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Don't Fear the Terminator: Help Your Employees Embrace AI to Make Work More Human

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*Originally Published in BenefitsPro

The seeds of fear have been planted in our psyche by novels and movies depicting the chaos when AI goes bad. Even the global face of AI, ChatGPT creator, and OpenAI chief executive Samuel Altman has trepidation, warning it could “cause significant harm to the world. If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong”, and the ‘godfather of AI’ Geoffrey Hinton quit Google over his concerns of “bad actors” doing “bad things” (Newsweek). If the creators of AI are fearful, then we should be shaking in our boots, right? Not necessarily. Embracing AI doesn’t automatically lead to robot overlords and a terminator sent from the future to destroy it. If we embrace AI to automate repetitive and mundane tasks, it will free up time for humans to do what we do best: relationship-building, intuitive decision-making, empathy, inclusion, equity, and ethical actions. Simply put, as humans, let’s stick to what we know best — being human. 

With all the fuss of AI taking over our lives, we forget that, at its core, it’s designed to make life easier. Now that it’s leapfrogged into the work landscape, new tools for work efficiency are being launched every day. But not all AI delivers on the promise of boosting productivity though. One survey shows employees are overwhelmed, and current tools are not addressing the root cause but are actually contributing to a culture of “always on” and burnout. The frustrations of too many tools, coupled with the fear that AI could replace people in the workforce, are driving employees’ hesitation to jump on the AI train. But instead of fearing the robots, employers can ease the tension for their employees by communicating clearly, embracing the human aspect of AI, and using it to create more inclusive hiring practices.  

Three things employers can do to ease the fear of AI for their employees:

What the heck is AI anyway? 

Many feel that AI is frighteningly disrupting the way we work and live, but psychologically, The FUD Factor (fear, uncertainty, doubt) only comes when we don’t understand something. Often people will try to shut it down or pretend it’s not real as a way to protect themselves from the unknown. As leaders, it’s up to us to help our teams gain an understanding of what AI is and how it can actually help work with people to make work better.  

Some ways to accomplish this can be to create an AI R&D team within your organization to locate and research AI tools that can take over those time-sucking tasks that no one wants to do. These could be AI-operated chatbots to quickly provide customer support or AI tools that can decipher data and provide valuable insights in minutes. Once you’ve decided on the tools that best serve your business and people, explain how they will work with your teams, not against them. Ask for feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. Are the tools improving workflow, allowing employees to focus on more human-centered tasks, or are they adding to an already overloaded to-do list? Then wash, rinse, repeat, and try new ways to integrate AI to make tasks more efficient. When we’re intentional about sharing information as it comes, knowing it changes every day, our employees can find comfort in the discomfort of change. 

Remember, AI is most effective when it’s learning right from wrong. Since humans still need to be the ones deciphering that, make it a point for your people to learn with AI together.  

The driving force behind AI is still humans.

Even the experts don’t know what the future holds for AI, so it’s on us to ground ourselves on what we do know. Integrating AI into work/life may feel like tech is slowly taking over, but when we are reminded that we still have choices in what we believe in, what we value, and the people we choose to spend time with, we can better understand our place in the world and how AI fits into it. People are still the driving force behind AI. 

As AI continues to evolve, we need to help our teams reframe and develop their own form of AI  — Adaptive Intelligence — to embrace what’s within their control (values, beliefs, purpose) and encourage them to approach these constant changes with a growth mindset, knowing there are always things to learn and new ways to grow. With Adaptive Intelligence firmly in place, they will become more resilient and grounded in themselves so that even with the uncontrollable aspects of AI integration, they can continue doing what people do best, being human with empathy and ethics as the world of AI continues to evolve without fear of a total takeover.  

Making hiring + retention more human-centric.

Humans, with all our imperfections, are prone to bias, whether we intend it or not. It’s essential for organizations to recognize this reality and take proactive steps to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace that provides accessible and equitable opportunities for every employee’s growth and development. Creating inclusive environments where people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations have an equal opportunity to contribute can help reduce the widening socioeconomic gap. 

As leaders, we can embrace and leverage AI for greater diversity and inclusivity within our organizations. AI has the ability to sift through vast pools of job applications objectively, without being influenced by demographics, to identify candidates with the right credentials and experience. Moreover, once individuals are hired, AI can impartially assess their contributions and performance, unswayed by personal opinions, status, or biases. This ensures that promotions and pay raises are based on merit, earned by those who deserve them rather than simply being the boss’s favorite. Acknowledging our inherent biases and actively working to remove them, with the help of AI, can make hiring and retention practices more inclusive, leading to a more equitable society for all. 

But again, never forget that AI is only as intelligent as what it receives as information. If it’s fed with biased data (e.g., only U.S.-specific or English-speaking countries), then it’ll obviously generate biased outputs too. 

Even though we’re already swimming in these unknown AI waters doesn’t mean we have to drown. Some things have withstood the test of time — the fact that the most resilient, adaptable, and resourceful habitats in nature are the ones that are the most biodiverse – means we know what it takes to survive to thrive in our workplaces and lives.