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The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a buzz word in the business, employment and human resources context. As AI develops, many people fear that their jobs will become obsolete as they are replaced by smart and learning machines. However, it’s worth taking stock and considering that while AI presents some risks, it also represents substantial opportunities. Perhaps even more significantly, from a practical perspective AI is already being widely adopted in workplaces across the world. Indeed, according to the Oliver Wyman 2024 report on Generative AI, 55% percent of employees they surveyed use generative AI at least once a week at work, and 96% said they believe AI can help them in their current jobs.

Given the significant competitive advantages AI adoption is likely to offer firms, it is plausible that, in the near future, a failure to adopt AI will render a firm (and perhaps also an employee?) uncompetitive. The Oliver Wyman report estimates that by 2030, generative AI could add up to $20 trillion to global GDP and save 300 billion work hours a year. Consequently, the real choice workplaces across the world are increasingly being presented with is not whether or not to adopt AI, but rather how to adopt AI.  Fortunately, there are several practical steps an organization can take to adopt AI in an effective manner that makes AI a valuable tool for the organization and its employees.

Firstly, providing employees with the training they need to effectively use AI in their work should increase their productivity while addressing potential concerns about AI taking away their jobs. A significant consideration employers ought to take into account in the context of

discussing re-training employees is that disruptive new technologies do not automatically increase productivity. The history of previous disruptive innovations like electricity and smartphones shows that it quite often takes time for workers to adapt to new technologies and learn how to use them to their full potential. For example, the Oliver Wyman report points out it took more than two decades after they became available for half of Americans to adopt smartphones.

The rise of AI is likely to create demand for entirely new technical skills whose nature we cannot entirely predict. In addition, there is likely to be an increased demand for people with the required soft skills which will allow them to effectively review the output produced by AI. The Oliver Wyman report estimates that anywhere from 1.4 billion to 3 billion people globally will need to learn new skills due to the introduction of generative AI in the workplace. Employers would benefit from establishing a re-training program promptly in order to be prepared for the global demand for new skills.

Secondly, organizations must establish meaningful monitoring procedures to ensure all AI output is reviewed by a human.

AI tools have become a significant part of the recruitment process of many organizations. AI is now being regularly used to screen and select candidates. While this will almost certainly make some processes more efficient, it also creates a risk that the AI’s decision making or related selection processes may be biased and discriminatory. Since AI is trained using existing data, any biases that are present in the data may be adopted by the AI.          

Thirdly, organizations must adopt policies that ensure they operate with transparency when they use AI. Given the potential for privacy violations through the use AI systems, employers need to ensure they are prepared to disclose when and how they are using AI tools. Many employers are already using AI to monitor their employees - depending on the context and the provisions of applicable law, certain kinds of monitoring are accepted. However, all employers must be aware that there is a risk they might go too far and incur reputational or even legal costs as a result.

The proliferation of AI tools in the workplace presents both opportunities and risks. Employers can effectively capitalize on the opportunities while avoiding many of the major risks if they adopt policies to re-train their employees, ensure human review of AI output, and ensure the transparency of their usage of AI tools. Preparing for change now can make all the difference for your organization and workforce in the future.

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