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Opinion: Boards' role in balancing innovation, opportunity and employee insecurity – Emerging Technology

Opinion: Boards' role in balancing innovation, opportunity and employee insecurity – Emerging Technology

 


AI, analytics and automation are all integral parts of our daily lives, influencing the way we shop, communicate, learn and work.

There is a growing and compelling debate surrounding the potential for AI and automation to replace human jobs in the workplace, raising diverse views and concerns.

Some jobs are already being replaced by AI, and as technology advances rapidly, it is more important than ever for boards and executives to understand the risks and opportunities.

On the one hand, automation brings opportunities for increased efficiency and new job creation, but on the other hand it raises concerns about job loss and the loss of humanity.

What this means for directors is that embracing and integrating AI, automation, data analytics and analytics are no longer optional – they are all essential.

But what needs to be balanced is the need for strong change communication and consultation with human workers who are concerned about job security and stability.

It is our duty to work with the CEO and senior team to implement these advancements effectively, without creating fear or anxiety.

Our role is to guide companies in leveraging a strategic approach that values ​​transparency, education and inclusivity, and focuses on the ongoing development of all stakeholders: business, employees, customers and the industry.

How directors understand the human element

It is important to realise that employees are not just a resource but the core of any business.

Their skill, creativity and dedication are what drive their success, and many of these skills cannot be replaced by AI or automation.

This human element needs to be recognized as the first step towards a smooth transition to integrating AI and automation tools without isolating employees.

The key here is a strategic, multi-layered communications strategy.

It’s about recognizing gaps in employee engagement and openness to these tools, measuring success, correcting tactics that aren’t achieving their objectives, and having executives lead the charge to ensure leadership buy-in and messaging comes from the top of the company to every employee.

Employees need to know that their contributions are valued and that the company is committed to their growth and well-being.

Transparent communication

From a tactical perspective, an AI change communication strategy could include town hall meetings, departmental briefings, or a dedicated online portal where employees can access information about the new technology their employer is implementing for a cause, the opportunities it brings to both the company and employees, and how the company plans to integrate this technology.

Since anxiety often stems from the unknown, education is key here: businesses can roll out comprehensive training programs that demystify these technologies and show employees how to use these tools.

It's also a good idea to offer workshops, online courses, and even one-on-one mentoring sessions that will help employees understand the company's intentions to help them work collaboratively with the new tools.

This approach will strengthen employees’ skill sets and help them understand the potential of AI and automation to handle mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic and creative work.

Rather than an either/or scenario in which employees feel anxious about being completely replaced by AI, an “AI and” mindset needs to be framed to highlight the benefits to employees and position AI as a tool that enhances their ability to perform well in their roles.

Incorporate a “future of work” narrative.

Executive leadership needs to set the direction for their organization on AI.

Create and tell a powerful story that explains what the future of work means for your company and your people.

Tell a thoughtful, inspiring story. When people feel safe and excited about the future, they are much more likely to embrace change and realize the potential of AI.

Employee involvement and participation is key

Establishing a cross-functional team that includes representatives from different parts and levels of the organization is a tactic that can engage employees and significantly reduce job insecurity.

The purpose of these teams is two-way: executives can ask team members where AI and automation would be most beneficial to their role and the performance of the business, and then determine how to integrate these technologies without disrupting workflow.

This will increase ownership, understanding and support for new and alternative technology options.

These employees then become advocates for the new technology, sharing their positive experiences and insights with their colleagues and communicating its benefits.

This grassroots approach helps build trust and reduces resistance to change.

Investing in continuous learning

Continuous learning needs to be a cornerstone of your business strategy, especially when it comes to AI and automation.

Partnering with leading educational institutions and online learning platforms to offer courses on AI, data analytics, and other emerging technologies can be beneficial for all employees.

Management's role is to encourage employees to take advantage of these opportunities by ensuring that the company is committed to supporting employee development through tuition reimbursement and flexible work schedules where appropriate.

This educational aspect is also reflected in the “AI and” mindset that is so important in company culture, where education shows employees how AI and systems can improve their daily tasks and performance within their roles, rather than continuing to fear what AI will take away from them.

The psychological wellbeing of workers affected by AI adoption must be a top priority for companies, boards of directors and policymakers.

AI and Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

Encouraging employees to try out AI and automation tools by providing a sandbox where they can test ideas without fear of failure is a valuable tool in easing employees' fears about these technologies.

Additionally, establishing innovation labs where teams can collaborate on projects leveraging these technologies to solve real business problems, innovation awards to recognize employees who leverage this technology to improve their and their team's performance, and employee ambassadors who share their experiences with AI across company platforms can reinforce the message that AI and automation are not a threat but an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Conclusion

The transition to AI and automation is an ongoing process, so directors and their management teams should be committed to regularly monitoring the impact of AI, automation and analytics on their workforce.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the integration and company-wide sentiment through employee surveys, feedback sessions, performance metrics, and on-site listening.

By prioritizing transparent communication, inclusive engagement, continuous learning, and a culture of innovation, companies can mitigate employee job insecurity and help employees thrive in a technologically advanced workplace.

This strategic approach will not only ensure a smooth transition, but will also lay the foundation for a future where technology and human potential are seamlessly integrated.

The road ahead may be difficult, but with a clear vision and a commitment to its people, any business can face the future with confidence.

Cheryl Hayman is a non-executive director of Ai Media Technologies Ltd, Silk Logistics Holdings, Beston Global Food Ltd and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

For more insights like this, join us at the first-ever Digital Nation Executive Meet-ups at The Ivy Sunroom in Sydney on Thursday 27 June. Save your seat now.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.digitalnationaus.com.au/news/opinion-the-role-of-boards-in-balancing-innovation-and-opportunity-with-employee-job-insecurity-608947

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