9 AI Strategies For Companies To Plan For With A Focus On Advancing Caring And Wellness Intelligence


Healthier and More Engaged Talent increases Happiness and Wellnessgetty
Post COVID-19 Realities Increases Focus on Pandemic Preparedness

Post COVID-19 realities, the majority of B2B companies have recognized how vulnerable they are to a pandemic crisis and the imperative to get ready for the next one. COVID-19 was the deadliest viral outbreak the world has seen in more than a century.

However Dr. Penn and Dr. Parolari in their research study, assembled records of past outbreaks and found that the probability of a COVID-19 like pandemic is about 2% in any year, meaning that someone born in the year 2000 would have about a 38% chance of experiencing one by now. And the researchers assert that this probability is only growing and hence businesses must adjust perceptions of pandemic risks and expectations for preparedness.Understanding that pandemics aren’t so rare should raise the priority of efforts to prevent and control them in the future.

As of September, 2022, it is estimated that over 6.9M, officially have died globally from COVID-19, but more realistically, the numbers are over 17.2M. In comparison, the Spanish flu killed more than 30 million people between 1918 and 1920.

For more context, Canada is approaching 46,000 deaths from COVID which is more than the 44,000 Canadian who died in the Second World War.
The study further estimated that the probability of novel disease outbreaks will grow three-fold in the next few decades. What is important to understand, however, is that a COVID-like pandemic outbreak could still statistically happen in the next 5 years, even if the odds are low.
When a 100-year flood occurs today, one may presume that one can afford to wait another 100 years before experiencing another such event, this impression is false as we could have a 100-year flood the following year too.

As our population grows, climate change, environmental erosion, food shortages, and increased contact between humans and animals, all contribute to increasing risks of outbreaks like SARS or COVID-19, etc.

Strategies for Board Directors and CEOs for Pandemic Preparedness?
The first question to ask is does your Board of Directors and CEO have a pandemic plan in place?

