Technology and Product, Trends

How AI is changing the workplace (and can make jobs more human)

Posted on: November 3, 2023Updated on: March 1, 2024By: Maliyah Bernard

AI is more than another passing trend—it’s on track to influence the way all of us do our jobs every day. 

Companies are betting on AI to reduce costs, alleviate staffing challenges and improve efficiency. But this exciting pace of innovation is also a growing concern in frontline industries. Up to 68% of managers believe AI could solve their customer and employee experience challenges but also feel nervous that it has the potential to obscure roles and responsibilities, make their daily operations slower and negatively affect job satisfaction and creativity.

Employees using AI at work

JD Dillon, Axonify’s Chief Learning Architect, and Juan Naranjo, an experienced, AI-savvy telecommunications leader, had a thoughtful discussion about the red-hot technology as an innovative learning solution on a recent episode of ITK. They shared some surprising benefits of AI and ways it can transform tasks, optimize efficiency and enhance the employee experience—without losing too much of the human touch.

Is AI going to take away our jobs?

T2-level concerns about SkyNet taking over are probably overstated—for now. “The robot revolution” is actually forecasted to create 97 million new jobs, according to World Economic Forum research

Naranjo remains optimistic about the state of human jobs because natural intelligence is still integral to creating and iterating on AI-generated outputs, so they’re less robotic and more ethical. Dillon also notes an important distinction between using AI for generation vs. leaning on it to create: “[AI] is not really creating, per se. It’s generating based on source information. Bouncing that information off another entity, in this case, can lead to new ideas.”

“Synthetic neural networks, which use other neural networks to learn very quickly, crash in quality and become absolutely and utterly useless,” Naranjo adds. “So human input is very important. It gives all of us faith and hope because these networks completely depend on human input. And as soon as that human input decreases or becomes less creative, they just get stuck in the same ways of thinking.”

In the longer term, as AI gets more powerful and evolves alongside people in the workplace, he does foresee potential challenges that will require a step back as a society: 

“There’s going to need to be a bigger societal conversation about what we’re going to do when these systems get so powerful that it will be problematic for humans to keep up with them.”

One way Dillon suggests employees stay ahead of the curve and protect their positions is to take the evolution of their careers into their own hands. 

“That means assessing the workflow to find out what tasks can be more effectively done by a machine, and as well as tasks that just don’t have to be done anymore when it comes to working within an AI-powered workplace.”

What kind of tasks should be delegated to AI tools?

Some popular ways the corporate world uses AI now include cybersecurity and fraud management, customer service, accounting, content production and administrative tasks—to name a few. At his workplace, Naranjo’s telecom team sees other time and cost-saving benefits.

“One of the most powerful tools in our line of work is a script or text-to-voice solution,” says Naranjo. “It allows you to generate voiceovers for all your web-based training assets, which we couldn’t even dream about before because it was costly. If [my team] wanted to make voiceovers for all our WBTs before, it would cost more than half a million dollars. Now, it costs us just a couple thousand to do the whole thing. 

For videos, you can input your script, translate the content and then fine-tune the details. AI is very powerful in that sense. It saves a lot of money in studio time and hiring specialized vendors.”

Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses at work, and we’re witnessing in real time how teams can bridge their skills gaps with AI. However, industry regulations and compliance should always be top-of-mind when implementing AI in the workplace, so it’s important to do the research before upending any processes or going all-in on an investment.

Tips to escape the noise and avoid distraction

Once you start rethinking the workflow through the lens of new technologies, it can be hard to stop! But with thousands of new tools launching daily, Naranjo says prioritization is key to maintaining meaningful AI exploration and avoiding distraction. 

His team takes a specific approach to achieve this. First, they dedicate a small number of employees to capturing a comprehensive list of potential tools. Then, they explore a narrower list of choices from the most interesting and relevant options (the top two or three) and sometimes even connect with vendors. 

He recommends keeping in touch with IT to learn what’s available now and how to avoid risk: “Make close connections with your technology partners and IT to explore what’s already out there. Keep an eye out for what’s in the market, but leverage what’s handy and easy to use that’s of immediate access, too.”

How AI can make the workplace more fair, equitable and human

AI is a prime example of the equalizing potential of technology. When used right, Dillon and Naranjo agree that companies can leverage it to ensure everyone gets a chance to do their best work and elevate equity within the workplace. 

Across  L&D, HR and Operations functions, the most pressing AI discussion is focused on the potential to take employees out of their silos and democratize access to many resources that were not available before. 

“You have an idea, but you’re missing a skillset. Maybe you’re not the best visual designer, but you’re an excellent writer, or the opposite,” says Naranjo. “Now, you’ll get more of an equal opportunity to try things because these tools can help you in the areas where you’re a little bit weaker. You also have a resource to validate your ideas. That’s a great equalizer.”

Dillon also calls attention to translations, citing the ability to make learning content available in every language someone might need, rather than a select few, as an important equity driver. 

“Someone that doesn’t have substantial reading skills can now consume heavy technical or legal content. Everyone can get the same content but consume it in a way that makes the most sense. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about when applying AI in different parts of the workplace.”

Additionally, more accessibility options with artificial intelligence allow neurodiverse or disabled employees to have equitable access.

The AI conversation is still evolving, but it’s one that leaders in every industry need to be tapped into right now. It’s important not to get overwhelmed by the volume and speed of AI but remain focused and connected to the critical ways that it can make work better for everyone. 

For more insights about improving the quality of work and efficiency with AI—without leaving behind human employees—watch the the full episode below:

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Maliyah Bernard

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.

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