Microsoft's OpenAI Investment Is Official, Employee Engagement Takes a Nosedive, More News
After weeks of speculation, it's now official: Microsoft announced it is extending its partnership with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT as well as DALL-E 2 and GPT-3.
While early reports suggested the investment would be worth as much as $10 billion, Microsoft left the specific details of the deal out of the announcement. However, OpenAI issued a statement explaining it would be a multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment that the company would use to continue its independent research and develop AI that's "safe, useful and powerful."
In a blog post, Microsoft outlined three main targets for the investment. And while it only specifically mentioned Azure, it provides a clearer picture of where the company wants to go with OpenAI. The three focus areas:
1. Supercomputing at Scale: Microsoft says it will increase its investment in supercomputing in order to push the boundaries of OpenAI’s research. Specifically, it will build out Azure’s infrastructure to make it possible to develop and build AI applications at scale.
The investment in Azure is nothing new, but rather a continuation of Microsoft's ongoing pursuit of creating an AI supercomputer “for the world.”
2. Cloud Provider: Microsoft will become OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider through Azure.
3. AI-Powered Experiences: For the digital workplace, this is probably the most interesting statement from Microsoft. It said it would build new categories of digital experiences using the OpenAI technology. The implications for existing Microsoft workplace tools are wide.
We recently examined potential use cases should Microsoft pull ChatGPT into Microsoft 365, but we only scratched the surface. Think where else it could go and how deeply ingrained ChatGPT could become in the workplace (not to mention Bing).
In fact, Gartner told us recently that some of the functionality it will be looking for include:
Personal assistant: Providing employees advice on general topics.
- Outlook: Search, retrieval and information extraction of context-specific relevant email or content.
- Word: User experience (UX) improvements, including generation of suggested context-specific content (sentences, paragraphs, complete documents).
Worker Engagement in Decline, Says Gallup
This week also saw the publication of Gallup’s annual poll on engagement — or in this case, disengagement.
The poll of 15,000 workers found the number of those who are fully engaged at work dropped to 32% in 2022 — the lowest level in nine years — while an increasing number indicate that they are actively disengaged.
The quarterly survey has shown engagement falling from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.
Gallup measures engagement by asking a random sample of workers a set of 12 questions about workplace practices that relate directly to outcomes including productivity, profitability and overall well-being.
While the drop in engagement figures are striking, the rise of disengaged workers is potentially even more concerning. According to the survey, the figure for disengaged workers now stands at 18%, up 2% on 2021 and 4% over 2020.
Gallup also dug down into the figures to identify the biggest problems. The company found the biggest declines in the following metrics between 2019 and 2022:
- Clarity of expectations.
- Connection to the mission of the company.
- Opportunities to learn.
- Opportunities to do what employees do best.
- Feeling cared about at work.
Moreover, the number of workers who report being extremely satisfied with their organization as a place to work also dropped — by 6%.
The impacts hit certain demographics harder, with 4% of those under the age of 35 reporting being actively disengaged, a much higher percentage than those over 35. Women also experienced a higher decline in engagement than men did.
This is only a quick look at some of the figures, and there is a lot more to explore. The report also highlights a number of themes that managers should review as they try to navigate the current economic currents.
DWXS to Identify Digital Workplace Problems
How do you know if your digital workplace is performing as it should and whether conditions are optimal to guarantee employee engagement?
The Digital Workplace Experience Study (DWXS), which launched this week aims to provide managers and organizational leaders with the data needed to understand what is happening across departments and the workplace as a whole. The studies that DWXS produce use one of the most effective tools available in the digital workplace to understand trends — questions and answers with employees.
According to the website, DWXS is built on a survey that organizations can offer employees to learn what they think of the communication and collaboration tools they use in the workplace and whether the tools they are offered are meeting their needs.
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DWXS is building on the foundation of Andrew Wright's Worldwide Intranet Challenge. From 2009 to 2021, hundreds of organizations ran the WIC survey to gain employee-led insights into their internal digital content and tools. UK-based Lithos Partners, an international digital communications and collaboration consultancy co-founded by Sharon O’Dea and Jonathan Phillips, took WIC over in 2022.
According to a post on LinkedIn by co-founder Sharon O’Dea, DWXS covers 10 themes and enables organizations to run the whole study or focus on one or more areas. It is also configurable to get insights on the platforms and channels you use in your organization.
Currently in a closed alpha, it will be opened to a limited beta group of organizations this quarter. The company has a waiting list for organizations interested in participating.
Citigroup’s Novel Approach to Remote Work
One of the major concerns for managers in the digital workplace over the past two years has been productivity and remote working. New York City-based Citigroup, which, according to Bloomberg, has one of the most flexible remote working policies in Wall Street, has come up with a novel way of tackling it.
Bloomberg reports that the company is bringing workers whose productivity fails while working from home back into the office for remedial coaching until their productivity rises again.
“You can see how productive someone is or isn’t and if they’re not being productive we bring them back to the office, or back to the site, and we give them the coaching they need until they bring the productivity back up again,” the Citibank CEO Jane Fraser said at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Citigroup has offered most of its employees the possibility of working remotely at least some of the time, with most employees expected to be on-site for at least three days a week.
Fraser also argued that for the company, remote work has demonstrated how important flexibility is, while also highlighting the need for some level of in-person collaboration. She said a return to the rigid work model of the 1980s would result in departures from the company.
Cognizant Buys Mobica to Improve IoT Services
Teaneck, NJ-based Cognizant, the American multinational IT services and consulting company has announced that it will buy Mobica, a UK-based IoT engineering firm that specializes in embedded software engineering.
Mobica is focused on automotive applications, connected devices, digital transformation and technology platforms.
According to the company, with this acquisition, Cognizant is positioning itself to design the way the largest technology and automotive firms deploy solutions around connected devices and software-defined mobility platforms.
This is the fifth acquisition by Cognizant’s IoT business in the last three years, a sign of the global momentum behind IoT as an enabler of digital transformation, in everything from manufacturing and operations to fleet management and sustainability.
Once the deal is closed, Cognizant will add nearly 900 people across Europe and North America, including 550 engineers based in Poland.
RedThread Launches HR Technology Research Consortium
Finally this week, analyst firm RedThread Research announced the launch of a new consortium, dedicated to producing unbiased HR technology research. Founding companies include Augmentir, Axonify, Betterworks, Degreed, Eightfold, Perceptyx, Reejig, SeekOut, Skillable, SplashBI, TechWolf, Top Employers Institute, Visier and Workday. These companies will underwrite RedThread's continued research into performance, people analytics, learning and development and similar topics and were included based on a demonstrated commitment to independent, unbiased research.
In return for their participation, members of the consortium will receive early access to the research RedThread produces. In a statement about the launch, RedThread Research co-founder and principal analyst Stacia Garr said, “We take a principled and meticulous approach to how we do research .... This Consortium is a way that we can continue to deliver on that promise — and also invite our members to be part of our bigger commitment to high-quality analysis.”
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About the Author
David is a full-time journalist based in Ireland. A partisan of ‘green’ living and conservation, he is particularly interested in information management and how enterprise content management, analytics, big data and cloud computing impact on it.