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I mplementing artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace is a process that can raise many questions and concerns among employees. In my view, to effectively discuss AI with employees, managers must adopt a strategy rooted in clear goals and expectations, empathy, and engagement.

Below I present how to approach this issue step by step – regardless of whether you will be implementing AI on your own, with the help of partners, or using ready-made solutions from third-party companies.

I must state upfront that this text is grounded in a thesis I strongly believe in. To express it, I will use a quote I found in the Financial Times:

Gen-AI is a job-improving “augmenter” rather than a job-destroying “disrupter”, a revenue enhancer rather than a cost reducer.

Of course, there are also risks and they need to be addressed.

1. Explaining the Basics of AI

The first step is to ensure employees understand what AI (including generative artificial intelligence, Gen-AI) entails and its application in their work environment. Employees may not understand some concepts or may understand them differently, which can be a cause of additional concerns. I believe it is necessary to start with basic definitions.

I am considering creating something akin to a dictionary, where I aim to explain the most important concepts in the simplest way possible. I invite you to subscribe to the newsletter.

2. Emphasizing the Purpose and Benefits

It is crucial to emphasize how AI can contribute to increased productivity, facilitate work, or open new opportunities for employees, depending on your specific goals. It is worth providing specific examples of how AI can streamline processes, reduce the burden of routine tasks, and allow employees to focus on more strategic aspects of work.

AI and growth

For many companies, the primary reason for introducing AI is to increase revenues. From the employees’ perspective, the benefit may be the ability to concentrate on more important tasks.

In this context, it is worth considering inviting external experts or employees who already work with AI to share their experiences. There are many insights to be gained. For example, Zara uses AI to optimize its supply chain (“Just-In-telligent supply chain system”), while Rolls-Royce uses it to monitor and maintain aircraft engines.

Additional tip: Consider organizing workshops where employees can identify areas of their work that can be improved thanks to AI. Engaging them in various exercises can help illustrate the benefits. Additionally, it is worth considering a competition for the best AI project that could be implemented in the department or across the entire company.

3. Transparency in Implementation Plans

Open communication about AI implementation plans forms the foundation for building trust and understanding. According to a Deloitte report, companies that clearly communicate their goals and AI implementation strategies achieve greater employee engagement. Managers should inform about the implementation schedule, expected changes in work, and potential challenges.

If it makes sense for the AI implementation in your team or company, create an interactive roadmap that will be regularly updated and available to all employees. It should include key stages, expected timeframes, and the people responsible for each area. It is also worth considering, for example, monthly Q&A meetings with representatives of the AI implementation team.

AI implementation planning

4. Listening and Responding to Concerns

An empathetic approach is crucial in addressing employees’ concerns, especially since many associate AI with the potential for job losses (and sometimes they are right). It is necessary to actively listen, encourage asking questions and expressing doubts, and then respond thoughtfully and informatively. Allowing employees to share opinions and suggestions can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of AI.

Additional tip: Consider establishing an anonymous suggestion box for AI-related concerns, enabling employees to express their thoughts without fear of judgment. Regularly discuss the collected information at team meetings, addressing the most common concerns and proposing solutions.

5. Training and Development

Providing access to training helps employees adjust more effectively to changes and pursue their goals. Additionally, examples of successful AI implementations in similar organizations can serve as inspiration and proof that change is possible and beneficial.

If possible in your organization, provide access to e-learning platforms offering courses in AI and machine learning, which employees can complete at their own pace. If a training budget is not available, consider allocating time during working hours for employees to expand their knowledge. Many courses are available completely free of charge, for example, on YouTube

Additional tip for IT teams: Consider organizing hackathons that will promote the practical application of AI and inter-departmental cooperation.

AI and changes

Changes in the modern world are happening faster than ever before. The ability to adapt will be one of the most important.

6. Promoting a Culture of Continuous Learning

Continuous learning and experimentation with new technologies are key to keeping pace with rapid changes. A few tips in this area:

  • Promote the opportunity to experiment with new technologies and share conclusions.
  • Create an internal discussion group or chat room where employees can consult and share ideas.
  • Propose mentoring programs where experienced employees can pass on knowledge about AI to less experienced colleagues and answer their questions on an ongoing basis.

7. Ensuring Job Security

Ensuring that AI implementation does not automatically mean job loss, but rather the transformation of roles, is important for maintaining peace among the staff. Emphasize that the objective of AI implementation is to support, not replace, employees – assuming that truly is the case.

Preparing specific examples of anticipated changes can also be beneficial. Look for case studies of other companies that have successfully integrated AI, maintaining or increasing employment and boosting employee satisfaction in the process. Companies sometimes boast about this in stock market reports because it affects their revenues – both current and expected in the future.

This issue can also be viewed from another perspective. As Kate Crawford, co-founder of the AI Now Institute, noted, the ethical use of AI requires ongoing dialogue between technology creators and its users. I think this principle of continuous engagement should extend to the development of AI within companies as well. There are many risks associated with this area, and even effective implementation of artificial intelligence will not eliminate them.

Tip for board members: Consider introducing employment guarantee programs (perhaps in a different role) for employees most at risk of changes caused by AI.

AI and employment continuity

Artificial intelligence raises natural concerns about employment continuity. If this actually applies to a certain team, the potential of employees can be used by engaging them in other tasks.

8. Emphasizing Responsibility

Discussions about the ethical use of AI and responsibility for work done with AI’s help are essential at some stage. Educating employees on critically assessing information generated by AI and understanding the crucial role of human verification will ensure your team maintains high-quality work.

Introduce rules for the use of AI in the company and require that all projects comply with these guidelines. Official procedures may be needed here.

9. Support in Adapting to Changes

Providing support, such as mentoring or coaching, can help employees more smoothly transition through the process of adapting to new technologies. This support should be available at every stage of AI implementation.

Additional tip: Organizing change management workshops could further aid employees in effectively adapting to changes. Familiarizing with methodologies like ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) may help.

AI team

10. Setting an Example

Managers whose departments are to be supported by AI should keep up with trends in this field. Showing how they themselves adapt to changes and use AI in their work can serve as inspiration for employees.

It is important for managers to show that AI is not just a tool for automation but can also be a source of inspiration for creating new products, services, or processes.

Implementing AI in the workplace is not just a matter of technology but primarily people. The key to success in the AI era is not only technological innovation but also an empathetic and responsible approach to change.

I am aware that not all points can be related to every team and company. However, applying even a few ideas can make conversations about artificial intelligence more effective. This is my wish for you. Once again, I encourage clear communication, as well as support and engagement of employees.

Finally, I invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about upcoming articles on artificial intelligence and more. I also encourage you to read other articles on AI.