The rise of Generative AI (GenAI) is making waves across the globe. Since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in 2022, everyone from the media through to academics has been discussing what the future holds as the technology grows and develops, and who will benefit or lose from it.
Some of the discussions in the media and reports that have been published can feel a bit overstated. However, from what we’ve seen so far it’s difficult not to agree that GenAI is only going to become more and more prominent and impact most industries. Some will see this as a good thing, others as bad, and your view is likely to depend on your position within your organisation. If you sit as part of senior leadership, GenAI is probably going to be seen positively for the most part, largely thanks to its ability to make things more streamlined and more efficient.
On the other hand, the wider workforce will most see GenAI as a threat to their jobs. This is because of the technology’s ability to replicate, and in some cases replace, a wide range of different roles. For example, HR professionals, which exist in most if not all businesses, may feel under threat from the implementation of chatbots. This is because these sophisticated tools have the ability to analyse policy documents and respond to staff requests like they do. Also, GenAI platforms which can respond to help desk tickets and enquiries could leave many customer service teams feeling very concerned about the future of their roles.
As GenAI’s implementation increasingly becomes the norm, businesses must be able to walk a tightrope between putting the technology in place and addressing the concerns of staff. And this is how I believe they can do it.
Senior leadership teams and the wider workforce can often feel quite detached from one-another, particularly when it comes to communicating business decisions. If decision makers want to get buy-in on implementing GenAI and provide staff with confidence, this has to change.
Organisations need to be engaging regularly and consistently with their employees when it comes to AI. They must keep them up to date on what is happening, why, and how it could affect them directly. At the same time, they also need to show that they are listening, putting in place avenues for the workforce to be able to voice their concerns. This will not only help allay some of the fears in the workforce, it will also allow senior leaders to get a better understanding of how to put GenAI in place in a way that produces the best results to the workforce and the business, benefiting everyone.
Communication is an effective start, but employees will also want to see decision makers taking action. At this stage, establishing clear workplace policies is vital. Organisations need to put in place clear, transparent GenAI regulations and guidelines that set out how the technology should and will be used across the organisation. These should include how AI will be implemented, ethical considerations, and safeguards against misuse.
Establishing these policies and sharing them with staff will demonstrate transparency within a business and build trust. At the same time, it will give the workforce confidence that the technology will be used in the right way and in aid of them, not against them..
In many cases, GenAI will not be used as a replacement for the workforce, but instead as a tool that helps them in their day-to-day activities. Going back to my customer service example, GenAI can manage often time consuming general inquiries, allowing employees to focus on more challenging interactions and to use their skills where they are needed most. If GenAI implementation is going to get buy-in from staff, decision makers need to be highlighting this as much as they possibly can.
As well as this, GenAI taking the pressures of generic tasks away from the workforce gives them more time to undertake training to enhance their skills and abilities. Businesses should be investing in upskilling programs for their staff which allows them to develop new skills. By offering these opportunities, firms can help their workforce to adapt to the changing landscape and take on higher skilled, better paid roles.
GenAI is here and all, the signs indicate its presence is only going to become more prominent. Industries and workforces everywhere are becoming aware of this and are either seeing it as an opportunity, or a threat. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. People are the lifeblood of most organisations and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Decision makers need to ensure they know this and through communication, clear policies, collaboration and training, we can build a future where GenAI benefits everyone.