They left in droves. Over 40 million employees quit their jobs in 2021. The mass exodus of workers accelerated last year and shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. While this trend might look bad for the job market, it’s good news for technological development. The Great Resignation is already fast-forwarding mass adaption of AI, both to support current employees and to compensate for the ongoing labor shortage.

Analysts predict a boom in the industrial robotics sector, projected to grow from $16 billion to $37 billion over the next 10 years. Global X’s Robotics, an exchange-traded fund focusing on bots in business, more than doubled its 10-year growth forecast, citing 2022 as “that key inflection point.”

AI-based solutions already respond to calls, provide customer service, operate as cashiers, and assist HR departments in their hiring processes. But future applications of AI technology will include more than just basic tasks. For example, AI could anticipate when an employee is preparing to hand in their two weeks’ notice. Most importantly, it might help establish why they chose to leave.

Thanks to digital footprints — records of online activity, unique as fingerprints — AI-powered HR tools can engage their employees with personalized recommendations. Several startups are doing just that. One such startup is the AI-based solution Giftpack, which set out to transform gifting, now an important part of corporate benefit strategies.

The company’s own AI solution finds gifts from a catalog of over 3 million products available worldwide. By analyzing the gift recipient’s digital footprint, the service can get a sense of their interests and suggest a range of suitable options. For example, if the gift recipient posts Instagram pictures of snowboarding trips and browses winter sports gear sites, they might get some custom accessories.

In the pandemic, companies more than doubled their spending on presents for employees. The average check also increased by almost 70% last year, averaging at around $140 per unit year-over-year.

AI can help large companies eliminate a “one-size-fits-all” approach to their workers, and not just when it comes to gifting. Most businesses don’t know who their employees are, especially if they’re working remotely. What are their interests, hobbies, aspirations? What really motivates them — what makes them get up in the morning?

If HR departments have enough data and, most importantly, AI-based recommendations, they could foster new career opportunities within their organizations. Nestle, Novartis, Unilever, HSBC, and other companies have already implemented an internal talent marketplace in cooperation with Gloat, the future of work startup. The project works with employees to build new skills and try out new roles on a part-time basis.

Mental health and burnout pose another major issue: 46% of people planning to quit their jobs listed work stress as the top reason. AI-based solutions could help HR departments assess employee satisfaction and provide better support to those who need it.

According to HR tech influencer Tyrone Smith, analytic tools promoting active listening and predictive responses can highlight potential trouble, assisting HR staff on a day-to-day basis.

The present moment — with businesses in existential crisis and workers walking out en masse — could be the moment when AI-based HR tools are adopted on a large scale. The work crisis has brought with it a sense of urgency. After The Great Resignation, we might well see the great AI-driven workplace transformation.

This article originally appeared on Hackernoon and is reproduced with permission.

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