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AI Empowers Employees, Not Just Companies – Here’s How Leaders Can Find More Internal Advocates

While many people fear the rise of a AI-enabled workplace will replace workers with machines, smart technology leaders know that utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning could benefit employees, not replace them. A recent study from MIT Sloan and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests AI tools can drive individuals to excel in their independence by helping them learn from past actions and the internal knowledge gathered, but scattered in the organisation. AI-enabled work environment can also help individuals deepen relationships with co-workers, customers, business partners and other stakeholders. AI helps automating workflows at previously unattainable scale and speed. It helps companies save time and money by making workers’ lives easier, allowing them to focus on more pressing tasks and enhancing the effectiveness of an organisation’s employee decision making.

How employees personally benefit from AI

Academic theory suggests that at work, people have three basic psychological needs: Autonomy, competence and relationships. Once fulfilled, these needs lead to greater self-motivation and employee wellbeing. By integrating AI tools with work applications, leaders can help employees narrow data noise, learn from past actions, project future outcomes, and make better decisions, faster. All this leads to employees becoming more autonomous, giving them room to focus on higher-level tasks and less managerial oversight.

A popular perception is that businesses generate value with AI at the expense of employees, but data paints a completely different picture. More so, that such technology could as well be called augmentative or assistive, rather than artificial, intelligence. Studies show that the technology benefits both companies and employees.

Only 7% of employees believe that they get little or no value from using A.I. but that their companies achieve value from it, according to the recent 2022 BCG – MIT SMR AI report.

In fact, as many as 64% of employees admit that they personally benefit from using AI in their jobs. And despite the widely held perception that AI makes employees feel redundant or inferior, a mere 8% complained that job satisfaction had fallen after using the technology.

Across industries, we find employees using AI and then feeling more competent in their roles, more autonomous in their actions, and more connected to their work, colleagues, partners, and customers.

BCG & MITSloan Management Review report

From hundreds of conversations we’ve been conducting with partners and clients utilising Untrite tools, we see the same pattern around benefits that Artificial Intelligence give both the company and its people.

One of our clients, a large manufacturer of complex products, is using AI to empower its engineers with know-how and tribal knowledge that was previously scattered across all systems. Solving complex client queries and problems used to be very expensive and take a long time.  Even knowing which sources may contain relevant information was not trivial. Further steps required specialised knowledge of both the machines and the layout of the document sources. Outside of siloed data, the challenge has been the very nature of human language. Because language is a very flexible thing and so do unstructured textual data, attempts of classifying, linking and putting structure around knowledge by utilising traditional tools resulted in failures.

By utilising AI for automating information gathering, company leaders enabled engineers to focus on problem-solving and connecting with the customer, rendering higher satisfaction from work as result. The benefits of using AI haven’t come at the expense of client’s people; its engineers haven’t become subservient to the technology. Au contraire, thanks to recursively learning technology, the engineers no longer have to comb through myriad documents to find data, and can now focus on more value-adding tasks, while resting assured that they have always most up to date, relevant information.

What does data say about financial returns from using AI?

AI helps employees gain autonomy and competence
AI helps employees gain autonomy and competence

According to BCG report, companies whose employees gain value by using AI are almost 6x as likely to generate significant financial returns from the technology than organisations that don’t. That begs a question – how can organisations ensure that it happens systematically?

Greater competence

AI helps employees become more competent by deepening their knowledge of the work they do, and by providing relevant recommendations from all available sources, so they make better decisions. It can also help people become more creative and explore new ideas. The report’s findings reinforce that relationship: Employees who use AI-based recommendations to improve their performance are nearly 1.8x as likely to derive value from it as those, who don’t.

More autonomy

Autonomy, generally speaking, has a psychological impact: How do I feel about the work I’m doing? Can I do it without someone micromanaging me? Can I do a certain amount of work on an independent basis? It allows employees to get into a flow state where they’re involved in the work and not having to deal with lots of interruptions. AI bolsters employees’ autonomy by providing data-based guidance and reducing the need for managerial oversight. From our experience, we see that AI can help employees learn from past actions, project future outcomes (e.g. in predictive machine maintenance), and suggest new approaches by utilising experience gathered e.g. in different department or function.

This could include an employee typing in a question and gettings results together with recommendations about who at the organisation is the expert on a certain topic and then connecting to them. Or, an employee could query the platform to find out how to complete a certain task. This comes up increasingly in a lot of different job categories, for example in field service or a frontline worker like a police officer. Field service technicians might be able to pull up a kind of technical drawing or some sort of reference, that tells them the steps that they should take. If a similar task has been solved in the past and is available in any form (e.g. as customer ticket or an email), an AI system easily find it and could pull it up for user as a reference. When trying to determine the next best action when they’re trying to fix some complex machinery, AI and automation are increasingly part of that picture. The tools are getting more sophisticated, and they can help you to understand what you should do next. A lot of these AI tools act like assistants. We always paint a picture to our clients, that utilising AI enabled tools in customer service is like having a work colleague who read all information available in the company, understands the links between those concepts (who is an expert here, what are the steps necessary to solve a problem etc.) and can readily present you with relevant information for the task at hand. Well designed AI systems provide automation that get woven into the workflows.

