. For consumers, virtual assistants like Cortana, Siri and Alexa are making it easier to find out important or relevant information and saving people time and money on a regular basis. Although creating systems that will work for enterprise is far more complex than ones that mainly access search engine data, these systems are being developed more and more often as the need arises.

The Rise of the Bots

It turns out that bots, short for robots, can be programmed to automate many of the processes that used to take up huge amounts of employees’ time. Bots can find, develop and nurture leads until a sales team member can take over to work the lead and close the deal. Bots are also being used in onboarding and training as well as recruiting new talent. There are solutions for project management, customer service, and marketing.

These bots are not substitutes for humans, but are meant to augment and streamline what humans do – to make work easier, but not to replace people altogether. Part of the way AI works is to take data and “learn” from it, and then to change the system so that it works even more effectively.

The Potential of AI

Research has shown that up to 45 percent of work activities can be automated, and that includes highly paid positions like doctors, financial managers and CEOs. The wages represented by this automation equal $2 trillion per year, so companies have a financial incentive to implement AI. This cost savings could be increased, however, in other savings like retention of employees who may now find their jobs more manageable and may not be as likely to burn out and seek a change.

Even if AI doesn’t result in the need for fewer workers, it may result in decreased onboarding and training costs if employees can be retained longer because their jobs are more meaningful, less overwhelming, and less mundane. The costs of high employee turnover are significant for companies. Employees who are expected to work many extra hours to do their own and other people’s jobs until someone can be hired often get worn out and decide to work elsewhere, increasing turnover and related costs. AI could be a solution to this common problem.

CCSU offers continuing education programs in many workplace trends and issues like the role of AI in future employment. Join our mailing list now to see what courses we currently offer.

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Expert Interview Series: Dustin Brackett of hivedigitalstrategy.com on Careers in Digital Marketing

Dustin Brackett is the CEO and Founder of HIVE Digital Strategy, a leading inbound marketing agency.

We recently checked in with Dustin about career opportunities in Digital Marketing today. Here’s what he shared.

Can you tell us about your journey into digital marketing? What drew you to the profession?

I started in digital marketing on the client side. I was managing an internal marketing team and it became very obvious that our best ROI was in digital marketing. I focused exclusively on digital marketing for two companies on the client side and then decided that I wanted to help more businesses in that arena and started my agency. I’ve always been intrigued by the constantly changing digital environment which always provides new challenges and opportunities.

What excites you today about being in digital marketing? Why has it been a worthwhile career choice for you?

I never have two days that are the same and that is something that I absolutely love. There are always new things to learn, fires to put out, and opportunities to have. Digital marketing gives me an outlet to express both my creative and technical sides. It’s NEVER boring!

How has digital marketing grown as a profession? What do you think the future looks like for the profession?

It’s no secret that marketing is moving digital. The lack of analytics, tracking and ROI of traditional methods are making those tactics outdated and they’ll continue to be utilized less and less. I think the profession is evolving into an industry where we’ve got to be helpful before being sales focused. With the amount of people already doing research on their own (about 57 percent of the sales cycle is actually complete before someone ever reaches out to a salesman), we’ve got to focus on helping consumers make the best decision for them, whether it’s with us (hopefully) or not.

What are the most important skill sets someone interested in a digital marketing career needs to obtain?

I think the skill that I’d hire for first is the ability to critically think. We pride ourselves on not being “order takers”. We don’t just have our clients tell us what they need and then we produce. We actually tell them what we think their best path is and we’ll push back when a client wants something that we don’t think is going to be beneficial for them. It’s taken us some time to understand that telling a client no is actually very important. As for a more concrete answer, the ability to code well is indispensable. A good coder is worth their weight in gold. Learn to code, especially if you’re a woman, and you’ll have your pick of jobs.

What skills would you love to see more digital marketers have? What skills will they need to survive in the profession in the future?

I’d love to see more well rounded marketers. In the world today, coders are coders, designers are designers, strategists are strategists. The people that can code, design and strategize are like unicorns. Sure, it takes a special kind of personality and talent to be able to do all of those things, but if you’ve got that kind of bandwidth, you’re a huge asset in this world.

What are your favorite resources for growing your skills or knowledge in digital marketing?

I love reading business books, really anything that resonates with where I’m at at that particular moment. Start With Why by Simon Sinek is one of my favorites as is The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. We are also a HubSpot Partner Agency and they provide an amazing amount of training on various inbound marketing topics and we’ve tried to take them up on every piece of education that they offer. There are even some that are available to the public at http://academy.hubspot.com.

