Embracing AI – it’s as easy as crossing the road

Kate Redshaw headshot

Guest comment by Kate Redshaw

After a trepidatious start, many organisations are now racing to embrace AI – and, in particular generative AI, so not to fall behind the competitive curve. And it’s easy to see why …meeting notes – done, PowerPoint presentation – done, job description – drafted.

The promised time-savings are appealing, not least as organisations focus ever more firmly on productivity. All seems rosy, right? Hmm – possibly – but only if you get your people strategy right. For AI to really deliver the efficiencies organisations are after, it will be vital for the workforce to be actively enthused and engaged with its deployment, and for some organisations this won’t be easy.

Recently published analysis from the International Monetary Fund shows that almost 40 per cent of global employment is exposed to AI, with that figure increasing to 60 per cent of jobs in advanced economies.

A spot-check of any newspaper or online news-feed will reveal doom-laden headlines predicting the death-knell for thousands of roles because of AI. So should we be surprised if our employees aren’t leaping at the chance to embrace the new tech?

Even those who are confident that a robot won’t be settling in behind their standing desk any time soon, may be wary of their own abilities to engage with tech or simply won’t be able to visualise how the tech can be used to free up their time. So what’s the answer? Well, at the risk of dating myself, the decidedly untechy Green Cross Code Man might just have the answer…it’s time to stop, look and listen.

Stop: Just because a job can be done by AI doesn’t mean it should be

It has to be said that AI can do a lot of stuff and much of that stuff is very useful indeed. But it’s vital we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. In some instances, the development of valuable skills may be lost if a task is blindly pushed to AI simply because it can be.

Rather than assuming a task should be done by AI wherever it is more efficient to do so, employers should stop to consider the wider context, before they implement the tech, to identify any valuable skills which might inadvertently be lost as a result. You can then take steps to mitigate against this. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t deploy the AI but it may mean introducing safeguards to ensure that the development of those skills continues, albeit in a different way.

Look: Task-by-task not role-by-role

With retention of talent a continuing focus for employers, organisations which are willing to approach the deployment of AI, by looking at it on a task-by-task rather than a role-by-role basis, may benefit.

By identifying which of an employee’s tasks can effectively be delivered using AI (and these tasks may often be mundane in nature), you can free up time to allow the employee to do other, more valuable, and interesting work. Over time this could lead to improvements to recruitment, retention and progression within your organisation.

Listen: Employee engagement is key

When it comes to identifying how AI can best be deployed, ask your people and listen to what they say. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s your employees who are best placed to identify the tasks they perform each day and from there identify which of those take a disproportionate amount of time for least reward.

With that task list in hand you can then work together to identify which of those tasks may be benefit from using AI.  Not everyone will be able to identify intuitively how AI can be deployed effectively, so encourage ‘show and tells’ of how your people are using AI, across the organisation, to help inspire others.

And remember, whilst the capability of generative AI is certainly impressive, the end results, currently, can be imperfect particularly whilst prompt-writing is a new skill to be mastered for many. Make it clear to your people that you are not necessarily looking for seismic changes – identifying a micro-task that can be done really well by AI still has the potential to deliver major time-savings.

So that’s my take on how the Green Cross Code can help you deploy AI successfully within your organisation – and if anyone remembers the Tufty Club (if you know, you know), do let me know…

Kate is head of practice development in Employment Law at Burges Salmon


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