3 December 2023

More transparency needed if AI is to be accepted

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AI robots using laptops

National strategies to manage the use and development of AI are still works in progress. Photo: File.

Dan Schawbel says while artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in today’s workplaces, a disturbing number of employees feel completely in the dark about how it is being used.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a driving force in today’s organisations, reshaping industries and revolutionising how work is done.

However, as AI continues to integrate into various facets of business operations, organisations must prioritise transparency to build trust among their employees.

Transparency is essential, not only to mitigate fears of job displacement but also to foster a culture of understanding and responsible AI deployment.

Unfortunately, new research from UKG and my company, Workplace Intelligence, finds that many workers feel completely in the dark about how their organisation is using AI-powered technologies.

More than half say they have ”no idea” how their organisation is using AI.

It’s certainly not the case that workers are opposed to using AI. In fact, many say AI would increase their engagement/job satisfaction.

Among those already using AI at work, around three out of four say it makes them more efficient and productive, allows them to spend more time on meaningful tasks, and increases the quality or accuracy of their work.

Still, a lack of organisational transparency could pose a serious threat to getting complete employee buy-in.

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In my company’s study with UKG, we found that most workers would be more accepting and excited about AI if their organisation was more transparent about how it’s using AI and the direct ways AI could improve employees’ workflow.

Globally, many AI initiatives underway focus on increasing the public’s awareness around how AI is being used.

More than 20 countries are working on a national strategy to manage the use and development of AI.

The United Nations has created a Global Governance Platform to explore the global policy challenges raised by AI, as part of the Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies.

However, most of these initiatives are still works in progress. That’s why employers should be doing their part to be more forthcoming with their employees.

Here are three ways employers can be more open about AI with their workforces.

Provide education and training: This should not be limited to IT personnel, but should target all sections.

By demystifying AI, employees can better appreciate the technology’s capabilities and limitations.

It’s also important to recognise that AI may alter the nature of certain job roles. To maintain transparency, offer reskilling and upskilling opportunities to employees whose roles may be impacted.

This demonstrates a commitment to their professional development.

Communicate all aspects of your AI strategy: Develop an effective communication strategy that explains how AI is integrated into the organisation’s operations.

Employees should understand or be made aware of the following:

The goals of AI implementation, how it impacts their work and the broader organisational vision; who is accountable for AI-related decisions and actions; any guidelines you have in place on the ethical use of AI within the organisation, including principles related to fairness, bias reduction, privacy, and data security.

It’s also crucial to address concerns related to data privacy and security in the context of AI applications. Employees should be able to comprehend why a particular course of action was chosen by AI algorithms.

Regular updates on any changes will help employees feel connected to the AI journey and reduce anxieties about sudden shifts in job roles.

Put feedback mechanisms in place: While it’s critical for organisations to share information about AI with their workforce, transparency is a two-way street.

That’s why it’s important to create channels for employees to provide feedback and report concerns about AI systems.

This not only helps in addressing issues promptly, it also empowers employees by giving them a voice in the AI integration process.

Examples of ways to gather employee input include conducting surveys, allowing employees to converse with leadership (e.g., during town halls or forums), or asking workers to weigh in on Slack or a similar channel.

Employers can also consider creating a dedicated employee group that gives workers a way to discuss concerns with their colleagues.

Transparency regarding AI is not just a moral imperative, it is also a strategic advantage.

When employees understand the organisation’s AI initiatives and see the commitment to responsible AI deployment, it fosters trust, minimises resistance to change and empowers employees to collaborate effectively with AI systems.

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Organisations that prioritise transparency in their AI initiatives create a more supportive and informed work environment.

They not only reap the benefits of AI, they also inspire employees to adapt and contribute to the successful integration of AI into the organisation’s operations.

In this age of AI, transparency is the bridge that connects technology with human collaboration, and organisations should embrace it as a cornerstone of their AI strategy.

Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future.

This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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