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The hype around artificial intelligence (AI) seems to focus almost exclusively on the benefits for the enterprise, but is its use at the expense of the employees within the organization? Over the past 22 years, AI has replaced about 2.25 million jobs in manufacturing and industry – at the same time, it is also expected to create about 97 million new jobs by 2025.
New research says no. In fact, it does the exact opposite. According to a report from BCG Henderson Institute and MIT Sloan management review, 85% of employees say they benefit directly from AI in the workplace – a statistic that surprised the study authors themselves.
“There really isn’t much of a dichotomy or forced choice between using AI to create value for the company versus the individual,” said Michael Chu, partner and associate director of data science at BCG, and co-author of the report. “What we saw overwhelmingly was that the company benefits when the individual benefits… [It was] just so overwhelmingly positive in that way.
Land O’ Lakes’ land of AI
Chu told VentureBeat that the findings suggest that organizations that have employees who benefit from their implementations of AI are up to six times more likely to see a financial benefit as well.
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For example, Land O’ Lakes agricultural cooperative. — which owns the butter spread company of the same name — uses AI to equip its cooperative farmer members with the tools to make better, more informed decisions about soil and seed placement, soil nitrogen levels, and even computer vision to spot threatening weeds or crop diseases, resulting in a higher crop yield.
In the report Teddy Bekel, CTO of Land O’ Lakes, said AI has benefited farmers: rather than replacing their tools, it complements them, he said, comparing the farmer’s relationship with AI to ” making decisions instead of following a recipe”.
The Land O’ Lakes example, the researchers say, demonstrates the benefits AI has for individuals, providing critical insights while still allowing their expertise and autonomy to shine in their industry, almost acting as a side-kick.
Chu says it’s a perfect illustration of two key things the report also highlights: a juxtaposition of what can be done with the hard sciences versus AI, and it describes how companies can use AI to automate and help, instead of replacing.
“What’s new here is that it includes AI that makes recommendations, without overturning the farmers’ actual autonomy, so they can still decide what to do,” Chu said. “There’s a really great mix of machine and human decision-making at both the micro and macro levels.”
Another key insight illustrating the example is that organizations using AI not only benefit financially, but deploying AI can also help build company-wide relationships, strengthening culture.
“In the Land O’ Lakes scenario, the farmers are actually talking to each other about how to properly use the AI tools,” he said, adding that there is also a social element of AI important for organizations. “One of the things we found, both this year and last year, was that the relationships between people within the companies often improve a lot thanks to AI. It is actually very interesting and helpful in generating new ideas and new ways of working.”
Companies that want to get the most value from AI for their employees should look to tools that automate workflow processes, coach employees to improve efficiency, and improve customer experience, according to the report.
Where companies fail with the rollout of AI to employees
Of the many benefits organizations report from their adoption of AI, only about 8% say they experience no positive benefits.
This could be due to a variety of reasons, Chu says, ranging from a lack of employee feedback, a poor rollout of AI tools or features, and even design.
“Especially in business AI, where you don’t have millions and millions of users but a smaller number of users, active feedback is very important to improve the product. If you don’t know and don’t really give feedback, AI can really fail,” he said. “I think awareness, freedom of choice and trust are all fairly common failure factors and in terms of rollout, failure can also be in the design itself.”
The lack of choice for employees with the AI tools, Chu explains, usually stems from confusing paths that have ambiguity for users about how to use them. Similarly, a lack of awareness, or failure to get to know a tool or implement a tool that then fades into the background without active participation, use, or feedback, also undermines an organization’s efforts to push for AI adoption by employees. And perhaps most importantly, a company that wants to roll out useful AI tools must also create trust.
“Trust is not transparency, and transparency is not trust,” Chu said. “Trust is more intuitive in nature. Tell employees what it does. Introduce it to a team and tell them to just use it for the next few weeks. One of the things you usually don’t see as companies roll out AI is that managers and senior leaders are also using it. But if a senior leader uses it and can say, ‘I’ve used it and it works,’ you’ve come a long way.”
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