A cartoon white robot holding a box of desk paraphernalia, symbolising AI in the workplace.
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AI in the workplace: What leaders need to consider

10 Aug 2023

Governments and Big Tech players are laying the groundwork for how AI will be used going forward, but workplaces need to think about their own policies too.

While Big Tech is making big investments in the AI space – particularly generative AI – the wider business and workplace communities are also getting to grips with it.

Generative AI is technology trained on huge datasets with the ability to then generate content based on prompts that it has been given. Unsurprisingly, this has given rise to concerns of job losses.

In fact, a Goldman Sachs report from earlier this year claimed that generative AI products such as ChatGPT could cause “significant disruption” to the labour market if they live up to the hype surrounding them, potentially resulting in 300m jobs replaced by the technology.

But generative AI can also augment the productivity of workers rather than replace them, and there are plenty of ways ChatGPT could be used to help in your day-to-day work if you know how to use it.

According to consulting company McKinsey, generative AI has the potential to reshape talent acquisition, onboarding and development, and performance management. And a survey conducted by Adobe with more than 6,000 employees across the US, UK, Australia, India and Japan, found that 61pc of respondents said it helps them work faster.

According to the survey, nearly half of the workers surveyed (45pc) said AI reduces or eliminates boring or tedious tasks, while 41pc said the technology has changed how they work for the better.

But as AI adoption continues, workplaces need to consider how it will be adopted. The EU has already drawn a line in the sand when it comes to AI regulations and other governments are responding or creating their own strategies to address the implementation of AI.

A progress report on Ireland’s national AI strategy was released earlier this week, which was welcomed by HR body CIPD Ireland.

The organisation says the plan announced yesterday to establish a new AI Advisory Council to provide independent expert advice to the government is especially welcome.

Director of CIPD Ireland, Mary Connaughton, said AI will have a broad impact on the Irish labour market both in terms of job replacement and being complementary to human workers. “This is the kind of information that can cause real concern among workers and the Government’s plans to support training and reskilling to cope with these changes would be reassuring,” she said.

Putting a policy in place

CIPD Ireland said workplaces must consider the use and impact of AI within their organisation by putting policies in place, with Connaughton adding that having guidelines will help inform employees about proper usage and minimise the risk of unchecked errors.

“Secondly, it provides space for employers to communicate that while they understand there are potential benefits associated with AI, it is regarded in the organisation as a tool, not a replacement for human decision-making.”

Connaughton said organisations should start by considering their needs, for example a highly regulated environment or a creative one. They should also think about the areas that would be at risk without a policy, such as data security or quality assurance.

She said it’s also important to look at the benefits of this technology and know when it’s acceptable to use AI and make clear the situations it would not be acceptable and the reasons why.

“People may be reluctant to say they have already been using tools unbeknownst to management,” she said. “But getting some idea of how prevalent AI is already and the value it can add will shape your approach for the future.”

Finally, Connaughton highlighted the importance of compliance. “If you are bound by legal obligations, your AI policy must fit within those frameworks. Remember that any changes in these requirements may mean your policy needs to be updated.”

While the EU AI Act may not come into force for two years to allow businesses to get in line, that does not mean companies should wait until then to get their house in order. Consider the time it took to ensure your organisation was GDPR-compliant and then start drafting your AI workplace policy.

“Whatever your policy looks like, it must be open to new iterations as the technological offerings advance,” said Connaughton.

“Keeping lines of communication open across the organisation on this topic will help to shape your practical approach to AI and promote honest discussions about the problems and benefits it may bring.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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