6 ways to harness AI for organizational success

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Artificial intelligence is transforming nearly every function in nearly every organization.

From developers writing code and designers creating prototypes to marketers creating content and recruiters writing job descriptions, generative AI that is capable of producing text, images or other media is changing how work gets done. Research from OpenAI estimates that 80% of workers in the U.S. could incorporate generative AI technology into their workflows.

These are exciting times! But let’s be honest, they’re also a bit scary. AI represents both a threat and opportunity for organizations and employees. As HR and benefit advisers, how can you help prepare your employer clients and the employee populations you serve to adopt and adapt to mitigate risk and seize opportunities?

Read more: 49% of CEOs say AI could do the bulk of their work. What does it mean for the C-suite?

Let’s explore six practical steps you can take to help companies not just survive but actually thrive in an AI-empowered era.

To help prepare organizations for change, start with yourself. Adopt a beginner’s mindset. Embrace your curiosity. If you and your clients haven’t yet given ChatGPT a try, fix that immediately. It’s free. Find systematic ways to educate yourself and your clients. Subscribe to newsletters that explore applications of AI within HR and beyond. Ask vendors how they’re planning to leverage AI to make tools more effective and teams more productive. If you or your teammates are technical, explore how no- or low-code tools like Glide Apps might apply AI within existing business processes.

You don’t need to become an AI expert to create impact. Once you’ve built a beginner’s understanding of how AI works — and maybe even toyed with creating value using AI — you’ll have a foundation to expand your experiment beyond HR.

Encourage clients to enlist two or three other functional leaders to embark on this AI journey. Why two or three, rather than one or even 10? It’s small enough to keep the stakes low while still looking for generalizable learnings that can be applied elsewhere across the organization. And if somebody flakes out (or crashes and burns), you’ll have a benchmark (or two) to compare against.

Read more: AI can’t improve company culture. But it empowers employees to try

Leaders who complement their strengths and weaknesses should be chosen. Ideal candidates will be those who are adaptable and used to pushing the envelope. Common functions that are adept at “design thinking” include research and development, design or engineering. Clients should think about their own internal network and recruit people they trust into their AI skunkworks.

Once they’ve got some co-conspirators, have them consider running a “design sprint” with each leader (and some folks from their team) to quickly take one or two ideas from concept to experiment as quickly as possible.

Individuals and departments in your client’s organization are likely already experimenting with AI. A recent survey by Checkr revealed that a whopping 85% of workers in the U.S. have used AI in their work. As you identify (and help build) AI champions for your clients, you’ll be helping build a network of employees who possess enthusiasm and expertise in AI. These champions can serve as advocates, mentors and experts to help guide their colleagues in embracing AI’s potential.

We will see examples of organizations and individuals using AI in wild and wonderful ways. And, no doubt, we’ll also see examples of failing (sometimes spectacularly) with AI. Your client’s leadership team is already thinking about AI. There are likely some leaders in the organization who are more concerned about the risks of AI than they are the opportunity created by AI. And there may be others who are more concerned about moving fast with AI. With the AI experience they’ve developed, HR may now have the knowledge (and trust) needed to help functional leaders find a third way that enables speed without condoning recklessness. The key is developing principles that offer guidance rather than policies that enforce control.

Read more: Killer app or business killer? When trying new tech, proceed with caution and overprepare

Research from McKinsey showed that AI could automate 60% to 70% of employee’s work. While fear of AI eliminating some jobs appears legitimate, it’s also likely that AI can remove or relieve some of the worst parts of an existing job, setting workers free to focus on life-giving work that brings them closer to their full potential. As a result, every employee can benefit from training on how to use AI so that they’re set up for success, either in their current role, or a future role enabled by AI.

With the foundation you’ve built with clients, they may now be ready to apply all that learning toward developing employee training that can prepare employees to harness the power of AI. Begin with foundational AI concepts and gradually progress toward more advanced applications and use cases. Implement pilot groups where AI can be particularly transformative, allowing employees to explore AI’s potential within their roles. By offering tailored learning experiences, you can ensure that each employee in the populations you serve gains the knowledge and skills they need to leverage AI effectively.

Read more: Time to upskill? Employers may pay 77% more for AI roles

Measure the success of your client’s AI initiatives through regular feedback surveys. Keep a pulse on employee engagement and progress to identify areas for improvement. Capture success stories of employees successfully applying AI in their work. Have clients share these stories across the entire organization. Celebrate ideas and recognize great work connected to AI. These stories will not only motivate others, but also provide valuable insights to refine and continuously enhance the AI learning program.

The AI revolution is here, and HR leaders have an opportunity to unlock its potential within their organizations. By equipping your clients and the employees you serve with AI knowledge and skills, you’re not only helping to future-proof these organization, but also creating a dynamic workforce capable of thriving in an AI-driven world. HR leaders are uniquely positioned to lead the way.

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