Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

130 inclusive when deploying new tools and technologies for employees. “On the one hand, the oldest and youngest workers struggle when technology doesn’t ‘just work’, they don’t expect their day to be impeded by technology,” says Minbiole. “Meanwhile, the generations in between have learned to modify how they work to adapt to technology and have gained technical know-how along the way.” To ensure that AI tools can be used by any employee, a human-centred approach is key. “It is a complementary perspective in which humans and AI are partners that balance out each other’s weaknesses,” explains Minbiole. “Generative AI tools allow retailers to hire early-in-career employees who can use the business’s apps to quickly onboard, become productive and contribute to the company’s experience base, whilst also allowing experienced employees to have a broader and more engaging range of responsibilities by using AI to complete tedious work. “By removing the ‘user interface’ altogether and replacing it with a more natural way of working, retailers can sidestep the tensions stemming from the vast generational differences in workstyles.” This approach has been integrated into Microsoft’s offerings for the retail industry, including Teams. “We’ve worked hard to build Teams into a platform suitable for every worker, including those on the frontline,” says Minbiole. “There are of course the basic tools that apply to every worker, including chat and call capabilities, but there are also specific tools for frontline workers including simplified home screens, shift and task management and push-to-talk communications.” When developing the right experience for frontline workers, Microsoft focuses on three key goals: secure, simple and smart. “At the foundation, frontline experiences need to be secure no matter what their device is,” explains Minbiole. “It also needs to be simple, and give employees everything they need in one place. Finally, to really upgrade their productivity, they need smart capabilities integrated directly into their everyday communication tools.” Aside from generational gaps, there are also concerns from smaller enterprises regarding their ability to adopt AI due to budget or size constraints, or questions about the value they would receive out of it. According to Minbiole, “it’s not about the size of the organisation, but rather its agility and focus in applying technology strategically to further the business strategy”. “Deploying AI is not about technology itself but significantly more about the people involved,” she continues. “While a small amount of the AI adoption effort goes into algorithms and system integration, a substantial amount of the effort must focus on transforming people, processes and culture. By focusing on this, retailers can not only survive but thrive.” FEATURE Photo: iStock/bernardodo