Striking the balance: artificial intelligence in the workplace

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Are you a business leader keen to dip your toe into the artificial intelligence (AI) pool? Or maybe you’ve already dived in headfirst — uncovering handy tools to boost your business’ productivity. 

 You wouldn’t be the only one. 

From healthcare to retail, banking to logistics and entertainment to manufacturing, companies in most industries have begun to cut their teeth on artificial intelligence software that drives efficiency, empowers decision-making and enhances customer experiences. 

But whilst AI can offer many business benefits, like any technology, it has its limitations… 

So, before jumping on the bandwagon, have you considered the pros and cons of artificial intelligence in the workplace — and how you can implement it without losing focus on the most important aspect of your business: your employees? 


Let’s talk about the benefits


The main benefit of AI-powered workplace tools is that they can handle repetitive tasks across your organisation, freeing up employees to focus on creative solutions, complex problem-solving and impactful work.  

Chatbots are a great example of this technology in action. These AI-operated applications have revolutionised customer service, allowing businesses to offer fast, accurate and timely support to their customers. Not only are chatbots available 24/7 to respond to queries, but they’re also cheaper to implement than hiring more staff to deal with simple requests. 

The same goes for marketing. Creating content to shout about your company takes a lot of time and effort, so why not automate the process with AI tools?  

More and more businesses are using generative AI algorithms like the infamous ChatGPT platform to create copy, code, images and videos — saving them the cost of outsourcing a marketing whizz or the time it takes to create content in-house. 

With so many artificial intelligence solutions out there, it’s easier than ever for businesses to enhance efficiency, boost performance and streamline processes — all whilst reducing costs. But as a business leader, should you put all your eggs in the AI basket? Or does relying too much on advanced technology have its consequences? 


Considerations for business leaders


Despite its many advantages, there are some significant ethical concerns surrounding the use of artificial intelligence in business — including issues with bias and fairness. 

For example, AI algorithms are trained with vast amounts of data — and if that data reflects discriminatory preferences or patterns, a content creation tool such as ChatGPT may perpetuate them. Whilst human resources teams can understand social responsibility and compliance, AI can only learn from the data it’s been given. 

Plus, there’s the issue of cyber security. Since AI collects and processes so much sensitive data, your business could be an ideal target for cyber criminals. Without a robust protective framework in place, malicious actors will have plenty of opportunities to carry out data breaches, doxware and phishing attacks.  

And you’ve probably seen the sensationalised headlines about ever-evolving AI technologies replacing human workers. But let’s be honest; as clever as AI is, what would your company be without its staff?  

Although a machine can be trained to behave like a human, it lacks the independent thinking, creativity, understanding and experience that your team brings to the table. Bringing us full circle… 


What is the future of AI for your company?


Whilst AI is still a relatively new innovation, the right tools have the potential to unlock opportunities for businesses looking to streamline their operations as budgets grow tighter and industry markets grow more competitive. 

However, AI is no silver bullet.  

Without ethical guidelines, proper training, thorough research and competent teams, AI could be more of a hindrance than a help to your company. So, whether you’re already eagerly wielding this technology or keen to get started, there are a few essential things to consider as a business leader… 


Do your research


Once you’ve identified areas within your business where artificial intelligence can streamline your operations or support your teams during peak periods, you’ll need to make sure you’re choosing safe and efficient tools. 

For example, assessing your AI software’s security and privacy requirements is crucial. What are the tool’s data handling practices, encryption methods or compliance standards?  

It’s also a good idea to look at reviews from other businesses. How user-friendly is the AI technology? Does the platform provide training and support? Did other companies face any problems during the implementation process? 


Enforce ethical guidelines


Now that you’ve decided which solutions are right for your business, it’s time to establish and implement clear policies for the responsible use of artificial intelligence technologies in the workplace.  

Whether that’s through codes of conduct, checklists or audits, make sure you and your employees are complying with the legal and ethical requirements and expectations when using AI tools. 

The UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) published a detailed plan for implementing a regulatory framework that all businesses should use as a guide — but it’s up to you as a business leader to make sure AI tools are monitored and concerns are addressed as they arise. 


Educate your team


The whole point of workplace AI is to streamline your company and boost productivity. But if you don’t upskill your employees and invest in training, you could end up wasting the time, money and resources it takes to implement these technologies.  

Inefficient use of AI tools can result in higher operational costs, with employees requiring more time to complete tasks. Similarly, without understanding how to navigate the technology and its data, employees could expose your company to costly security risks that could bring operations to a halt. 

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get you and your team up to speed with these advanced technologies — from webinars and training workshops to online resources.  

Encouraging this learning and opening the dialogue can also help your staff understand the purpose of AI within your business and how it will be used to support them rather than replace them — leading to better buy-in from everyone involved.  


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