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New UKG Study Reveals AI’s at Work — Whether You Know It or Not

Today’s post comes to us from Brandon Bielich, managing editor of the UKG Workforce Institute.

We’ve talked a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) here at the UKG Workforce Institute lately, from The Workforce Institute Weigh-In featuring our advisory board to several articles about AI in HR from our good friend David Creelman.

If you read or watch the news, you know AI is everywhere right now. Generative AI (GenAI) in particular is “having a moment,” as the cool kids say — GenAI platform ChatGPT reached 100 million users in just two months. For comparison, it took nine months for TikTok to reach 100 million users, and 30 months for Instagram to get there.

But, as any techy will tell you, AI isn’t new. In fact, it’s been here for years!

A global study out this week from UKG, which has provided AI-driven solutions since 2015, finds many people are already using AI at work and at home. UKG partnered with the firm Workplace Intelligence — alongside its managing partner and UKG Workforce Institute advisory board member Dan Schawbel — to survey more than 4,000 people in 10 countries. The study asked C-suite executives, managers, and employees for their true feelings about AI, and whether they’re currently using or planning to use AI in the workplace within the next five years.

The good news? It’s not so much a takeover, as AI is already a co-worker for millions of people. In fact, according to the UKG study, 78% of C-suite leaders say their organizations are using AI today. Now, the not-so-good news: There’s a lack of transparency between companies and their employees about AI in the workplace — 54% of people say they have “no idea” how their companies are using AI!

That lack of transparency, and the power it has to erode trust between organizations and their people, is the actual scary part about AI happening right now — not the Hollywood-hyped threat of sentient technology ruling us all. And if companies don’t take crucial steps to increase transparency and improve communication, they risk losing top talent to more trustworthy organizations.

Before we talk about that, let’s review some key findings from the study.

More AI, More Time

Whether you know it or not, AI is all around us. If you said, “Hey, Google!” any time today or audibly argued with autocorrect, you used AI. You’re not alone in doing so. The UKG study reveals more than 90% of people have used at least one of the following AI-driven platforms in their daily lives: maps and navigation (66%), predictive product/entertainment suggestions, such as in Netflix and Spotify (50%), text editors or autocorrect (47%), or virtual home assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant (46%).

But what about using AI at work? If you interacted with a chatbot while searching for benefits information, you’ve used AI. And if your organization uses UKG solutions, then you’ve likely used AI in the workplace, and especially at the managerial level — from optimizing staff schedules to matching ideal job candidates for open positions. AI is helping employees everywhere complete tasks that once consumed most of the day, so they can focus on the stuff that requires more human input — like the meetings that couldn’t have been emails.

Embrace AI, Embrace Its Benefits

Companies and employees already embracing AI at work recognize its advantages. According to the study, three out of four people using AI at work say it:

  • Makes them more efficient and productive; 
  • Makes it possible for them to spend more time on meaningful tasks; and 
  • Increases the quality or accuracy of their work. 

Even those who’ve yet to welcome AI into the workplace still recognize its potential. In the study: 

  • 63% of these employees say AI would improve their engagement/job satisfaction; 
  • 55% think it would increase their willingness to go above and beyond; and 
  • More than half (54%) believe it would boost their overall happiness. 

Meanwhile, company leaders recognize the boost to their bottom lines. Thanks to AI, nearly half (49%) of the C-suite says their companies have benefited (e.g., financial returns have increased as a result of AI use), and 71% of C-suite leaders say increasing/advancing their use of AI is either a high or medium priority for their organization, citing the competitive advantage AI can bring.

Greater Transparency, Greater Trust

It’s clear people realize the positive role AI can play at work. What’s not-so clear is how their companies are using AI. This can hinder organizations’ progress in becoming greats place to work. Beyond the perks of using AI, fostering a great workplace brings myriad benefits, from better recruiting to improved morale and even higher returns on investment.

That all starts with trust, the key factor in creating a great place to work.

If employees don’t trust what their leaders are telling them, they’re less likely to put in discretionary effort for the good of the company and its customers. Even worse, if employees don’t know the why, how, or especially the what behind leadership’s decisions, they’re less likely to trust the company.

Don’t conflate agreement with trust. Not every employee will agree with every decision, but when employees trust the decision makers, they’re more likely to respect a decision, consider it fair, and presume it’s made in their best interest.

Regarding the AI study, remember: a majority of people, which includes frontline employees and even people managers, say they have “no idea” how their companies use AI in the workplace. Yes, it’s unrealistic for employees to know every little detail about what goes on at their organizations, especially if there are thousands of employees. But, AI will have major impacts on the workforce, and it’s critical for people to know how it may affect their roles.

Share the AI, Share the Benefits

It’s time for more organizations to be more open about their use of AI. When used ethically and in service of people, AI can help improve employee productivity, reduce burnout, and bring out the best in innovation. Because less focus on time-consuming tasks means more opportunities for strategic thinking and creative exploration — like the kinds of meetings that shouldn’t have been emails.

Despite Hollywood’s best depictions, AI isn’t coming for all our jobs. It’s actually helping us do our jobs better, whether we know it or not. And we should all know that by now.

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