For Rebecca Hinds, head of The Work Innovation Lab, AI, like all other technology, is “neither inherently good nor bad”.
“It is completely up to the organization [and] the individual to prepare for a healthy or harmful future with AI – it could go either way,” she adds.
To minimize the harm, Hinds calls on employers lean into a “human-centric approach”; that was a major finding of The Work Innovation Lab’s recent AI report, which surveyed 500 leaders across the world.
But Hinds is in good company as blending the capabilities of AI and humans was also a key finding of IBM’s recent AI report.
A human-centric approach requires organizations to get intentional about where they implement AI technologies.
They need to make sure these tools are genuinely helping employees move away from boring admin work, and instead focus on high-impact and valuable work, which leverages human skills, like emotional intelligence and creative thinking.
But, of course, embracing and implementing human-centric AI is much easier said than done. Here’s how HR leaders can help organizations achieve this lofty goal.
The role of HR in AI
The first thing that organizations need to do is get employees on board, and involved, in the implementation of the technology.
Hinds shares: “I’ve done so much academic research that really focuses on the importance of involving the end users of the technology, especially the business users of AI, in the process of developing the technology or implementing and adopting it.”
This is no easy feat – AI adoption is one the biggest challenges employers face, according to Hinds. This is people have “very real visceral concerns with AI”.
“There’s fear, dread, uncertainty”, particularly around job replacement and losses.
But “putting employees in the driver’s seat as much as possible” is key – it is a great way to get their buy-in and get them excited about the technology.
HR has an essential role to play here – it can really understand employee fears and alleviate them.
“Recognizing that it is going to replace some parts of our jobs…but getting people in the mindset of let’s figure out together how we can use AI to amplify our capabilities and skills sets as humans,” notes Hinds.
But HR cannot do this alone, the department needs to build “strong cross-functional relationships”.
The most important one is with IT teams, and this is severely lacking in many organizations, according to The Work Innovation Lab’s research.
Gartner research shows that the CIO has a greater impact on employee experience than the CHRO, so that relationship between HR and IT is “critical for fostering a great digital employee experience”.
“The more HR can embed with IT leaders and vice versa, the more they’ll be able to have a really healthy conversation around the technology they’ve invested in,” and whether it is the right tool for the organization and its employees.
“Is it really in service of the employee experience, or do we need to roll out new technologies?”
It’s time to experiment with AI
Another focus for organizations who want to overcome employee reluctance and fear, and drive adoption must be experimenting with AI use cases.
This is a major takeaway from The Work Innovation Lab’s report – it found that 68% of IT leaders regret not experimenting enough when it came to tech.
The reason why experimentation is so key, according to Hinds, is that it “is the most effective way for organizations, teams and individuals to learn what works and what doesn’t work”.
“Especially when you consider AI to be a threatening, fearful technology for many, experimentation on a small scale is really effective in helping them cross the chasm of AI in a way that’s healthy and really empowering.”
Experimenting means that employees can “learn with the technology” as it develops. And HR can support them by ensuring they have “that breathing room and freedom to explore different use cases”.
This is particularly critical, in Hinds’ view, because “AI is at the worst that [it] will ever be in terms of its potential and its quality”.
“It’s only going to get more valuable, more powerful, [so] the more we can learn with it, develop these fundamental skills sets, and understand the use cases,” the better.
For the HR function, “there’s so much potential”, and that’ll set organizations, teams and individuals up for long-term success.
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