AI in The Workplace: How it Impacts Your Organisation and The Well-Being of Your Employees

7 Jul ‘23
9 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Gecontroleerd door Psychologist Britt Slief
AI in the workplace
You can’t ignore it anymore: AI. Since ChatGPT’s launch in late 2022, everyone has been talking about AI. Organisations that have yet to use it risk lagging behind competitors. It’s undeniable that AI technology will significantly impact the future of our work, but much uncertainty remains.

 

According to BCG’s latest survey, 39% of employees are worried about the development of artificial intelligence. After all, can you use AI safely and responsibly? Are jobs going to disappear? And what about bias, accountability, and regulation?

 

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of AI on your organisation and how to properly manage its opportunities and risks to protect the well-being of your employees.

 

The rise of AI in the workplace

 

What is AI? In a nutshell, artificial intelligence involves a machine performing complex tasks usually done by a human. These can include administrative tasks, analysing data, reasoning, and learning. But increasingly, generative AI also performs creative work – like writing an email with ChatGPT.

 

The reason behind the name ‘intelligent’ is that AI is self-learning. The more data you feed it, the wiser the technology gets.

 

The use of AI technology has skyrocketed in recent years. According to research by Boston Consulting Group, as recently as 2018, 22% of companies worldwide were using AI. By early 2023, that number had doubled to 50% of companies surveyed.

 

The benefits of AI for your organisation

 

The growth in the professional use of artificial intelligence is not surprising because of the many business benefits AI brings to the table.

 

AI’s most significant value lies in its ability to automate many processes. And that, in turn, leads to greater efficiency and significant financial gains. For instance, artificial intelligence could generate $15.7 trillion for the global economy between now and 2030, according to PwC.

 

Delving deeper into the economic benefits, we can discover three positive outcomes of AI:

 

  1. Innovation: AI enables many new ways of working (and living), especially when combined with algorithms.
  2. Higher productivity: By automating manual and routine tasks, machines can perform faster, error-free, and operate 24/7.
  3. Rapid data analysis: This can massively help with organisational decision-making.

 

Artificial intelligence has enabled many innovative business models that have become part of our daily lives, like the virtual assistant on your smartphone or a Chatbot that partly digitises customer service.

 

AI technology can process an enormous amount of information simultaneously – much more than a human could ever independently analyse in a lifetime. This information processing helps IT companies or other departments working with large amounts of data to build models and predict trends based on that data.

 

Retail or consumer goods companies are also using AI efficiently to enhance customer experience with personalised product recommendations. Just think of the intelligent algorithms behind the ads you see on Google, Linkedin, or Instagram, perfectly curated to your shopping preferences.

 

Artificial intelligence is also increasingly used in HR. It can make manual tasks more efficient – from payroll and screening CVs for recruitment to reviewing video job applications.

 

The risks you need to be aware of

 

AI’s return on investment is clear. Streamlining processes can save companies time, resources, and money.

 

But there is, undeniably, another side of the AI coin.

 

One of the risks of AI is that it is not inclusive. In 2018, AI was in the news for being biassed when assessing CVs for job applications at Amazon, which disadvantaged female applicants. And even in 2020, facial recognition technology from Microsoft and IBM still had a bias: it recognised the faces of Caucasian males better.

 

Other significant risks in using AI technology include:

 

1. Bias and inclusiveness

 

AI only gives output based on the data we feed it. It can only innovate up to the input it receives.

 

Therefore, one of the dangers of AI technology is that it can have biases,  prejudices, and even give discriminatory results.

 

If you give AI biassed or non-diverse data as input, such as more data on one gender or skin colour, the output will also be biassed. It is best practice to avoid bias by using diverse data and regularly conducting a human check on the results of AI or the rules behind an algorithm.

 

2. Privacy and data security

 

AI and algorithms operate on vast amounts of data. And the question is whether every AI technology handles data equally. For instance, to use ChatGPT, you must create an account, and the chatbot stores all your searches.

 

Ensure you don’t just use customers’ or employees’ personal data for AI; always ask permission. And also, check the technology’s privacy policy – for example, whether data will be shared with other parties.

 

3. Transparency and accountability

 

Many AI-driven models make predictions or give answers without explaining the logic behind them. Have you ever submitted a question to ChatGPT? If so, you won’t get a source statement with the answer.

 

The machine gives the conclusion without clarifying what sources, evidence, and thought process it followed. This is a crucial issue if you are using AI to make decisions – for example, about a candidate’s suitability in recruitment or for diagnosing in healthcare.

 

4. Loss of human interaction

 

One risk of automation is that it results in less and less human interaction. And, in an era of rapid technological development, we have a greater need for social contact than ever.

 

Psychologist Britt explains: “Social health has a major impact on our quality of life. As humans, we need sufficient social contact for our well-being. As shown in study after study, good relationships are the biggest predictor of happiness.”