What are the most important lessons you’ve had to learn as a marketing professional?

I think the hardest one to learn was to say no to a client that was a bad fit. There are many businesses out there that have never worked with an agency and don’t understand the dynamic. There are also clients that simply aren’t a good fit to work with. Taking on clients for the sake of adding a new client will get you into relationships that you don’t want to be in. Turn down bad fits. Not everyone is going to be a fit for you and that’s OK.

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer adult learners who are interested in pursuing a marketing career today?

You have to get educated. If you’re not familiar with the digital landscape today, you’re miles behind. Learn everything that you can and always investigate the newest and hottest trends. Not all will pan out, but with the ones that do, you’ll be at the forefront.

Follow Dustin’s advice on ongoing education. View open courses.

The Top 7 Benefits of Learning a New Skill

People learn new skills for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you need new skills for your job to keep up with technological advances or to take advantage of newly developed techniques. When you learn a new skill, it has benefits that go way beyond the actual skill learned. Here are some of the biggest benefits of learning a new skill – no matter what that skill is.

1. Your brain chemistry changes.

The white matter in your brain is called myelin, and it helps improve performance on a number of tasks. The more people practice a new skill they are learning, the more dense the myelin in their brains becomes, which helps them learn even better.

2. Your learning speed increases.

Learning a new skill helps you learn things faster over time. By stimulating neurons in the brain, more neural pathways are formed and electrical impulses travel faster across them as you attempt to process new information. The more pathways that are formed, the faster impulses can travel.

3. You make connections between skill areas.

Part of learning a new skill is connecting that skill to information and skills you already know. Prior knowledge helps people relate to new information and build on existing knowledge, which makes it easier to learn even more new skills.

4. You become a more interesting person.

Well-rounded individuals have an easier time relating to others and have more things in common with them. Being a more interesting person will draw others to you and improve the quality of your life as your relationships improve and deepen.

5. It fights boredom.

Learning new things keeps your interest level high so you don’t get bored as easily. Doing the same things over and over again can quickly become monotonous, but learning a new skill breaks that cycle of monotony and prevents boredom from setting in.

6. You adapt better to change.

When you learn something new, your mind and your perceptions change, which in turn makes it easier to adapt to the inevitable changes life always tends to bring. Adapting to change is a skill in itself, and the more varied your life experience is, the easier it is to adapt to change.

7. You could stave off dementia.

People who learn a new skill are less likely to develop dementia, which has been linked to demyelination of your brain. People who actively learn new skills don’t give their brains a chance to demyelinate, and their neural pathways are ready for new impulses to travel along them.

Sometimes you can learn a new skill independently or informally, but often the best way to learn a new skill is to take a course. Central Connecticut State University offers continuing education courses that allow people to learn new skills and more fully develop their existing skills, both for their careers and to develop their own interests. Join our mailing list to see what courses are coming up in the near future.

Expert Interview Series: Todd Williams, Project Recovery Expert, About Proper Project Management Training and Preparation to Help Avoid Project Failure

Todd C. Williams is a project recovery and execution expert who helps executives achieve their business goals. We asked the president of eCameron to elaborate on turning struggling projects around and safeguarding projects against failure.

Fixing Failing Projects Found Me

My career goals never included becoming a project recovery expert. Honestly, it still isn’t. I had a unique background in electronics manufacturing, project management, and technology when a couple of factory automation projects fell into trouble in Taiwan. A week later, my family and I packed up for a nine-month, action-packed, cultural adventure abroad. From that moment on, I had a big R (for recovery) stamped on my forehead.

That assignment was an amazing educational experience. First and foremost, I had to add cultural awareness to my toolbox. Projects create change, and how people process change is based on their surrounding culture. As I developed that skill at work in various cultures, I quickly realized that it is the lynchpin in project success. Simply put, culture – national and corporate – is the first problem to tackle on every project; business needs are second, project management third, and technology is last. Unfortunately, many projects are run by technology-focused people, and getting them to think about people, culture, and change is a challenging feat. However, it is job number one.

Starting With the End in Mind

Stephen Covey has a very simple rule that seems hard for people to grasp: start with the end in mind. Projects have one goal, and unlike what most technologists think, it is it not implementing technology. Its goal is implementing a change. If you fail to start a project with that core concept, it will most likely fail.

