les RH doivent se poser ces 6 questions face aux impacts dans le secteur du retail

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Retailers and consumer brands have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage their data and improve the customer experience in new and more meaningful ways.

Unsurprisingly, NRF Retail’s BIG Show 2024, held in New York from January 13-16, highlighted numerous collaborations between innovative brands and technologies. In particular, we can recall the example cited by Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, of Gucci’s call center in Milan, which uses generative artificial intelligence to better understand and talk about products, or the very similar initiatives of Walmart and Instacart “Generative AI-powered search” , which allows shoppers to search in natural language (eg “what do I plan to do for a unicorn themed birthday party”) to get a full list of products . These illustrations suggest countless opportunities to improve the customer experience and make certain tasks in businesses more reliable.

Are you saying nothing new under the sun? We already experienced this type of revolution with the advent of digital 15 years ago! What sets the massive arrival of generative AI apart from previous technological leaps is its speed of consumer adoption, hence the urgent need for companies to jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late. For the record, it took Netflix three and a half years to reach 1 million users, Instagram 2 and a half months, and just 5 days for ChatGPT!

We can therefore easily imagine that many professions will be profoundly transformed with the massive use of generative AI. Again, it would be difficult to compile an exhaustive list of the features affected by this in the coming years. In retail, sales, customer relations, content marketing and even communications are the first professions that come to mind in addition to the cross-functional functions of finance and HR.

If in the United States it is mainly labor shortages that brand owners cite to resort to greater automation of tasks, productivity gains also remain a determining factor. McKinsey estimates that generative artificial intelligence could deliver a 30-50% increase in productivity in certain functions.

However, in a slow economic context and in the face of a downward trend in household consumption, brands have set optimization of processes and increased productivity as top priorities for 2024. This is therefore a very fertile ground for the massive use of generative artificial intelligence.

This fundamental trend must encourage HR to proactively work on the impact on professions and skills. This includes a clear idea of ​​the professions potentially affected, the targeted increase in productivity and what the company wants to do with its profits. In some cases professions could be less represented, in others it will be relevant to devote more time to missions with higher added value.

In this context, HR teams must ask themselves 6 questions, with which they can get help from managers of the relevant professions and external experts:

1/ What tasks can be delegated to generative AI in the studied profession?
This audit must be carried out in collaboration with business experts. Then it’s about verifying automation feasibility with POC and AI reliability analysis.

2/ What increase in productivity can be achieved?
Assessing productivity gains is a key element in predicting changes in recruitment needs in the coming years. This measurement can only be made reliably through long-term analysis taking into account the real development of business practices thanks to clearly defined KPIs, but also through field observations and interviews with users and managers.

3/ Should the profession in question have priority in implementing generative artificial intelligence?
Faced with the complexity of contemporary challenges, companies have an urgent need to refocus on action priorities. So it would be harmful to want to transform all professions at once. Of course, HR could prioritize the most active professions. However, a colder analysis of society’s priority needs must be made. HR must also reckon with the risk of inaction: if we do nothing with generative artificial intelligence, will we still be able to attract candidates to the given profession? Is there a risk that other players in the market will gain an irreplaceable competitive advantage? Is there a bonus for being a 1st mover?

4/ What to do with the increase in productivity?
Should generative AI make it possible to reduce the number of people in the affected teams? Is it about redirecting employees to higher value-added missions? At this stage, it seems absolutely essential to listen to the business to understand where the motivation lies to rely on AI and to uncover the potential for new value propositions. It will then be a matter of aligning these proposals with the rest of the organization so that the power effect is not created again.

5/ What new skills are needed?
Whether it is the adoption of generative artificial intelligence in their operations, or the new added value of time saved through the automation of certain tasks, any change in professions will require the support of employees towards new skills. These must be identified through joint work between HR and the professions, starting with the skills expected tomorrow, to translate them into support and training courses. This step will be even more critical if some people have to change jobs completely because their previous role is simply removed.

6/ When and how to activate the skills acquisition and transfer plan?
The issue of timing is far from trivial. Recently, an HR director in monitoring and regulatory analysis told me that it is difficult to find the right rhythm to reduce the recruitment of analysts and gradually transfer them to other positions, knowing that most of their missions will eventually be replaced by generative AI. The inertia of HR decision-making was compounded by a lot of unknowns about when their AI would be truly mature and ready to operate independently. Added to this is the fear and resistance inherent in all transformations that require a real change management plan.

If the experience of previous technological revolutions has taught us that it is still too early to definitively assure that generative AI will fundamentally change the situation, on the contrary, it would be a shame if HR did not count on the potential impacts and does not act now. on Strategic Workforce Planning plans to support the movement rather than be subservient to it.

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