In this segment of “Office Optional with Larry English,” Larry discusses how AI is going to affect your company culture.
Every business will be impacted by AI and will have AI incorporated throughout its operations. Your company’s culture will impact how quickly and successfully an organization can adopt AI. And, done well, AI can actually improve company culture.
How Can AI Boost Company Culture?
An MIT working paper showed ChatGPT raised productivity, decreased inequality between workers by helping employees with fewer specialized skills, and enhanced job satisfaction and self-efficacy. It also brought about both concern and excitement related to the use of AI technologies.
Among MIT survey respondents who implemented AI and saw improved efficiency and decision making, “75 percent also saw improvements in team morale, collaboration and collective learning,” it said. “Culture change from using AI transcends the legitimate, but myopic, promise that AI will liberate workers from drudgery.”
AI’s high level of refinement means it can enhance the performance of individuals and teams, streamline workflows, and even complete some tasks that enable employees to focus on more meaningful work.
Once mundane careers can now be exciting, as employees can work more efficiently and branch into other areas they may have never had the opportunity to explore. As this becomes the reality at an organization, employees can feel empowered to perform work that increases business value with creative and innovative solutions.
Recently, Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist based at Stanford University, and MIT economists Danielle Li and Lindsey R. Raymond published a working paper, “Generative AI at Work,” that showed the effects of AI on a software company that implemented it to aid in its customer service responses.
Among its findings were that access to the tool increased employee productivity by an average of 14 percent and that customers and employees were happier. On the customer side, customer ratings of support staff increased, and customers were less likely to elevate the request to a supervisor. On the company side, new-hire turnover decreased, and lower-skilled employees with fewer specialized skills saw a jump in their performance. This improvement can be, at least partially, credited to the AI tool using successful conversations to create answers for other questions.
“It used to be that high-skilled workers would come up with a good answer, and that would only help them and their customer,” Brynjolfsson told NPR. “Now that good answer gets amplified and used by people throughout the organization.”
Determining Your Culture’s Readiness for AI
“Business culture affects AI deployments, and AI deployments affect business culture,” the MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Ideas Research Report said. To realize these benefits, though, leaders must build a culture that supports AI implementation and the changes that come along with any new innovation.
Every company will have its own cultural nuances in implementing a controversial and somewhat unpredictable technology. Everything from the nature of work for an organization to employee demographics and the IT security infrastructure in place will play a role in how AI is perceived, deployed and used at an organization.
When considering what types of AI to implement and how to deploy them at your organization, one of your primary considerations should be a readiness for change throughout the company.
Questions for leadership include:
- How have previous changes been received? Start by reviewing previous changes within your company. What cultural issues came up, and how were they addressed by leadership? Was the initiative ultimately a success, or what led to its failure?
- What is the level of interest in innovation within your company? Do employees show enthusiasm for new ideas, and are they willing to take measured risks?
- How do you want your organization to use AI, and have you communicated it to all employees? Creating an approach and policy to AI helps remove doubt about using it as a tool and sets standards and best practices that are consistent with your organization’s culture.
- What is the trust level of your organization? Trust is a huge component of implementing change successfully, and it goes both ways. Do leaders trust their employees to take measured risks and to comply with stated policies? Do employees believe leaders are honest and have their best interests in mind? Are leaders modeling transparency?
Building a culture of trust doesn’t start when you’re implementing change. If you have a culture that isn’t innovative, leaders who don’t train employees properly on new tools and technologies or who aren’t transparent about the risks and opportunities of new innovations, any investment in AI will fail.
Research has shown that 70 percent of digital transformations fail, and one study shows the determining factor isn’t technology, but people. “The technology is important, but the people dimension (organization, operating model, processes and culture) is usually the determining factor. Organizational inertia from deeply rooted behaviors is a big impediment.”
Consistency, transparency, empowerment and enablement are key, and it begins with education and understanding. When you have effective change management — clear and timely communications, targeted learning opportunities, and meaningful ways to share feedback and concerns — the introduction of innovations such as AI can be less intimidating and disruptive to the operations of an organization.
Help Employees Understand AI is Augmentation, Not Substitution
Leaders need to start preparing their workforce to see AI tools as augmentation rather than substitution. Whether people realize it or not, AI is already a part of our daily lives, from smartphones and smart cars to aspects of social media, spell check and even performing a Google search.
Suddenly, a task that was a challenge before can be done quickly and efficiently with the help of AI. Leaders need to show enthusiasm about equipping and educating teams on the potential uses of AI, helping their employees learn why their roles are important and how they can deliver more value with AI as a tool.
Often, when people are reluctant to change, it’s not that they’re afraid of technology but what it could mean for their role. With AI and ChatGPT, the primary fear is that AI will replace them by fully automating their position, or at least enough of their role that they won’t be needed.
What people sometimes don’t realize is that as tasks are automated, new opportunities present themselves. When they’re free from time-consuming or menial tasks like notetaking, approving expense reports, or looking for a piece of information, productivity and creativity can soar. Employees find they have time to do deeper, more meaningful or strategic work.
The introduction and adaptation to AI will require upskilling and, in some cases, reskilling. In other instances, AI will simply lessen the load for employees who tend to become overworked, such as those in high-turnover roles. AI can provide much-needed breathing room and help employees embrace the idea of change. To be effective, leaders will need to develop training programs and learning paths for employees to thrive, as well as get buy-in from their teams.
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to create a culture that’s excited about — rather than fearful of — changes with the potential to improve everyone’s work experience. To cross the bridge from skepticism to excitement and help accelerate the adoption of AI in their company, leaders should assess their company’s readiness for change and the gap they have to overcome for what is certain to be on the horizon.