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Achievement Intelligence is the Essential Guardrail to Humanize AI

Achievement Intelligence is the Essential Guardrail to Humanize AI

The benefit of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking shape with the aim of improving the lives of every person on the planet. In the world-of-work, AI is empowering users in every industry to increase sales, efficiency, and productivity. While there are clear business wins in doing and achieving more, the relentless focus on more is wreaking havoc on people and workplace cultures. Burnout, exhaustion, and overwhelm of workers is exacerbating depression anxiety, and stress that leads to debilitating health and a revolving door of talent. This is not a sound business case for success, nor is it the right way to treat people.

I was featured on the HR Works podcast hosted by Josh Zygmont of SimplifyMedia to discuss Achievement Intelligence and what it means in practice. Listen here.

Achievement Intelligence is a new layer we must consider with AI to honor the humans doing the work optimized by technology.

Imagine a world-of-work where:

  • Organizations focused on the highest quality of work instead of the highest quantity with mediocre outcomes - less can be more.
  • Sustainable cultures of wellbeing were celebrated and recruiting and retaining top talent was not a constant struggle.
  • Shifting the goal mindset to celebrate achievements, and not always raising the bar to an unreachable level at the expense of worker wellbeing.
  • The busy brag and burning the candle at both ends were not applauded to feed work addiction (the only addiction we celebrate) to create healthy and vibrant work cultures.
  • We focused on living a life of vitality instead of constantly trying to mitigate burnout.

Wellbeing at work and organizational culture matters. AI will empower the worker to do more, but to what end if the result is perpetual burnout? It’s time to embrace AI and put a new guardrail in place with Achievement Intelligence, so we can optimize transformational technology that won’t destroy the human workers essential to a high functioning and civil society.

[Related: Three Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated During Difficult Times]

What is Achievement Intelligence?

Achievement Intelligence is my idea for a new layer we must consider with AI to honor the humans doing the work optimized by technology. This riff on AI is the guard rail we must put in place so the output we give at work creates the outcomes we want in life and career. People can thrive in their careers if they have a chance to lead a healthy and fulfilling life at the same time.

The data tells us that you can’t do great work in a space of overwhelm and exhaustion. Celebrating and condoning overwork and work addiction behaviors leads to massive retention and recruiting issues, and loss of morale and productivity. It’s an equation of diminishing returns – overworking does not lead to more robust outcomes. In fact, productivity falters, and mistakes happen when people are overworked.

Less can be more when we focus on quality and not only quantity. If we always raise the bar and shoot for higher goals, the work is not sustainable, unless more resources (human, financial, tools, etc.) are provided, which is rarely the case. Burnout is not the price we must pay for success. It’s time to celebrate “enough” and honor the talent achieving the work so we can focus on what’s timeless and uniquely human: empathy, caring, compassion, connectivity, and forgiveness. Technology won’t ever be able to honor these human emotions, behaviors, and characteristics.

It’s time to reframe workaholic behavior to high achiever behavior and be satisfied with giving 100%. A math professor friend says 110% is mathematically impossible, so let’s reframe and value that 100% is impactful and enough. 

Working alongside Artificial Intelligence without losing our humanity.

The future of AI is scary to many who currently hold roles that will become automated with technology. Savvy individuals know that we still need humans to develop, program, and maintain the technology. The solution is to rethink the world of work and discover the human-assisted needs that will help leverage AI technology. Cars replaced horses as a mode of transportation, but horses did not become extinct. We must highlight the careers we do need with AI, Virtual Reality (VR), and other high-tech areas to identify how people are needed and train talent to be ready for these skilled roles.

AI is a tool. Just as fire is a tool, we must use it responsibly to avoid damage and harm. I believe we must consider a complementary approach to AI and learn to use it in a way that supports the human endeavor without totally replacing people in the process.

The world-of-work is cyclical, and we must look at the industry trends of clean energy, electric vehicles, advanced manufacturing, and technology (AI, VR, etc.) and focus on the new possibilities. Organizations must be working with institutions of higher education to inform curriculum and build programs where the jobs are most needed and create a ready-to-work skilled talent pipeline.

A business case for Achievement Intelligence.

Human capital is the most important asset in every organization. Technology that includes AI, VR, and the innovations that will be unveiled in the future are incredibly important – and we must honor the people who are supporting AI and other technologies because humans will never be obsolete.

Many organizations are desperately trying to mitigate the burnout of their workforce, but they are addressing the wrong issue. It’s time to take a preventive approach and focus on living a life of vitality instead of only trying to address burnout.

Start by asking your people what they need. So many companies make top-down decisions without asking employees what they need to do their best work. Culture is not an HR project – it should be an all-play in an organization. This is a great time to reboot and focus on how to design cultures with the people in your organization that support flexibility, wellness at work, and psychological safety.

Success should be a shared vision, so each player understands their WHY and purpose in the organization, which leads to engagement and strong outcomes.

[Related: Think Like a Child: How Playing Drastically Improves Your Creativity at Work]

Disruptive innovation opportunities.

In the spirit of Uber and Airbnb, companies that disrupted the taxi and hospitality industries respectively, disruptive innovation is a positive force that solves a user problem with an unexpected solution. The following scenarios are ripe for disruptive innovation and support Achievement Intelligence.

Creating healthy and sustainable work environments.

The World Health Organization is clear that burnout is a workplace issue, not a self-care issue. Mental-wellness issues are on the rise globally, and for organizations to attract and retain top talent they must address the imbalance of workload and resources, creating psychological safety at work and sustainable, healthy workplace cultures where people can do their best work.

Honoring flexibility and alternative work locations.

The pandemic was an ideal case study that showed organizations that many people can work successfully from home. The research is clear that flexibility and having the option to work remotely remain at the top of the values list for professionals. Organizations must pivot from one-size-fits-all flexibility options, to a more customized approach. Scaling flex plans is a challenge, so organizations should adopt a design thinking method and test, prototype, iterate experiments and then assess how to move forward.

Salary transparency.

Recent studies indicate that women will not have salary equity with men until 2059, which is unacceptable. Some states have new laws that require salary transparency, which is leveling the playing field and allows for informed negotiation and clarity of expectations for the candidate and employer. Salary transparency is essential to mitigate the revolving door of talent and true diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.

Competency and skill-based hiring.

It’s time to rethink how we hire and write job descriptions that reflect the true skills and competencies needed for success in a role. The antiquated HR criteria for roles needs a reboot. Organizations like Skillful and Rework America Alliance – under the umbrella of the Markle Foundation – are making great strides as are community colleges offering short-term credentials and certificates that align with industry need and empower the talent pipeline.

AI is here to stay, and it will grow. Let’s celebrate it as a tool to make life better. We must keep evolving – we are works in progress. We must help humans optimize AI without allowing it to overwhelm and impede outcomes and destroy wellbeing. Tap into the better angels of our nature and celebrate AI with the guardrails of Achievement Intelligence.

[Related: Don’t Wait for Your Company to Help With Work-Life Balance]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins is passionate about unlocking the art-of-the-possible in her work with individuals and organizations as a career and executive coach, consultant, and speaker. She authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. Her online video series about career & life empowerment is on YouTube. Caroline hosts the 3-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube. Her new book, “Your Career Edge: Overcome Challenges to Achieve a Rewarding Work Life,” will launch in early 2023.

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