Stronger relationships

AI can strengthen the relationships between managers, coworkers, and customers because it improves the way people collaborate and share knowledge. As many as 56% of report’s respondents believe that using AI has led to improving their interactions with other team members. AI can also assist in building deeper customer relationships.

How to turn employees in the biggest AI internal advocates

Noticing opportunities and value any innovation or technology presents always comes down to encouragement and proper education by the leadership.

Raise awareness

Communicating the benefits of AI clearly and consistently to employees results in trigger employees’ use of AI, and ensure that the latter generate value from using the technology. Many employees use technological solutions that contain AI-based components without realising it. That can be a problem; data shows that employees who know they’re using AI are 1.6 times as likely to perceive value from it compared to those who don’t realize the fact. Organisations would do well to ensure that employees know they’re using the technology in their day-to-day work.

To increase employees’ awareness, signaling AI’s use is critical. Managers who lead by using the technology are 3.4 times as likely to boost employees’ AI usage than those who don’t. Perception is crucial, especially in the early stages. Treating AI as an opportunity at the pilot stage encourages employees to seek value by using the technology.

Boost understanding

Companies can nurture AI’s use over time by ensuring that employees understand the technology’s full potential, and the kinds of value they can extract from it. Recent adoption success of ChatGPT is a great example. Finally we reached an AI-tool that general public is excited about interacting – something that other AI-powered tech has largely failed to do so.Whether this is because of OpenAI’s open structure, or because ChatGPT value is versatile and compelling, who knows, probably both is correct. But this is great news for all cutting edge AI startups out there – Untrite included. Only in the last two weeks, we’ve had three partners asking us if our technology is using GPT or if it’s utilising similar models.
In the past, we’ve really struggled to pave the way in the conversation around potential of AI (NLP type) for customer experience. People’s most known point was usually RPA (Robotic Process Automation) or useless chatbots. Hence past experiences – not good. Thanks to ChatGPT, finally non-tech business people “just get it” that;

  • Modern AI can understand your natural human language, not limiting you to keywords
  • Users don’t need to know the exact keywords of what you’re looking for knowing,
  • Its potential is virtually limitless and so do use cases where tech like NLP, a AI-type can be applied to.

According to report, people who understand how to work with AI and can explain how it operates, are 1.7x as likely to derive individual value from AI, as those who don‘t. To speed adoption, leaders can provide training and education on AI for employees to understand its potential and capabilities. They can also encourage employees to experiment with AI and share their experiences by assuring that even failed experiments turn to valuable lessons that business can learn from.

Build trust

Creating a culture of innovation and encouraging employees to think creatively about how AI can be applied to their work helps building trust. Employees who don’t do so, will obviously be reluctant to use the technology. In fact, those who trust AI are 2x as likely to use it regularly as those who don’t, according to the survey. It’s worth noting that an AI tool a company aims to implement should be intuitive and very user friendly – the ability to understand AI’s recommendations often builds people’s trust; employees who can interpret the technology’s findings are almost 3x as likely to trust it as those who cannot.

Encourage AI’s use

As with every movement, early adopters are crucial for generating wider interest. Hence, leaders should start by identifying and partnering with those employees, who value innovation. These people can help identify potential use cases for AI within the organisation.

As with all new technologies, companies always face resistance with AI adoption at first, especially in terms of decision-making. Many employes feel overwhelmed with day to day tasks and may be reluctant to adding to their workload adoption of something completely new. Therefore, it’s really crucial to set up right incentives; recognise and reward employees who successfully implement AI solutions. Additionally, it can be a good idea to mandate the technology’s use, particularly in the early stages of adoption. Although it may seem draconian, insisting that employees use the technology triples the likelihood that they will do so regularly. Moreover, employees are 1.4x as likely to get value from AI when organisations require them to use AI, as when the latter don’t, suggesting that mandatory use still leads to individual value. However, managers should ensure that employees always have the freedom to make decisions; agency is critical for autonomy.

Autonomation contributes to employee’s digital journey

While digital transformation journeys are typically thought of in a company-wide context, individual’s digital journeys are just as important. By upskilling employees, leaders are giving their workers more digital freedom and autonomy. This ultimately leads to company-wide digital proficiency, an environment ripe for innovation.

Without AI, no human being could gather and analyse enough data to effectively do their job. Empowered with it, employees can get this data at lightning-fast speeds, leaving them more time to work on innovative and creative solutions for their companies. AI technologies also raise the average proficiency and competency of employees by capturing the knowledge and insights from an organisation and presenting it, in an easily understandable manner. Organisations are much more likely to generate value from AI when their employees are able to fulfill their psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relationships, as the 2022 BCG – MIT study shows. Contrary to conventional belief, AI actually strengthens relationship between an organisation and its people.

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