Change guru John Kotter has eight steps to running projects that executives, middle managers, and project managers should follow to ensure change (and the project) is successful. These steps are:

  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Build a team.
  • Create a vision.
  • Communicate for buy-in.
  • Empower action.
  • Create short-term wins
  • Don’t let up.
  • Make it stick.

When focusing on these steps, project leaders will see huge improvements in project success rates.

To achieve this, you need continuing education in culture (social and corporate), change management, and leadership. These are the tools that most project managers, middle managers, and executives are missing. This training will be valuable in business and your personal life in order to help you understand how to help people through any change.

Not All Failures Need Recovery

Developing project recovery techniques is not the right answer. The right answer is keeping projects from being beset with troubles to begin with. The best formula for success I can prescribe is understanding the people and culture, knowing the business you work in, having the right level of process, and – only when that is all in place – turning your attention to technology.

There is a fine line, though, between failure and success. If you are creating something truly revolutionary, you are going to have the occasional failure. Some of those turn out to be like 3M’s failed super glue failure that gave us Post-it Notes© and Pfizer’s failed angina medication, sildenafil citrate, better known for its pesky side effects and rebranded Viagra©.

Many failures should be chalked up to education. They should be spotted early, and no one should ever try to recover them. There is a lot to be said for people saying, “Okay, that was a bad idea,” canceling the project, and cutting losses.

If failures comprise more than, say, 10-15% of your projects, then hiding behind the statement that “This was a good education” is weak and very expensive. This failure rate says there is something wrong in your company’s approach to project execution. Never solve it by training more people on how to fix failures. Identify the organization’s gaps and fill them. Ask for an audit or health check. Assess your capabilities from the CEO down to the project methodology. Tweak how you approach projects to improve your success rates.

Where is the Balance?

There is no one answer that fits all projects. If a project is going to fail, though, you want it to fail fast. We provide a process health check to assess the corporate project structure and culture to determine what certain aspects of the organization can change to improve the project outcomes. These focus on educating everyone from the CEO to project team members on working on the “right things in the right way.” The audit looks at your risk profile, examines failure rates, and educates you on how to change the organization to make projects provide value regardless of their outcome. That education is crucial to your company’s competitive advantage.

Looking for continuing education courses about culture, change management, and leadership? Check out our open courses today!

Keeping Your Mind Sharp May be Easier than You Think

Keeping your brain fit may help to prevent cognitive decline and dementia as you age. Some simple changes can contribute to healthier mental functioning, without expending a great deal of effort.

Mental Fitness Can Be Fun

Just getting some gentle exercise and being more active can keep you more mentally sharp and alert. Think about it — you feel sluggish when you are too sedentary. It becomes harder and harder to get active again, the longer you go without some sort of activity.

The key to remaining physically active is to find out which activities you actually like doing. Some enjoy playing golf or walking around the neighborhood with a friend. Others enjoy bowling or taking their grandchildren to the park for play time. Any kind of activity works, as long as your doctor says your healthy enough for it.

Another fun activity that helps keep your brain sharp is doing puzzles or playing video games. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sudoku, a daily crossword, or some Xbox, working your brain on a regular basis will keep it in tip-top shape.

Activities that work your hands also work your brain. Knitting, needlework, model-building, and even using playdough with young grandkids counts. In fact, some studies have shown that those who babysit their grandchildren for at least one day a week are less likely to develop dementia than others the same age.

Rest Your Brain to Keep it Sharp

Overworking your brain is just as bad for it as not working it enough. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night has been shown to benefit mental sharpness, and a 20-minute nap in the afternoon also helps to consolidate memories and transfer them to long term memory.

Having rest periods between learning sessions also helps people remember more than trying to cram learning into a short time frame. Cramming may have gotten you through college finals, but it isn’t effective for your brain on an ongoing basis.

Paying Attention to Sensory Input

Using multiple senses when learning is more effective than using just one sense. Sometimes people don’t remember something because they didn’t really pay attention to it as it was happening. Making sure an experience registers on your consciousness means you will be much more likely to remember it in the future.

Continuing Education Helps Brain Fitness

Being a lifelong learner directly impacts your mental sharpness, Harvard Health says. You can always learn new things related to your job, your family, and other interests. Taking continuing education courses ensures that your learning will be facilitated by a trained leader and will take place in a community of people learning together.

Central Connecticut State University offers many continuing education courses targeted to both employment and to personal growth.

Join our mailing list to see all your opportunities to keep your brain fit and sharp.