Generative AI has become a hot topic over the past couple of years. We have seen a series of high profile stories and reports come out since the emergence of tools such as ChatGPT putting forward predictions about who will benefit or be at risk as the technology develops.
While some of these stories can feel a bit over the top, it is hard to argue against the fact that Generative AI (GenAI) is here to stay and that it will have a big impact on most industries. Whether you see that as a positive or negative thing will likely depend on which side of an organisation you sit on. If you are part of the senior leadership team, you’re most probably going to see GenAI as a positive thing for the business. This is due to its unquestionable potential to streamline processes and make efficiency savings, which during times such as a cost of living crisis are a huge incentive.
However, if you’re part of the broader workforce, the technology's ability to take on a variety of different roles and tasks means you’ll likely see it as a threat to your livelihood. To give a few examples, those working in HR departments, which pretty much all businesses need, could feel threatened as sophisticated chatbots are put in place which can analyse policy documents and respond to staff requests. At the same time, customer service teams may think they are at risk if a GenAI platform is implemented which can quickly and automatically respond to help desk tickets like a human would.
As GenAI becomes more mainstream, it’s important that businesses are able to balance its implementation with addressing staff concerns. So how can organisations walk this tightrope?
Communication is key
Decision makers and senior leadership can often appear somewhat detached when it comes to communicating with their workforce. This needs to change when it comes to GenAI if they want to achieve buy-in and provide staff with confidence.
Businesses must be consistently engaging with the workforce. They need to be communicating what is happening, why it’s happening and the potential impacts. At the same time, decision makers need to create feedback mechanisms which allow staff to voice any concerns or suggestions. This isn’t only beneficial to the workforce. It will also allow senior leaders to get a better understanding of how employees are using the technology and get an overall understanding of colleague sentiment.
Clear policies and guidelines
Communication is a good first step, but staff will also want to see leadership advocating for GenAI, not just controlling its use. This is where clear policy is key. Firms should look to establish transparent policies and guidelines for the responsible use of GenAI within an organisation. These should include the scope of AI implementation, ethical considerations, and safeguards against misuse.
Ensuring that these policies are accessible to all employees will foster a sense of transparency and trust. It will also ensure that they can be confident that the technology will be used in partnership with them, rather than against them.
Collaboration and opportunities, not replacement
Often, GenAI will not be used as a replacement for employees, but rather as a tool to help them better do their job. For instance, in customer service, GenAI can handle routine inquiries, allowing the human agents to focus on complex and empathetic interactions where their expertise shines. Senior leaders should be shouting this from the rooftop! By making it clear that the technology is a tool designed to complement their work, not replace them, will immediately allay staff fears .
At the same time, if GenAI can help reduce the burden on the workforce, especially with mundane tasks, it doesn’t need to be seen as a negative. It could and often should be seen as an opportunity for staff to enhance their skills and services. Companies should look to invest in training and upskilling programs for employees that allow them to develop the skills to work alongside any systems put in place. By offering these opportunities, organisations will enable their workforce to adapt to the changing landscape and take on higher skilled, higher paid jobs.
The robots are here and while some of the hype is still premature, the indications are that it could be justified and industries, businesses and workforces across the world will be feeling either very optimistic or nervous. But it doesn’t need to be this way. People are at the heart of most industries and will likely continue to be. Business leaders need to make sure they understand this and through communication, clear policies, collaboration and training, we can build a future where GenAI benefits everyone.
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