The increasing reliance of companies on generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT is the cause of sleepless nights for several employees, as revealed by PwC’s annual global workforce survey in June 2023. Almost a third of the respondents in the survey admitted to being apprehensive about being replaced by robots in the workplace in the next three years.
While these concerns are valid, there’s also a silver lining. AI offers a tremendous opportunity for employees to improve their efficiency and reduce their time spent on mundane tasks, which would allow them to build a life outside work.
Interestingly, many workers in the UK have credited AI for a boost in job satisfaction and productivity, according to recent research by Accenture, which surveyed 2,002 workers in the UK between August and September 2023.
These employees also vocalised the need to prioritise their work-life balance, with 27% of respondents wanting more time to focus on activities outside work.
Another UK-based study commissioned in 2023 by Visier, a cloud-based analytics platform, found that employees who have already incorporated AI in the workplace are saving 1.55 hours a day.
In India, almost 75% of professionals have embraced AI tools for writing and editing, image and video creation and writing code and have saved about 4.9 hours per week, according to Slack, which surveyed 2,039 desk workers from India.
“It’s unnerving how ChatGPT and other generative AI tools may steal our jobs in the future. But I must admit using this technology to work on tedious tasks has simplified my life. I use apps for social listening and natural language processing that help me understand user behaviour better,” says Anahita Sinha, a 35-year-old marketing professional from New Delhi. “At one point, I would stay at work late every day but the situation has improved, especially with AI-based automation tools that assist in scheduling tasks and tackling reputation management on social media. I hope companies continue to value us for the skills we possess,” she adds.
Most companies are cognizant of employee concerns and are working on ensuring a smooth transition to becoming AI-ready. For instance, Assiduus Global Inc, a US-headquartered AI-powered cross-border e-commerce accelerator, has automated routine administrative tasks and delegated responsibilities like order processing and inventory management to the digital workforce. The company is also leveraging AI-driven applicant systems that scan resumes for relevant skills and experience, making their hiring process more efficient and precise.
“This has not only saved us time but also freed up our highly skilled employees to dedicate their energy to more creative and strategic aspects of the business,” says Dr Somdutta Singh, founder and CEO, Assiduus Global Inc. “They are now more empowered to brainstorm marketing campaigns, strategise for future product launches and work towards improving the customer journey.”
Similarly, at Tata Asset Management that offers investment management services, the power of AI is being harnessed to enhance overall organisational performance. Although the adoption of the technology is at a nascent stage, the company is using AI in things from talent acquisition to predictive analytics for HR decision-making.
“These initiatives not only contribute to increased efficiency but also foster a culture of continuous improvement,” says Arti Aggarwal, Head of Human Resources at Tata Asset Management.
Since AI is fairly new, several companies are still trying to see how best they can use the technology to solve a real problem or enable ease in day-to-day functions, says Saba Adil, Chief Human Resource Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance. “People do dabble on tools like Chat GPT to work on time-consuming content. However, since the tool is still in a learning stage, one must apply context, logic and relevance to see if the content really makes sense. This is where human intelligence comes in,” she adds.
But not every company is enthusiastic about the use of AI. The Visier study has 56% of employees revealing that the senior leadership at their workplaces discourage the use of AI at work. In that case, many professionals are using this technology on the sly.
“I had a conversation with my manager and suggested ways in which AI could help me become more efficient at work. But I was met with resistance largely due to privacy concerns,” says a 40-year-old customer service representative in Chennai. “We have a small team for a massive workload. Previously, I voiced the need for more team members but no action was taken. So, I have no option but to use AI in secrecy. I can’t afford to stay at work all day long since I have to look after my little baby and aging in-laws.”
In an age where technological disruptions are frequent, companies must invest in employee training and upskilling programmes, says Singh. “This ensures that our workforce can adapt to and operate alongside AI technologies effectively. By offering opportunities for our team members to acquire new skills, we empower them to stay relevant and take on more complex and rewarding responsibilities within the organisation.”
At the same time, it is critical for companies to establish clear guidelines on the ethical use of AI to prevent compromising anyone’s privacy or well-being.
“Ultimately, the goal is to create a workplace that embraces technological advancements while prioritising the concerns and preferences of workers,” says Aggarwal.
Geetika Sachdev is a writer and journalist.