As we in HR know, AI is more than just a topic Common raps about in Microsoft commercials. Ready or not, it’s the future of work — and it’s coming quicker than we think.
So how can your organization adopt and embrace AI solutions while also making sure that these technological imperatives don’t overwhelm your people or your bottom line? For the answers we turned to Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an AI advisory and research firm that’s best known for its training series AI 4 HR.
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Do Your Research
Even if we’re already living in an AI-driven future, it doesn’t mean your organization should rush to embrace all of the latest and greatest tools.
Meister cautions that just as organizations need to think methodically about the solutions AI can offer them, they need to do the same as they select the tools they’ll work with. She says organizations need to take their time researching vendors, especially their financial viability. With so many startups out there, finding a partner that will survive long term is especially important. “With the buzz, there’s a lot of venture capital dollars,” Meister says.
Organizations also have to do a deep dive on the algorithms their partners will be implementing. Meister uses the example of the promise AI has shown in eliminating bias in talent assessment. Organizations need to understand how the algorithms work, because there’s always the possibility that an algorithm may introduce more bias.
This research is just part of the process, Meister says. You’ll have to experiment and test to get things right, and you can only do that if you truly understand how your new tool works.
How to Keep Work Human
Becoming more reliant on technology in the workplace leads to the question “How can we keep our workplaces more human?” Meister says there are two critical things organizations can do to ensure that they don’t lose that essential human touch.
First, make sure to upscale key roles that are affected by AI, and that you’re figuring out new ways for workers to bring greater value to the organization. “McKinsey had an interesting prediction that said that 30% of all the activities and about 60% of all occupations could be automated,” Meister says. “Think of this — if 30% of the role of recruiting specialists or coordinator could be automated, that individual should be upscaled so that they can deliver more value to the organization.” After all, she says, it’s the humans who are handing out job offers.
Second, be more transparent in communicating your AI strategy to employees. “There’s fear,” Meister says. “You’re going to be asking yourself, ‘What does it mean for my job and the other jobs on my team?’ ” One way to better conduct yourself during this period of change is to create a corporate code of conduct for how you’re going to use AI. This will help employees understand organizational goals — and how their jobs will change.
What Happens When Workers Automate Themselves?
Yes, you read that correctly! For all of the fear surrounding AI, there are some who’ve taken it upon themselves to automate their jobs. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that Meister recently wrote about in Forbes.
The concept of self-automation throws off our expectations around implementing AI in organizational settings; AI is typically instituted from the top down. But self-automation is happening more than you think, particularly with programmers in IT departments, and Meister says it’s a trend that’s only going to continue. But it leads to other questions: What exactly should an employer do? Is this an ethical breach for an employee?
If you discover employees automating their jobs, Meister says not to react angrily. “If an employee is self-automating their job, we have to reward their agility and their curiosity for hacking how their job gets done,” Meister says. In fact, she says, this is a sign of enthusiasm — for a desire to get tasks done and also to think about completing these tasks in a creative way.
Now, is self-automation a skill for the future? That’s a question for another episode.