Artificial intelligence: friend or foe to employees?

3 min read
Robot Hand Bulb
Source: Depositphotos

To some degree, humans are quite predictable.

When faced with a change, our amygdala, the region of our brain that triggers a fight or flight response, will predictably influence human behavior. For example, when your company announces a change like consolidation or layoffs, people will react with either resistance, enthusiasm or worse, ambivalence.

Over the course of American history, we have faced many changes that were initially feared. When Henry Ford released the Model T car, fears from the loss of employment in the horse and buggy “industry” were palpable. Over time, however, enthusiasm replaced fear. Ford had created a new industry. Employees developed new skills. It also created new opportunities that benefited workers and business owners.

Today we’re faced with technological advancements that are transforming the way we communicate, create, and collaborate. One improvement that has finally matured enough to worry and excite us humans is artificial intelligence (AI).

The question is, will AI replace humans in the workplace? Indeed, dystopian fears have triggered the amygdala in many people. Those fears, however, are unfounded.

Technology versus humans

Many robots vs human, humanity and technology

When early AI started to make noticeable impacts on workflows, companies anticipated laying off employees. Visions of saved labor costs made executives and investors happy. Imagine reducing costs like benefits, insurance, even office space.

Job loss, however, won’t be as rampant in America as initially feared. Job loss projections range from 9 percent to 47 percent. Why the wide range in forecasts? It depends on which side analysts and thought leaders fall concerning tech’s influence on the workforce.

A reliable way to determine the impact on your workforce is to evaluate the tasks employees do. Jobs, where tasks can be easily automated, have a higher likelihood of being eliminated, like clerical and production positions, for example.

On the flipside, artificial intelligence is less likely to overtake jobs that require higher education. Interestingly enough, some trade positions are expected to avoid the AI disruption.

A mutually beneficial relationship between technology and humans has a high propensity for success.

Adobe is already showing creatives how the relationship between technology and human can be harmonious. Adobe Sensei, the creative giant’s AI, delivers insights that flirt with being more human-like. For example, Sensei can filter through millions of images that meet your project’s needs. Want a photo that conveys happiness that’s not trite? Adobe’s AI can help find the right image that conveys the emotions you want.

Rather than referring to Sensei as AI, Chris Duffey, Adobe’s Strategic Development Manager for Creative Cloud, flips it to be IA—intelligent assistant. The switch humanizes technology in a way that is likely palatable for us humans. Sensei frees up humans from needless, long, laborious tasks. While Sensei does its thing, creatives can shift their focus to deep thinking or nuanced decisions making that defy algorithms.

Human versus human


In a 2018 McKinsey report, technical and social and emotional skills will become more critical over the next 11 years. Framed another way: It is no longer good enough for employees to be technically proficient. As leaders, we each need to understand the impact we have on others and results. Over the past two decades, we see this shift, a 50-percent increase in collaborative and agile team arrangements.

If people can’t work together with less friction, then companies face a severe conundrum: How to change already existing toxic or generic workplace cultures? The daunting reality is 70 percent of workers have negative work experiences. One contributing factor is a lack of quality relationships with coworkers.

It’s not AI that should worry us. Instead, it’s our impact on our colleagues. The quality of the human-to-human interaction has always been important. AI is merely revealing how teams that work well together become the next competitive advantage.

What’s next?

As AI and automation mature, leaders will further their understanding of this workplace change. We need to get better at integrating the benefits of automation into operational changes in the business. Our insatiable curiosity can be boundless. What’s more, there are no universal ethics surrounding AI and its usage. As an example, I recently shared an article about the role AI plays in the future of work. In response, one person warned about the loss of privacy. She has a legitimate concern.  However, AI is not the concern. It’s us.

At the same time, doomsday proclamations about humanity’s demise at the hands of our tech creations seems a bit dramatic. What AI cannot do is replicate the human ability to rely on our intuition, that gut instinct. It cannot think creatively either. This makes humans irreplaceable. Simply stated: companies need to become masters at uniting AI capabilities with human dynamics.

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