 

So if you want to use AI more often in your organisation, it is crucial to think carefully about how you want to maintain human contact.

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Impact of AI on your employees: concerns and uncertainty

 

AI undeniably brings benefits and risks to society and organisations. But what is the impact on your people?

 

There is a significant difference in attitudes towards artificial intelligence between managers and directors on the one hand and employees on the other. Boston Consulting Group’s research shows that 39% of employees are concerned about the rise of AI versus  22% of management. And employees, on average, are also much less optimistic about AI than executives: 42% versus 62%.

 

Fewer jobs? 

 

Being aware of your employees’ AI concerns is essential.

 

The biggest employee concern right now is that AI will lead to a loss of jobs, with jobs that humans currently perform being replaced by technology.

 

This concern about job security is not surprising. The latest studies from the European Parliament predict that 14% of current jobs in OECD countries could be fully automated.

 

But on the other hand, most researchers agree that AI will eventually create more jobs than it will cost. For example, the World Economic Forum predicted that artificial intelligence will create 97 million new jobs in the long term: over 10 million more will disappear.

 

Or other jobs? 

 

Whether jobs disappear or not – does not take away from the fact that AI will permanently change our work landscape. According to the OECD, 44% of jobs will change partially or entirely due to technological developments in the coming years.

 

The jobs that machines will take over will primarily be administration work and factory work.

 

AI can supplement work rather than completely replace it. More time will be left for tasks to which a human can add value, such as creative work, problem-solving, and collaboration.

 

In other words – the work of the future makes greater demands on your people’s ‘soft skills,’ such as:

 

  • emotional intelligence
  • leadership qualities
  • creative and strategic thinking
  • problem-solving skills

 

On one hand, the above are optimistic expectations. On the other hand, for jobs that can be highly automated, technology certainly poses an immediate risk. People doing administration or production work will likely be retrained in the coming decades.

 

And there is also evidence that in many occupations, replacing tasks with technology may lead to lower job satisfaction and fulfilment.

 

So how do we ensure that the work of the future remains useful, challenging, and satisfying?

The following are questions you can ask yourself as an employer:

 

  • How will AI change or complement the jobs in our organisation?
  • Will we let employees perform more human tasks or collaborate more with machines? 
  • How do we ensure that work remains satisfying?
  • If many tasks can be automated, what will replace them? A shorter working week, interpersonal skills training, mindfulness, volunteering?

How to protect the well-being of your employees amidst AI developments

 

Precisely what the jobs of the future will look like, nobody knows. Fortunately, as an employer, you can take steps to support your employees in their uncertainty and concerns about AI.

 

Because from a broader perspective, the rise of AI is one of many developments in our fast-changing work environment. Resilience and a healthy work culture are essential to help people cope with modern workplace changes.

 

Below are three strategies to foster a resilient, transparent work environment – so you can reassure your employees about the development of AI as well as prepare them for it:

 

1. Be transparent 

 

The most crucial aspect of the AI conversation is transparency: communicate openly about using AI technology in your organisation and actively ask about their attitudes or concerns about AI.

 

If you have a strategy for AI, share it with every employee in the organisation. Or if you want to use technology for HR, e.g., to analyse employee surveys, ask for permission in advance.

 

2. Upskilling: educate everyone about AI

 

What plays a significant role in employee concerns about AI is the fear of the unknown.

 

We mentioned earlier that, on average, employees are more anxious and less optimistic about the rise of AI than management. A difference in knowledge also plays into this. For instance, 60% of employees on the floor have never used AI technology, while 80% of top management use it regularly.

 

“Many people do not know exactly what AI means and what you can use it for. So invest in upskilling your employees,” explains psychologist Britt.

 

Ensure employees learn how to use AI and develop new skills to do their jobs well in the future. For example, provide internal training on using ChatGPT safely, offer external courses, or organise an AI working group.

 

3. Implement responsible policies

 

If you already use AI-driven processes in your organisation, ensure you have policies implemented for the responsible use of AI.

 

Responsible policies include information on the following:

 

  • who is responsible for AI-driven decisions
  • controls on the risks of AI (such as security)
  • strategies to counter bias encountered when using AI 

 

Ride the AI wave: cultivate resilience in the workplace

 

The rise of AI is this century’s most significant and impactful technological development.

 

It offers enormous opportunities for your organisation. But because it also brings many risks and uncertainties, AI can cause anxiety among your employees.

 

If you want to deal with it effectively, embrace AI and learn to use it to your advantage rather than resisting it. Cultivate a corporate culture of trust and resilience where you prepare employees for change.

 

Want to cultivate more resilience among your employees? Our psychologists are already helping more than 1100 organisations become more resilient. Discover our solutions for the mental well-being of your employees.

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