Although its introduction into the workplace is fairly recent, artificial intelligence (AI) has already become a hot topic of conversation.
As a reaction to alarmist news headlines about “robots taking over” that tend to dominate the discussion, many employees fear for their job security and worry that they will be replaced by AI. Other employees may instead fear the unknown and resist the change associated with the adoption of new technology.
As we’ll discuss, there’s no need for employees to dread AI. Nor should companies delay in addressing the issue and figuring out how they will approach AI and integrate it within their operations – workplace AI is everywhere and will play a large role in the future of work.
Instead, employees who adapt well to AI will enjoy more opportunities and job security. Companies that embrace AI responsibly and thoughtfully will have a competitive edge.
What is AI?
Essentially, AI is any type of technology that can perform tasks that were previously the exclusive domain of human intelligence, such as:
- Processing large amounts of data
- Synthesizing information
- Recognizing patterns and trends
- Solving complex problems
- Interpreting speech
- Answering questions
- Making decisions
- Recommending actions
AI can take the form of everything from software programs to sensors, algorithms, analytics, machine learning, virtual assistance, robotics, generative AI (also known as chatbots) and more.
In fact, some of the most common AI tools used in the workplace right now are these chatbots:
- OpenAI ChatGPT
- Microsoft Bing Chat
- Google Bard
Based on a user prompt, these chatbot tools automatically provide detailed answers to questions or produce content representing all media, including text, images, audio and video.
Workplace AI can be leveraged in many different types of applications, including:
- Assisting with research on diverse topics
- Writing any type of copy, from articles to social media posts
- Generating responses to emails or chats on collaborative platforms
- Serving as an office assistant (for example, setting reminders, reading emails aloud or scheduling meetings)
- Finding company information or documentation quickly
- Translating company materials into different languages
- Transcribing meeting notes and extracting key points of information into concise summaries
- Conducting analysis
- Scenario modeling
Human resources (HR) and AI
HR is one company function in which AI use is highly prevalent – and has been for some time.
How so? For example:
- Recruiters can enlist AI to screen resumes to flag certain candidate attributes in a more objective way, thereby aiding with blind hiring and procuring a more diverse workforce.
- Applicant tracking systems automatically manage candidates throughout the recruitment process.
- Much of the onboarding process, from paperwork to benefits selection, can be fully automated.
- AI can support learning and development initiatives by identifying knowledge gaps, tailoring content based on certain factors and collecting data on results and effectiveness.
- AI can manage digital employee records and track employee data.
- Virtual chatbots can act as customer service representatives in helping employees with everyday questions and needs.
Moreover, people analytics – the practice of collecting HR and organizational data and converting it into actionable intelligence – is becoming increasingly advanced. This information can be used to create and support organizational strategy, make hiring decisions, identify potential problems and future-proof the workforce. AI has a huge impact on the sophistication and precision of a company’s analytics efforts.
A plethora of HR technology exists to enable these efforts.
Pros of AI
Given everything that AI can do, it’s no wonder that it offers businesses many important benefits:
- Optimizes the efficiency of work processes – in some cases, automating processes entirely
- Improves decision-making
- Saves personnel time
- Increases productivity
- Frees employees to focus less on simple, basic tasks and more on complex, impactful or income-producing activities
- Enhances communication and collaboration
- Boosts creativity
- Reduces human error
- Conserves costs, in some cases
In today’s highly competitive job market, all these benefits can be directly linked to a better employee experience, higher morale and engagement among the workforce and prolonged retention.
Despite all the positive impacts that AI can have in the workplace, employers still need to exercise caution about AI’s potential limitations and risks, especially as it relates to the exploding popularity of generative AI, such as ChatGPT.
Although AI-produced content can look and sound impressive, it still needs human oversight to confirm accuracy and quality. The output is only as good as the user’s input into the AI database. (The well-known phrase “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind.) Additionally, the frequency of updates and currency of information within the AI database can influence the outcome.
When writing company policy or creating any documentation with legal ramifications, it’s important to ensure that all information obtained from an AI tool is accurate and up to date – otherwise, it could expose your company to liability.
Additionally, AI tools can be used inappropriately or in such a way that a company could become vulnerable to legal action. For example, we discussed previously how HR recruiters have leveraged AI to help screen job candidates. In some cases, such AI tools can have their own built-in biases and even contradict diversity, equity and inclusion policies – and, as a result, may expose the company to discriminatory hiring practices.
Security of proprietary information and intellectual property
In allowing their employees to leverage generative AI, employers must ensure two things:
- Confidential company information will not be uploaded to an AI database and then leaked to the outside world.
- The AI tool does not use confidential information from third parties that could result in the inadvertent theft of intellectual property or copyrighted information.
Here’s what your business needs to do to facilitate a smooth implementation of AI into the workplace.
Your company needs a written AI policy in your employee handbook so that your employees understand your position on AI and the parameters on its use in the workplace.
Any AI policy should cover:
- Overview of the types of work activities that may incorporate AI assistance
- Who has access to AI tools, including requirements for company approval for any employee to use a specific AI tool
- Explanation of content that is appropriate to upload to AI databases, along with a prohibition against uploading or sharing confidential or proprietary information without company approval
- Process for confirming that an AI tool does not use confidential or copyrighted information of a third party
- Rules against employees granting access to AI tools approved for business use to outside parties, such as sharing log-in credentials
- Security best practices
- Penalties for noncompliance
Communication with employees
Remember those employees who feel threatened by AI? You’ll need to engage with these employees to get them on board.
By now, it should be clear that AI complements the work of employees rather than replacing them outright. Explain to them that AI is simply a tool to:
- Make employees’ jobs easier and more efficient
- Eliminate tedious, less enjoyable tasks from their day – or, at least, significantly cut back on time dedicated to those activities
- Improve their overall employee experience
AI will likely always need human intelligence and oversight to ensure accuracy – and this could actually create a whole new genre of jobs!
Deploy software-monitoring tools, if your company has not already done so. As of now, there is no foolproof way to monitor your employees’ use of AI tools – or determine whether they have even used AI – in the workplace without them.
Many companies do have software-monitoring tools and security measures, such as firewalls, in place. For these organizations, it’s just a matter of refining the parameters to block access to undesirable AI sites on company equipment.
AI is in its early stages, and there can be a steep learning curve for some employees who are unfamiliar with it.
A solid understanding of how to use AI is critical for maximizing its potential for your business. For example, a worthy training topic could be how to obtain the best results from generative AI.
Lots of information on how to use various AI tools is available on the internet, but many companies will start producing and consolidating this content on their own learning platforms to:
- Ensure consistency in messaging
- Reinforce guidelines for AI use
- Better respond to company-specific challenges
- Align with company policies
Summing it all up
AI may be new, but even within a short period of time it’s become clear that use of AI will only continue to grow. It is the future of work, and both employers and employees must understand how to leverage it to their advantage to work most efficiently and stay competitive.
AI isn’t here to steal anyone’s job – it simply comprises a wide variety of tools that can help people do their jobs better and gain extra time in their day for more meaningful work. Its benefits are abundant. But it’s important to maintain awareness of false or outdated information within AI databases, which could tarnish your company’s reputation or even expose you to legal liability, and prevent leaks of intellectual property or proprietary information. To maximize AI’s benefits, have a policy in place to govern AI use at the workplace, deploy software-monitoring tools and offer AI training to employees.
To learn more about incorporating the latest technology into your business operations, download the Insperity e-book HR technology: How to choose the best platform for your business.