As exciting as generative AI may be in reimagining work, its potential can only be realized by the people who use it. Achieving that potential also rests in expanding the capability that we each have inherently with new tools, with better-connected insights, and with rapid delivery of them, while not losing our humanity in the process.
This embrace of new technologies should be considered part of a constant state of digital transformation, whose chances for success are tied closely to how well the emotional and rational concerns of employees are addressed and respected. A more thoughtful approach to generative AI integration can lead to more positive influence on the overall employee experience.
All employees are influenced by their use of technologies in their personal lives — ecommerce, consumer interaction, access to information — that creates an expectation in the workplace, and that expectation can differ drastically between generations. Younger employees are more comfortable blending their physical and digital lives, seamlessly shifting between interactions and activities online and in-person without as much of a separation of the two. This combined with Gen Z placing a high value on authenticity, transparency and integrity (via ey.com US) in their interactions presents an important consideration for generative AI’s implementation and influence on talent retention and attraction.
All of this points to the fact there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to technology adoption. Younger employees may be afforded more AI-enabled self-services, for example, while more training and effort at acclimation might be offered for employees less comfortable with new tools.
Technology ultimately has a major role to play in how we think about ourselves and operate in the workplace and outside of it, and balancing our tendencies and needs in a thoughtful way will promote an employee experience that attracts and retains valuable employees. The EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey shows just 17% of employees and 22% of employers are prioritizing training in generative AI-related skills in 2023, ranking far below a desire for better training to improve remote working skills and tools, the top priority for both employees (41%) and employers (52%). Even if the skills focus now is more on improving the overall experience of work, increased deployment of generative AI tools will increase the need for people to be able to use it.
Organizations should consider approaching generative AI with a balance of appreciation for its role in a comprehensive workforce strategy, and awareness of the potential challenges which may be ahead. Here are four areas of focus:
Assess how generative AI can empower your people
It’s important to understand how generative AI might best fit within your organization, and how that implementation might create opportunities and risks for your operations and people strategy. Generative AI tools can create first drafts of interpretive reports or analysis, saving time and energy for employees to focus on final assessments and steps forward. Generative AI can play a similar role for organization-wide talent considerations, influencing talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, learning and skills development, and more.
Explore potential risks and security concerns
Any implementation of a powerful technology like generative AI creates the potential for risks that should be considered and mitigated. These risks can be directly related to the technology itself, for example having appropriate regulatory, compliance, cybersecurity and privacy guardrails in place for generative AI tools to access disparate data sources. Processes should also be created to account for accuracy and reliability concerns with generative AI outputs. Risks may also stem from how well integrated generative AI systems are in countering bias and reflecting your organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy. Similarly, organizations should gauge potential resistance to generative AI from employees, and assess what further actions may help support positive organizational culture.
Consider size, scope and cost
Generative AI systems can be bespoke, requiring a decision of which model of generative AI is fit for purpose. This includes evaluating performance and cost trade-offs with considerations related to potential talent-related benefits. Organizations also need to evaluate their current and future knowledge-based infrastructure considerations for using generative AI tools, and design and build the large language model to enable the system. Part of this assessment phase can include the exploration of potential industry partnerships and alliances.
Chart the path forward with people at the center
Technology’s effectiveness ultimately depends on how people use it. Organizations should develop a comprehensive roadmap for how your people will be trained to use new tools in a way that helps them feel empowered to focus on higher value tasks. Implementing metrics that measure workforce sentiment tied to confidence in and adoption of the new technology, will help organizations adjust their strategy as necessary through the digital transformation.