Change is certain. Getting it right isn’t. Whenever leaders introduce bold change, creating workforce desire and understanding are vital. Without these two things, any change investment will amount to nothing more than pushback and anxiety. Large-scale artificial intelligence models like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion are reshaping the workplace and world. A quick look at the Stanford University AI index provides several data points confirming the rapid expansion of AI and its broad implications. There are many reasons for excitement and concern. Navigating your company’s introduction to AI well could ensure growth in the future. But, poorly navigating the workforce transformation could cost your company significantly. No pressure, right? Here are three steps toward getting the people side of your company's AI deployment right.
Why your AI workforce introduction matters
A new workplace relationship between employees and machines is being created through AI. The value of AI comes from automating and augmenting the way work gets done.
The changes created by AI range from enhancing the image from your iPhone camera to using AI to rebuild our trust in the internet by exposing deep fake images and videos. AI is being used in healthcare to improve the prediction of future medical issues in patients to save lives by bringing AI in behind humans to make them better at what matters most.
Some of the many ways different business functions could begin utilizing generative AI in the workplace now are:
Marketing and sales functions - writing sales copy and creating product user guides.
Operations - improving customer service and identifying production errors and defects.
Engineering - writing code and generating data tables with contextual information.
Legal - drafting legal documents and answering questions from large amounts of legal documentation.
Human Resources - creating interview questions for candidate assessment and self-serve support.
Communications - creating presentations and employee communications.
The introduction of AI in the workplace is resulting in new jobs. Have you heard about the new hot tech job, AI Prompt Engineer, that can pay up to $335,000 annually without an engineering degree? This position helps companies build context around their AI language model by understanding user needs and creating custom prompts that improve the user experience.
Given these benefits, there are reasons for excitement but also for concern. A recent global survey revealed that only 35% of respondents in the US agree that products and services using AI have more benefits than drawbacks. There is a growing interest and concern with ethics associated with AI models. Also, there are fears that job automation will worsen job loss and income inequality.
Deploying artificial intelligence has the potential to dramatically transform your company with improved results and harm it if the workforce introduction is not handled well. Whether it is the visible impact of an unanticipated departure of an employee or the more devastating hidden impact of a disengaged employee collecting a paycheck and creating problems in the organization. With today’s highly competitive employee-driven market, you cannot afford to make a mistake that negatively impacts your employment value proposition.
Here are three practical steps you can take to get your company’s people side of AI-related change started off right:
Workforce AI Introduction Step 1: Create a vision statement for AI in your company.
Starting with the end in mind is a significant first step. Get ahead of questions and concerns with transparency and authenticity. Update your company vision. An ideal future state for your organization should include improved results and relationships. Change is an opportunity for the growth of your business and team. As a leader, establishing a shared vision of a bold future is vital. Here is an example from Microsoft on how they cast a balanced vision for AI:
Microsoft is a technology company whose mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We strive to create local opportunity, growth, and impact in every country around the world. Our strategy is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with artificial intelligence.
Workforce Introduction Step 2: Engage your employees in meaningful conversations about AI.
Being guarded promotes distrust. Start the AI conversation with employees. Plan a team meeting with company leadership to discuss:
What is AI?
What does the future of AI look like?
What is the potential company use and vision for AI?
In this meeting, listen to both verbal and nonverbal communication. Your goal is to uncover the differences, commonalities, hopes, and fears of your team. These meetings are the beginning of a dialogue that engages those impacted by the change in the discussion on the change; toward that bold future. To follow up on these meetings, capture the conversation and share key points. Likely these conversations will identify future topics.
Most likely, you won't feel fully prepared with having all the information wanted or needed to have this conversation. Although leaders are expected to convey an image of competence, confidence, and power, followers already know you are not perfect. Being vulnerable as a leader requires courage. Vulnerability in the workplace enhances trust, collaboration, innovation, employee retention, and a feeling of connection that improves the quality of leader-follower relationships and employee performance.
The following short video from Simon Sinek expands on the tension leaders face and how to show vulnerability in the workplace as a leader.
Workforce Introduction Step 3: Conduct a strategic workforce planning session.
One way to rise above the talent challenge is with workforce planning. Identify the roles that will be strategic, operational, and supporting for introducing AI to your company. Next, consider the various roles and needs to identify what talent you can develop internally and what expertise you will need to attract into your company. Lastly, based on the gap and competencies required to grow internally, develop a plan for employee development according to the different roles.
Demand for AI-related skills is growing fast. Labor analytic data revealed that AI job postings increased significantly in the US, especially in California, Texas, and New York. Employers in the US are increasingly looking for workers with AI skills. Every industry (except one) increased AI-related postings year over year, even those that are not directly associated with AI. Every AI-related skill category grew in 2022, with Python being the most requested AI skill. Projections are that 97 million jobs involving AI will be created in the next three years.
The discovery of fire by Neanderthals was life-giving. The control of fire was the cultural turning point that led to life-altering innovation. Likewise, today, the invention of AI is giving life to new organizations and jobs. The future of AI is controlling its deployment and introduction in your company.
What's your real workforce AI deployment challenge?
Beckett, E. (2023). The 2023 Stanford AI Index: Demand for AI skills continues climbing.
Chui, E, Roberts, R., and Yee, L. (2022). Generative AI is here: How tools like ChatGPT could change your business. McKinsey.
Edelman. (2022). Trust in technology.
Gebrekal, T. (2022). What worries the world. IPSOS.
Maslej, N., Fattorini, N., Brynjolfsson, E., Etchemendy, J., Ligett, K., Lyons, T., Manyika, J., Ngo, H., Niebles, J., Parli, V., Shoham, Y., Wald, R., Clark, J., and Perrault, R. (2023). The AI Index 2023 Annual Report. The Institute for Human-Centered AI, Stanford University.