AI in the workplace: a blessing, not a curse

Peter is responsible for providing expertise to Kronos customers by helping them manage their most valuable resource: their employees. When Harte moved from the Kronos Australia office to the Kronos UK office in 2018, he brought with him his passion for workforce management strategy, an infectious sense of humour, and a people-focused understanding that employees who feel excited about their work are the ones who will drive exceptional customer service and business success.

Artificial intelligence is beginning to permeate many aspects of our daily lives – it’s embedded into apps on our smartphones, leading the charge in entertainment, it’s helped to modernise industries such as manufacturing and the supply chain, and it’s promising to make a big difference in the world of medicine.

At its core, AI has a huge amount of potential to improve the way people work: think automating cumbersome processes, or helping employees be more efficient by balancing workloads and suggesting best-fit schedules. In effect, if it is leveraged in the right way, it can be instrumental in improving both an organisation’s bottom line and engagement of its workers.

Though there is some scepticism around AI in the workplace, I think it’s all in how you view it – can humans and machines coexist? Let’s take a look.

AI on the rise

AI has come a long way since its early days, when it was relegated largely to academic circles or the realm of science fiction. It’s now very much at the forefront, being used to make shift and holiday scheduling much less of a headache for employees, as a tool to transform marketing and customer service by analysing initial requests to match with the best human employee to carry out the task, and even as a pioneering technology in the world of data analytics to dive deep into data lakes much too cumbersome for a human, and bringing patterns and insights to the forefront.

These roles that AI is assuming alongside employees is being met with mixed reviews. According to a survey carried out by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, 92 percent of U.K. employees recognise that AI can make their lives easier by helping them improve the way they work. Alongside this, 68 percent said that they would be in favour of embracing AI if it helped them to better balance their workloads or increase fairness in subjective decisions.

So far, so good. But employees have concerns too.

Progress to be made

Digging a little deeper, 62 percent of respondents say that their employer has not yet shared details of plans to introduce AI with them. This lack of transparency can understandably lead to some workers fearing that their jobs are set to be replaced by so-called ‘better alternatives’.

However, there’s no need for this to be the case. There is a clear opportunity for leaders to be more transparent and communicative with their employees about the applications of AI and, specifically, how it can be hugely influential in making their lives easier and freeing up their time to focus on creativity and innovation. This point is again highlighted by the research: 63 percent of respondents said that they would be more comfortable with the introduction of AI if their employer were more open about how it will affect their roles.

A HR challenge, not just a technology one

Employees generally recognise that there’s potential in AI, but tackling any remaining suspicions is about focusing on the HR aspect of AI implementation, as well as the technological permutations. An organisation is only as strong as its people, so their well-being should be a close consideration whenever any change to the business is introduced.

This means that managers and leadership teams need to be as transparent as possible about how the technology will work, how they will work with the technology, and place special emphasis on its virtues and underlining how each person’s role will or will not change.

People innovate, technology facilitates

In any industry, it will always be people who contribute the innovative thought that will drive an organisation forward – with technology then being a tool through which this innovation will be facilitated. AI is no different in this respect: it will play a pivotal role in the workplace of the future, but its potential can only be maximised when it is used in tandem with the creative flair that human staff provide.

If managers and business leaders can communicate this message to their employees effectively, AI will be welcomed with open arms and its promise will be fulfilled.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and their use cases? Attend the co-located AI & Big Data Expo events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam to learn more. Co-located with the IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo.

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