But a second key question is how are you investing in MindFulness and Wellness solutions so employee health and safety is your number 1 corporate priority.
Saying to your talent You Matter and We Care is a powerful message showing more kindness and caring. This according to top experts from Harvard, Accenture, Gartner and many others reaffirms our research as well at SalesChoice that the time has come for designing and building organizations anchored with a stronger sense of corporate purpose where human happiness is front and center.
Let’s explore pandemic preparedness more and then I will identify how AI can fuel innovations in diverse solutions to support more caring and humanity in organizations.
The Center for Disease Controls (CDC) has comprehensive guiding frameworks and toolkits to support companies plan effectively for pandemic strategies. Usually there are three pillars to organize practices around:
1.) Preparedness and Communication: Activities that should be undertaken before a pandemic to ensure preparedness, and the communication of roles and responsibilities to all levels of government, segments of society and individuals.
2.) Surveillance and Detection Monitoring: Domestic and international systems that provide continuous “situational awareness,” to ensure the earliest warning possible to protect the population.
3.) Response and Containment: Actions to limit the spread of the outbreak and to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of a pandemic.
How can Artificial Intelligence be Applied?
1.) AI can be used to improve pattern recognition of disease spread in populations and predictions of outbreaks in different geographical locations. AI‐based forecasting and predictions can complement traditional approaches by helping public health officials to select better response and preparedness measures against pandemics. To put the value of predictive monitoring, it has been estimated that 59–92% of COVID-19 deaths in the USA could have been avoided if the pandemic had been managed differently and mortality rates were similar to those in countries with moderate rates of COVID-19 deaths, such as Norway or Canada1.
2.) AI Search Methods analyzing large data sources- can help policy makers and the medical community understand research on treatments by uncovering virus’ history, transmission, and diagnostics, management measures, and lessons from previous epidemics. For example, the White House and a coalition of leading research groups have prepared the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19). CORD-19 is a resource of over 1,000,000 scholarly articles, including over 400,000 with full text, about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and related coronaviruses. This free dataset is provided to the global research community to apply recent advances in natural language processing and other AI techniques to generate new insights in support of the ongoing fight against this infectious disease.
3.) Deep learning models can help predict old and new drugs or treatments that might treat COVID-19. Using AI to identify treatments and develop prototype vaccines to speed up research, given the high risks associated with a pandemic.
4.) Mining Social Media and Mainstream news for early warning detections can help detect virus patterns. For example, BlueDot’s bio-thread intelligence system combines machine and human intelligence to identify signals of emerging threats, triage bio-threats to focus on what matters, to providing rich data insights to make expert decisions against. The WorldWide Health Organization (WHO) has also done an excellent job in organizing COVID-19 information. Institutions also such as Johns Hopkins University and the OECD (oecd.ai) have also made available interactive dashboards that track the virus’ spread through live news and real-time data on confirmed coronavirus cases, recoveries, and deaths.
5.) Population Surveillance like in Korea and China use algorithms use geo-location data, surveillance-camera footage and credit card records to trace coronavirus patients. China assigns a risk level (colour code – red, yellow or green) to each person indicating contagion risk using cell phone software. While machine learning models use travel, payment, and communications data to predict the location of the next outbreak, and inform border checks, search engines and social media are also helping to track the disease in real-time.
6.) Use of semi-autonomous robots and drones are being deployed to respond to immediate needs in hospitals such as: delivering food and medications, cleaning and sanitization, and sterilization, aiding doctors and nurses, and performing deliveries of equipment. Other areas drones can be applied are in security and surveillance, crowd monitoring, and even in communication on social distancing messaging. All the data collected AI can be applied to provide insights and guide decision makers.
7.) Virtual assistants and chatbots can help to triage people depending on the presence of symptoms. The United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Microsoft have developed a coronavirus self-checker service to help users self-assess COVID-19 and suggest a course of action.
8.) AI and Robotics can also be applied in a number of ways from biosafety for specimen handling on high risk infectious materials, handling of decontamination risks from chemical spills, to nuclear incidents, providing transport and services delivery (screening, logistics handling, and even cleaning /disinfection all can contribute to increased pandemic preparedness.
This next section will discuss the critical importance of the 9th Pandemic Preparedness approach using smart AI employee engagement and mindfulness solutions and go into more detail than the prior applications of AI.
9.) Applying a people-first and CARING mindset by equipping your talent with a mindfulness orientation so employees are equipped with the understanding of the importance of the safety and well-being of the workforce.
This is key as employees are unable to focus on work responsibilities when their full well-being and that of their family are in any risk. Hence, building operating practices that enable daily communication systems to engage employees on how they are feeling, capturing their moods with reasons that can help improve two way communication practices is a rising priority in health and safety operating practices.
Many of the reasons that the pandemic preparedness failed was that many companies did not have in place real-time ways of capturing employee feelings/moods on a daily basis giving companies insights on interdependencies (e.g., people, process, technology, data, facilities, third parties) and related impacts, to inform potential mitigation strategies and improve operational inefficiencies. Real-time employee engagement is critical for building a stronger listening culture with closed loop practices to improve operations on all fronts.
A Few Facts:
