Admit it: Most of us are at least a little afraid that artificial intelligence (AI) and technology like ChatGPT will make our jobs obsolete. When ChatGPT-3 burst onto the scene in November 2022, it felt like an inflection point. Suddenly, instead of laughing at computer-generated language , we were intimidated by it.
Without regulations or best practices to guide Big Tech as it races to release newer, smarter tools, the future feels uncertain. But we don't have to fear AI: The truth is, most of us have probably been using it for years to make life and work and life easier.
Machine learning has been around for decades. It's powered spell check and auto-completed sentences. It's saved us from sending emails without attachments by scanning for phrases like, "Please see attachment." It helps us organize the photos on our phones and translates foreign languages. AI has simplified mundane tasks, and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are poised to do that once again in the workplace.
Instead of shunning AI, let's look at how this technology is evolving, and how your company can embrace LLMs to make work more engaging for employees.
Defining company policies around AI
Many employees already use tools like ChatGPT in their work. A recent survey by Fishbowl, a platform for workplace conversations, found that 43% of professionals have used AI tools, including ChatGPT, for work-related tasks. Nearly 70% of those professionals are doing so without their boss' knowledge.
As the world scrambles to understand how and when to use AI, it's critical for companies to set and share internal guidelines around the technology and be clear with employees on how the policies apply to them. For example, work that uses AI should be flagged accordingly to allow for proper QA; AI still has flaws and is known to "hallucinate," so AI-generated work should not be submitted as a final without human review.
"At the end of the day, you need someone knowledgeable and competent in their profession to submit quality work, whether they have used AI as a starting point or it has aided them in getting to the desired result," Greg Toroosian, CEO and founder of Samson Rose, a California-based robotics and AI recruiting firm, said.
There's also the matter of security. Companies like Samsung and JPMorgan Chase have banned their employees from using ChatGPT out of concerns about data breaches and compliance. There might be good reasons for that. One Fishbowl commenter noted that their company had flagged a breach through their work laptop while using ChatGPT on a personal account. The scenario raised interesting questions about the level of surveillance that companies are deploying to ensure the safety of their data.
Whether your company welcomes or shuns AI-assistance tools, spell your policy out clearly.
Embracing the benefits of AI
AI doesn't suffer from burnout. Its feelings are never hurt. It can't be distracted. For many mundane tasks, AI will outperform humans. And that's okay.
Consider how technology has transformed customer service, for example. For years, contacting customer service meant waiting on hold for what felt like forever. Phone tree systems made those calls faster by letting the caller select the reason for their call from a pre-recorded menu. Voice recognition technology added further convenience, and then chatbots entered the field to gather information about a customer's query and direct them to a human representative. Machines stepping in on the data-gathering side of customer service calls has given the humans who work in customer service departments more time to problem solve.
"I think that a lot of people might have a bit of doom and gloom about how automation will take away jobs, but at the same time, this is, in many cases, about making people more productive and making people more efficient, said Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor's lead economist.
Computers are better than humans at routine tasks, but humans bring curiosity, creativity, and empathy to the workplace that AI cannot. Both are important skill sets for any company's success. As you address how AI may ultimately streamline the workflow at your company, remind your teams that it is here to make their jobs easier, not irrelevant.
How to increase productivity in the workplace with AI
Instead of viewing AI as competition, think of it as a partner that can increase productivity. It can be a springboard for research, a ghostwriter, or even an idea generator. Here are a few AI use cases managers can offer workers to complement their roles:
- Researching a new-to-you topic. An AI-powered search engine can distill information from multiple sources into a conversational brief to make your initial searches more efficient.
- Brainstorming social media captions or taglines for a new marketing campaign. Ask AI for ideas, then refine those suggestions with human input.
- Building an itinerary for an upcoming business trip. A bot can do the legwork for you.
- Drafting emails to clients or colleagues. Outsource it to a bot, then give it an edit before clicking "send".
Management gurus have long touted the benefits of working "smarter, not harder." AI provides the perfect opportunity to put that advice into practice.
AI and the future of work
Technology has shifted the way we work for centuries. The mechanized loom replaced manual weavers, desktop publishing changed the scope of secretarial work, and automated assembly transformed factory work. In some ways, AI will reduce the workload on individual contributors, but it opens the door for more innovative thinking.
AI technologies like ChatGPT don't have to be the beginning of the end. But for now, the future of its impact on the workforce is uncertain.
"I do look at ChatGPT and these AI tools as potentially revolutionary in the workplace, but it is very difficult to predict how it's going to play out in the employment space in the short term," said Zhao.