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Tech News

Turning my office into an art gallery was a weirdly good business move

I came into the office completely drained after a difficult meeting. But when I looked up I stopped awestruck: someone had hung a painting on the wall. Suddenly the boring hallway had been turned into a room with personality and mood.

My business partner had decided to hang up an abstract painting by modern Ukrainian artist Anton Popernyak he owned. The painting undeniably brightened up the space, but its real value was the course it put us on — turning our office into an art gallery.

Putting on an art exhibition in your office might sound like an indulgent thing to do for a startup, but we discovered that it actually led to a lower turnover rate and increased offer acceptance among candidates we interviewed. 

So here’s how we came up with this idea and what results we got from it. Hopefully, it inspires you to do the same!

Why we did it

My business partner is an experienced patron of the greatly underappreciated Ukrainian art scene. He’s always been keen on bringing art closer to people and wanted to help introduce the team to their local culture. I wasn’t as involved in art as he was, but I’ve always cared about making our workplace an inspiring creative space where people would want to come back, not be obliged to come in.

So when we saw our business would be expanding, we decided to combine our interests when designing a new office. 

Credit: SupportYourApp

We invited ten muralists, graphic designers, and calligraphists and gave them carte blanche — a censorship-free opportunity to use our office walls as a canvas. Five months later, our 350-person office space had turned into a modern art gallery. 

Now what did our team think? They loved it.

Of course, we had hoped for the project to be a morale boost for the team and maybe increase people’s interest in their local art scene. But in the end, what we got was so much more. 

office workers in front of art
Credit: SupportYourApp

Decreased turnover rate

We work in the customer support industry which has one of the highest employee turnover rates of any field. While the average rate for companies in general is 15 percent, for customer service centers it can reach 30-45 percent.

This is a big problem for businesses as the cost to replace a person varies between $10,000 to $15,000 and can add up to a lot of money for big call centers. 

But since we gave our office an art makeover, our turnover rate dropped by 16 percent. All of a sudden our fun art initiative had a real measurable impact on our bottom line. 

Increased number of job applications

happy office workers
Credit: SupportYourApp

As a customer support company, our recruiting process is continuous and requires a huge pool of specialists who speak foreign languages. Just last year, during the challenging 2020, we hired 658 people. 

Most of our candidates come from job searching sites or are referred by current team members. But after we introduced art to the office, the word got out and the number of organic job applications increased 1.5 times.

When asked, people said that they’ve seen the photos of our office on the job sites, on their friends’ social media, or in the press, and it made them want to apply. To them, our company seemed interesting and innovative and stood out among other offers.

Judging by the incredibly positive results we’ve gotten, I believe that our investment into the space paid off with increased interest among potential candidates. 

Increased offer acceptance rate

We have three-stages job interviews and in the case of a local hire, the last stage is an in-person conversation in the office. We noticed that an average acceptance rate is 50 percent higher among the candidates interviewed in our new ‘art office’ in comparison to the old one.

And it’s clear why from the feedback we’ve gotten from newcomers:  “The minute I saw this, I knew I wanted to work here.”

floral mural
Credit: SupportYourApp

To give you a bit of perspective on why this has been so successful, I think it’s good to note that 42 percent of our applicants are millennials.

Since 78 percent of them consider the quality of the workspace important when choosing an employer, it’s not surprising that a creative workplace attracts candidates’ attention.

However, they are not the only ones who care about it: 81 percent of all applicants would reject a job offer if they didn’t like the workplace. That’s why I consider resources put in the office a long-term investment into our recruiting efforts. 

Increased brand awareness

Introducing an art project like this also drew the attention of local media and put us on a map of global office spaces. It helped us reach a new audience outside our traditional channels and cement a reputation as a responsible employer. 

A lot of factors contributed to getting us there. Team members shared photos of the office on social media and brought their relatives to our corporate Family Days. I also found employees were also more willing to promote the company among their friends.

And because of all this interest, we introduced tours of the office for the public so more people could come to see the murals. All of this combined increased interest among potential candidates and, subsequently, clients.

fun stairway
Credit: SupportYourApp

Clients’ recognition

Since we’re in a competitive sector of the B2B industry, relationships and reputation are crucial for us.

Before signing a contract, clients sometimes go on a tour checking out different service providers. Before COVID-19, we hosted on average four client visits per month. Having a unique office makes a memorable impression and lets us stand out among the competitors. 

The contact center industry is stereotypically perceived as a toxic work environment with gray open-space and no air conditioning. We bust that myth and make our clients see how their money is spent: on happy representatives which means happy customers.

Clients, who value commitment to the team’s wellness, appreciate our efforts and tend to choose us as a partner. 

mural meeting room
Credit: SupportYourApp

Of course, we can’t credit all the above-mentioned achievements solely to art in the office. You can’t just hang a painting on the wall and expect the turnover rate to go down — that’s not how it works. It has to be a part of and supported by other strategic efforts to improve the overall employee experience.

However, the massive introduction of art into our space definitely played a key role in how our team perceives its workplace and the company. Still, one of the less visible yet priceless benefits I love the most is when I overhear two people chatting in the kitchen… about which mural they liked more — the one by Manzhos or by Kondakov.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Tech News

It’s baffling that turning tech off-and-on again works — but I’m glad it does

This is adapted from Plugged In, TNW’s bi-weekly newsletter on gear and gadgets. Subscribe to it here.

Watch out! Plugged In has just tumbled through the ceiling and is now laying on the floor and rolling around and groaning in agony. But you know what? That hurts less than what happened this week.

It’s story time — and that means one thing: slipping this stifling robe from my shoulders and getting comfortable enough to paint you a word picture.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m so hungover I feel halfway between a lizard and a raisin. I flick on the TV to watch some MAN SPORTS and… horror…

Horror, friends, HORROR! I’m not talking about Saw-style jump scares, this is true, sphincter-clenching terror, like when you realize how big Teletubbies actually are.

