Your company is less prepared for AI than you think

When it comes to AI, Mark Murphy says the biggest problem isn't the technology, but convincing people resistant to change to embrace it

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Aug 3, 2023

If you’re a regular reader of TLNT, then I’m pretty sure you’ve experimented with- (or are a power user of-) any number of AI tools.

But, compared to most HR professionals, I’m also pretty sure that you’re in the minority.

For despite a recent Pew Research survey finding six-in-ten Americans believe Al will have a major impact on workers generally, only 28% believe it will have a major effect on them personally.

As such, it’s probably no surprise that only around 14% of all US adults say they have used ChatGPT for entertainment, to learn something new, or for their work.

But this lack of uptake in the workplace is worrying.

The Pew Research survey additionally found that half of people believe AI will have no impact on them or that the impact will be minor.

But most experts think this is wildly wrong. For while we don’t know exactly how much AI will impact businesses, the general consensus is that the impact will be huge.

In fact, when the CEO of IBM says 30% of non-customer-facing roles could be replaced by AI and automation in five years, I would suggest everyone needs to be paying much more attention to it.

Dealing with change resistance

The downplaying of AI is a classic example of how HR professionals need to address change resistance.

For anyone who’s ever led a change effort, whether it’s AI or something else, the existence of change resistors should come as no surprise. But there are lessons to be learned about why people resist change, especially change involving new technology.

In a Leadership IQ study specifically on change resistance, we discovered that when employees have confidence that they’ll personally succeed with a change, they’re more likely to support it.

While this might not sound shocking, this one issue explains nearly 25% of why an employee will (or won’t) support their company’s change.

Here’s the problem: Imagine that we want our company’s employees to start supporting and embracing AI. If employee confidence is a major driver of their support, how are they going to gain confidence with AI when only 14% of adults have used ChatGPT?

Leaders often forget they see change differently

This issue, I believe, is that too many in the C-suite don’t appreciate that their views on change are drastically different from the folks on the frontlines.

The previously-mentioned study on change resistance also discovered that top executives are 91% more likely to enjoy leaving their comfort zone than frontline employees.

CEOs like IBM’s Arvind Krishna seem to accept the massive AI-led changes coming our way, but chief executives of his ilk are generally more change-ready than their workers.

We also know that far more people prefer stability and predictability to rapid and unpredictable change. Data from the test “What Motivates You?” finds that there are four times as many people driven by Security than Adventure.

People with an Adventure drive are motivated by risk, change, and uncertainty. By contrast, those with a Security drive prefer continuity, consistency, and predictability.

In fact, Security-driven employees often dislike change, especially when it feels too abrupt or disruptive.

Preparing your people for change

So, given all of this, what can you do to prepare your employees for the coming AI-driven changes?

For starters, get a handle on to what extent your workforce is familiar with and supportive of AI.

On your next employee survey, add a few questions about AI.

And when you analyze the results, don’t stop at dissecting the data by department, role, and tenure. Go a step further and assess AI readiness by high, middle, and low performers.

A recent Leadership IQ report on employee engagement surveys revealed that in 42% of organizations, high performers were less engaged than low performers.

By matching employee engagement scores to performance appraisal scores, it was possible to see to what extent a company was at risk of losing its highest-performing people.

The same approach should be used when assessing AI readiness. If your best employees are the most resistant to the coming AI-driven changes, you’ve got a far more pressing challenge than if the opposition is coming from a less vital segment of your workforce.

Finally, while a number of companies have instituted hard-and-fast rules about AI use, especially involving proprietary information, you should strongly consider getting all employees familiar with the technology.

Even if you’re not yet incorporating AI into employees’ daily work, a bit of training and familiarization would go a long way to reducing the current resistance and anxiety.

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