Job stress creates up to 60% of workplace absenteeism, according to the Conference Board of Canada. And burnout costs Canadian businesses an estimated $12 billion every year. This can be $ lost on health claims, diminished productivity or absenteeism.In the United States, the cost of burnout is even higher. According to Harvard Business School, organizations spend $125-$190 billion every year in healthcare costs. Also happiness is declining globally and
Major research from sources from (Accenture, EY, Gartner Group, Gallup, Harvard, etc) are all positioning that wellness will become the newest metric that companies use to understand their employees. I totally agree with them.
During my career as a senior executive, I have seen so many metrics and approaches from employee satisfaction annual surveys to employee engagement surveys, to health and wellness surveys — all with the goal of better understanding employee mental health, physical health and financial health. However many of these methods are not agile or real-time for daily focus.
If you could have your own CEO MRI to know how your people are feeling privately and securely in a heartbeat would this interest you? If so, I would welcome a conversation with you.
A Gartner 2020 survey of 52 HR executives found that: 94% of companies made significant investments in their well being programs 85% increased support for mental health benefits 50% increased support for physical well-being 38% increased support for financial well-being
Gartner reported that employees who utilize these benefits report 23% higher levels of mental health, 17% higher levels of physical health, and are 23% more likely to say they sleep well at night. These improvements in personal outcomes translate to higher levels of performance and retention.
Our own SalesChoice research, validated by leading sources, has also found that employees who start their day sad or angry are 10X more likely to have an incident at work, driving or at home. What’s concerning is 20-30% of the world’s population are starting their day sad or angry. Happiness Economics and Happiness Leadership will be a stronger board governance issue in 2023 as leaders continue to be educated on the imperative to focus on enabling happier employees.
Don’t be surprised if you start to see new VP roles creating called Chief Happiness Officer, or Chief Wellness Officer.
What makes an employee happy or sad or angry?
Well – there are many reasons but their are always a few constants : Work, Personal, Energy, Customer to name a few universal reasons, and by job function types, the reasons will have more functional personas. For example additional primary reasons unique to different job classes would be relevant like in sales = commission, drivers = vehicle, weather or traffic, call center operator = rude customers would impact employee mood and happiness meter. To a board director, a cybersecurity risk would likely be one of the top 5 issues that would impact their happiness aura.
How can AI be applied in a People First or Caring MindSet?
Artificial intelligence can be applied in many ways to help support a caring mindset, from advancing daily mood/health check ins and providing curated reasons that resonate with job profiles, providing opportunities for submitting improvement ideas, to analyzing voice patterns across a population on emotional cadence, to even watching body language in videos and classifying if happy, angry or sad.
What’s key is ensuring any AI solution respects privacy and anonymity so insights should always statistically roll up to larger population size so everyone feels safe and secure as the broader patterns are what’s really key. The objective is not surveillance but rather listening with a stronger caring corporate purpose.
I think every CEO or C-Suite leader cares how their employees are feeling about their work environment, as their role is to create a culture that motivates and inspires high performance. If that’s not the case, board directors need to recruit CEOs that are capable of genuinely and authentically caring.
However, one of the most significant factors impacting employee happiness is their direct supervisor (manager) so do companies wait 12 months for an annual employee survey or drive daily insights to help coach managers to improve communications or relationships with employees or recognize not all managers are hard wired to manage people.
According to Harvard, organizations will adopt new employee well-being measures that capture the financial health, mental health, and physical health of their employees to more accurately predict employee performance and retention. In addition our research is affirming that employee incidents is also a top of mind metric in many organizations, especially in product manufacturing companies, transportation, oil and gas, construction and mining companies where vehicle or equipment handling is involved.
In a recent Accenture future trends report they assert that:
“ Care has moved center stage, reminding us of the importance of kindness and compassion. The many different aspects of care, the challenges of caring, and the cost and role of carers have become more visible and more widely discussed. This is creating opportunities and challenges for all employers and brands— health and non-health.”
How companies design for care will uniquely differentiate them.
AI offers a strong data analytics layer to predict health and wellness risks and provide opportunities to be prepared daily for major risks vs. going back to the old world where annual employee satisfaction surveys are the norm.
Conclusion
This blog identified 9 strategies where AI can be applied to advance Pandemic Preparedness, and focused in more detail on Wellness (Mindfulness) and Employee Engagement approaches. The blog focused on areas of AI to improve
1.) Pattern recognition of disease spread
2.) Search Methods analyzing large data sources
3.) Predict old and new drugs or treatment, using deep learning approaches
4.) Mine Social Media and Mainstream news for early warning detections
5.) Population Surveillance
6.) Semi-autonomous robots and drones
7.) Virtual assistants and chatbots
8.) Robotics
9.) Mindfulness (MoodInsights) and Employee Engagement
You can see my other blogs on advancing corporate purpose, employee intelligence, happiness economics by going to my Forbes channel and you can follow me there too.
I welcome hearing from innovators advancing AI to help board directors and CEOs/C- leaders envision new pathways where AI and machine learning can be integrated into Corporate Purpose Strategies where humanity and ethics are front and center.
Sources:
Accenture. Fjord Trends Report, 2022
Kroop, B., Rose, Emily. 11 Trends that Will Shape Work in 2022 Harvard Business Press, January 13, 2022
Malik, Y, et al. How AI may help COVID-19 Pandemic: Pitfalls and Lessons Learned, National Library of Medicine. Sept 31, 2021.
Penn, M. Parolari, A. Statistics Say Large Pandemics Are More Likely Than We Thought. Duke Global Health Institute, August 23, 2021.

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