Are you sitting? Good. Because one side of the television was dark. Not like, totally dark. You could still see everything, but it was like a bit of shadow-y netting had been draped over the screen.

And, in that that single moment, I lived a lifetime.

First, I was upset and annoyed. Then I became resigned to this new reality. After that? Excitement: I’d get to choose a new TV. I assume this is the sort of experience DMT users never shut up about.

 

Categories
AI

AI is turning us into de facto cyborgs

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Progress in technology and increased levels of private investment in startup AI companies is accelerating, according to the 2021 AI Index, an annual study of AI impact and progress developed by an interdisciplinary team at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, AI is showing up just about everywhere. In recent weeks, there have been stories of how AI is used to monitor the emotional state of cows and pigs, dodge space junk in orbit, teach American Sign Language, speed up assembly lines, win elite crossword puzzle tournaments, assist fry cooks with hamburgers, and enable “hyperautomation.” Soon there will be little left for humans to do beyond writing long-form journalism — until that, too, is replaced by AI. The text generation engine GPT-3 from OpenAI is potentially revolutionary in this regard, leading a New Yorker essay to claim: “Whatever field you are in, if it uses language, it is about to be transformed.”

AI is marching forward, and its wonders are increasingly evident and applied. But the outcome of an AI-forward world is up for debate. While this debate is underway, at present it focuses primarily on data privacy and how bias can negatively impact different social groups. Another potentially greater concern is that we are becoming dangerously dependent on our smart devices and applications. This reliance could lead us to become less inquisitive and more trusting of the information we are provided as accurate and authoritative.

Or that, like in the animated film WALL-E, we will be glued to screens, distracted by mindless entertainment, literally and figuratively fed empty calories without lifting a finger while an automated economy carries on without us. In this increasingly plausible near-future scenario, people will move through life on autopilot, just like our cars. Or perhaps we have already arrived at such a place.

Caption: Humans on the Axiom spaceship in Pixar’s WALL-E; Source

Welcome to Humanity 2.0

If smartphone use is any indication, there is cause for worry. Nicolas Carr wrote in The Wall Street Journal about research suggesting our intellect weakens as our brain grows dependent on phone technology. Likely the same could be said for any information technology where content flows our way without us having to work to learn or discover on our own. If that’s true, then AI applications, which increasingly present content tailored to our specific interests, could create a self-reinforcing syndrome that not only locks us into our information bubbles through algorithmic editing, but also weakens our ability to engage in critical thought by spoon-feeding us what we already believe.

Tristan Green argues that humans are already cyborgs, human-machine hybrids that are heavily dependent on information flowing from the Internet. During a weekend without access to this constant connection: “I found myself having difficulty thinking. By Sunday evening I realized that I use the almost-instant connection I have with the internet to augment my mental abilities almost constantly. … I wasn’t aware of how much I rely on the AI-powered internet as a performance aid.” Which is perhaps why Elon Musk believes we will need to augment our brains with instantaneous access to the Internet for humans to effectively compete with AI, this being the initial rationale behind his Neuralink brain-machine interface company.

The AI revolution could be different

I’ve read many analyses from AI pundits arguing that AI will be no different from other technology innovations, such as the transition from the horse economy to the automobile. Usually these arguments are made in the context of AI’s impact on jobs and concludes there will be social displacement in the short-term for some but long-term growth for the collective whole. The thinking is that new industries will birth new jobs and malleable people will adapt.

But there is a fundamental difference with the AI revolution. Previous instances involved replacing brute force with labor-saving automation. AI is different in that it outsources more than physical labor, it also outsources cognition, which is thinking and decision making. Shaun Nichols, professor in the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University, said in a recent panel discussion on AI: “We already outsource ethically important decisions to algorithms. We use them for kidney transplants, air traffic control, and to determine who gets treated first in emergency rooms.” As stated by the World Economic Forum, we are progressively subject to decisions with the assistance of — or even taken by — AI systems.

Are we losing our agency?

Algorithms now shape our thoughts and increasingly make decisions on our behalf. Wittingly or not, AI is doing so much for us that some are dubbing it an “intelligence revolution,” which forces the question, have we already become de facto cyborgs, and if so, do we still have agency? Agency is the power of humans to think for ourselves and act in ways that shape our experiences and life trajectories. Yet, the algorithms driving search and social media platforms, book and movie recommendations, regularly shape what billions of people read and see. If this was thoughtfully curated for our betterment, it might be okay. But as film director Martin Scorsese states, their purpose is only to increase consumption.

It seems we have already outsourced agency to algorithms designed to increase corporate well-being. This may not be overtly malicious, but it is hardly benign. Our thoughts are being molded, either by our existing beliefs that are reinforced by algorithms inferring our interests, or through intentional or unintentional biases from the various information platforms. Which is to say that our ability to perform critical thinking is both constrained and shaped by the very systems meant to aid and hopefully stimulate our thinking. We are entering a recursive loop where thinking coalesces into ever tighter groupings — the often-discussed polarization — that reduce variability and hence diversity of opinion.

It is as if we are the subjects in a grand social science experiment, with the resulting human opinion clusters determined by the AI-powered inputs and the outputs discerned by machine learning. This is qualitatively different from an augmentation of intelligence and instead augers a merger of humans and machines that is creating the ultimate group think.

It has never been easy to confront large societal problems, but they will become more challenging if humanity continues the path of outsourcing its thinking to algorithms that are not in our collective best interests. All of which begs the question, do we control AI technology or are we already being controlled by the technology?

Gary Grossman is the Senior VP of Technology Practice at Edelman and Global Lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence.

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Repost: Original Source and Author Link