fbpx

What your employees really think about AI



Expert | Featured | Leadership | Workplace

By Loren Webb

Recently, Dynamic Business attended the 2-day Gartner ReImagine HR event to hear the new trends, reports and insights from HR industry leaders and share them with our readers.

HR leaders from all over Australia came together to uncover and discuss the latest HR and leadership trends, best practice, challenges and opportunities.

One of those discussions was from Jonathan Tabah, Director at Gartner, about what employees really think about AI, and we’ve got all the best bits wrapped up for you below.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) can evoke fear in a lot of people, and this fear is definitely not helped by media headlines suggesting every single Australian will be losing their jobs to a robot within the next year…

The reality is, whether you or your employees are aware of it or not, we are already using lots of examples of AI in our everyday lives.

Do you use Google Maps to figure out how to get somewhere? Ever said “Hey Siri?” to your iPhone? Used a snapchat filter to make yourself look like a dog?

All of those things are AI. So we can see that not only is AI already immersed and actually a tangible entity (not just some idea of robots, automation and the cloud), but that it is also highly beneficial to the end user.

Jonathan Tablah spoke about how this beneficial factor is the key to getting workers on board in implementing AI and a lot of successful integrations of new systems come down to the simple communication strategy about that integration.

The recent Gartner research reveals that most CIOs are in fact planning to invest in AI soon, with only 9% not having any interest at all. Most visualise deployment from anytime now to within the next 3 years.

So what actually do the employees think about AI?

Well Jonathan summarised the answer pretty easily, by saying overall that they feel ‘OK’ about it, which is supported by the 2019 Gartner survey results.

When interviewed, most employees said they agreed with the positive benefits of AI, namely that it would:

  • Create new roles for them to work in
  • Allow them to do new high-value activities
  • Allow them to do work they’ve never done before
  • Make work easier and enjoyable
  • Taker over a repetitive part of their job

Only 25% of employees believe AI will replace them at their organisation in the next 5 years, with the large majority having a more positive outlook.

In the hypothetical case that new technology emerged which could save the organisation money and potentially replace their job, survey participants were asked what they thought their organisation would do.

Nearly 6 out of 10 employees (57%) believed that their organisation would actually retrain or redeploy them, as opposed to a 22% group that thought they’d just be fired. The remaining 21% simply thought that, in that hypothetical situation, their company wouldn’t even invest in the tech in the first place.

Going back to how we then communicate deploying new tech, and how we speak about the benefits… it’s not quite as simple as that.

Jonathan’s advice is to stop selling employees on the good things about AI and to start helping employees with understanding AI and exactly how it will affect their jobs. In other words, make those benefits personal to them. Make a point of saying AI will benefit, not replace them.

We are social beings and as such leaders should be enabling discussion; natural conversation that is two way between leaders and their teams, without a pre-determined narrative or script provided by HR.

Jonathan recommended change reaction workshops as part of this process and emphasised the importance of acknowledging employee’s natural emotional response.

Rather than simply thinking “who has already authority over this?”, ask questions such as “who would be surprised by this?” and “who is likely to reject this?” instead. To establish the right communication system when introducing your employees to new tech and AI, you can start with Gartner’s recommended sample AI discussion questions below.

  • What scares or worries you the most about AI and why?
  • In what ways do you think about AI at work and AI in your personal life differently?
  • If a new technology were to become available that could replace parts of your job, how would you hope your organization would respond?
  • In what ways can you see AI having a positive impact on your work?
  • How might you change your day-to-day habits to fully take advantage of AI’s positive attributes?