How to Mitigate Employees’ Fear of Being Replaced by AI Technology
When we look back at 2023 in the future, we will probably mark it as the year AI technology deeply disrupted the workforce – especially in the knowledge and creative industry. With the advent of ChatGPT and other types of generative AI, many white-collar employees are nervous they’ll be made redundant. This fear of losing a job to technology is not new – ever since the Industrial Revolution, people have worried about mass unemployment due to machines revolutionizing the work floor. Instead of fueling this sentiment, HR leaders should deal with their people’s concerns. It’s time to flip the script: AI is not a scary science fiction scenario, but it can positively reshape the Future of Work – potentially contributing to happier and more productive employees.
- Intro: About AI, Homer, and Hollywood
- Will AI Take Over the World One Day?
- Fear of Being Replaced by Technology
- How HR leaders can Deal with Employee Job Fear
- Jobs that AI Will Disrupt
- Jobs that AI Can’t Replace
- AI and the Future of Jobs
1. Intro: About AI, Homer, and Hollywood
“Technology is the partner of progress.” Although that sounds like something Elon Musk or the late Steve Jobs would say, we’ve had this insight for thousands and thousands of years – just think of the invention of the wheel and the printing press. It was actually Homer who introduced the word ‘automata’ to humankind, and in Greek mythology there a plenty of examples of people envisioning how one day they would be able to imitate, augment and even surpass nature through a concept known as biotechne, which translates as “life crafted through the art of science.” It turns out that even in their time, the ancient Greeks were true ambassadors of techno-positivism.
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Although technology has brought us an abundance of advancements and innovations that have transformed almost every aspect of our lives today, the fear of automation spans centuries. During the First Industrial Revolution (starting in the mid-1700s), skilled workers were afraid they would lose their jobs to machine manufacturing. When the steam train was introduced, farmers worried their cow’s milk would turn sour: the noise of the steel monster racing through the calm pastures would scare the living daylights out of their animals (it turns out, the cows were fine). More recently, in 2008, a now famous article in the Atlantic titled ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’ warned us about the Internet and how it is changing the way we think and process information – not necessarily for the better. Fast forward to today, and 23% of employees working in the software and tech industry are worried about losing their job because of ChatGPT, the game-changing AI model that uses deep learning to perform tasks like coding and computer programming. And they are not the only ones who worry, as this technology will likely disrupt other professions too – like marketing & communications, design, and finance.
We have seen lots of technological advancement in the history of humankind. Each time we worried it would replace human labor, but it turned out fine – human labor has just shifted focus. Technology aided instead of fully replacing the job.
Tobias Hoelzer, AI lead Lepaya
Hooray for Hollywood?
Then, there’s the influence of Hollywood. You only have to say the word ‘artificial intelligence’, and dystopian scenes from movies and series like The Matrix, Blade Runner, and West World come to mind, with self-aware machines and cyborgs ruling a post-apocalyptic world. Though widely inaccurate and far-fetched, these images have helped to popularize the concept of a “robot uprising” in popular culture, with technology taking over and making our jobs redundant. It also influenced people’s perception of artificial intelligence and its practical capabilities in this modern day and age.
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2. Will AI Take Over The World One Day?
So, should we be afraid of AI? Can artificial intelligence replace human intelligence? Will robots steal our jobs? The short answer is no, at least not in the way that many people imagine. The idea of a global AI takeover might be a common topic in science fiction books and movies, but it is far from a realistic scenario. While AI is certainly becoming more powerful and sophisticated, achieving results that were previously inconceivable, it is still a long way from being able to plan an invasion and take over the world. That’s because AI is only as powerful as the algorithms and data that drive it. While AI can perform specific tasks with incredible accuracy and speed, it cannot have a vision or purpose on its own, nor can it deviate from the predetermined rules it was programmed to follow. As long as there are responsible individuals and organizations developing and monitoring AI systems, there is little risk of AI thinking independently and having a consciousness or moral compass. In fact, AI is applied to far more mundane matters than controlling our lives or threatening the planet. Rather, some might argue that it can open doors to countless opportunities, and its immense potential can even help make the world a better place.
On the other hand, others – like Elon Musk, who actually co-founded the company behind ChatGPT – do warn us about the risks of AI. “I think we need to regulate AI safety, frankly,” Musk said at the World Government Summit in Dubai recently. “It is, I think, actually a bigger risk to society than cars or planes or medicine. We need some kind of, like, regulatory authority or something overseeing AI development,” according to the Tesla founder. “Make sure it’s operating in the public interest.”
3. Fear of Being Replaced by Technology
One thing is for sure: AI has the potential to radically change how businesses operate. This modern-day technology is shaping the Future of Work, and its impact on the workforce is profound. Many industries are now replacing employees with technology, and we’re not just talking about lower-paid jobs that are repetitive, like flipping burgers or picking orders in a warehouse. Even highly skilled professionals aren’t immune to getting replaced by AI, and an increasing number of white-collar employees are nervous about the impact of AI in the workplace – including marketing managers, copywriters, journalists, and Wall Street traders. Headlines warning of the growing influence of AI often don’t help, leading to people walking around with the constant fear of losing their job and all the stress and uncertainty that comes with that concern.
The question of whether AI will replace human workers assumes that AI and humans have the same qualities and abilities — but, in reality, they don’t. AI-based machines are fast, more accurate, and consistently rational, but they aren’t intuitive, emotional, or culturally sensitive. It’s exactly these abilities that humans possess and which make us effective.
4. How HR Leaders Can Deal with Employee Job Fear
HR leaders and people managers have an essential role to play in addressing the fears of AI amongst their workforce because this anxiety is very real – especially among millennials. In fact, 81% worry that AI technology will fully or partially take over their work. Here are some ways to mitigate employees’ fear of losing a job to technology:
- Lead by example: one of the first steps to leading your employees through this transformation cycle is to educate yourself and develop a strategic view of how AI can add value to your business. Before talking with your employees about AI, you must fully understand what it encompasses yourself and how it potentially impacts your business and your team. Read about AI in your industry, watch Ted-talks, and take advantage of experts (like software vendors, thought leaders, and tech gurus) that can give you advice and practical tips
- Communicate openly: to create a technologically advanced and employee-friendly workplace, it’s essential to make your people comfortable with the idea of AI. Explain what it will mean to them in their day-to-day work and how it will affect their activities and responsibilities. Also, be honest: it’s ok to be reluctant about new technologies, but not being able to adapt might have consequences
- Highlight the benefits: explain how technological innovation can help your employees work more efficiently, reduce their workload, and enhance their job performance, freeing them from repetitive tasks to handle more intellectually stimulating projects. Emphasize that technology is meant to level up their work – not replace them
- Organize feedback and brainstorming sessions: involve your people in the decision-making process when implementing new technologies. Brainstorm with your team how AI could benefit them professionally and personally, and ask for feedback. If you are mindful that people worry about being replaced by technology, they will feel valued and respected. It also allows them to voice their concerns
- Provide training: an important step in demystifying AI and preparing your team for the Future of Work is training and education. Invest in training sessions to help your teams develop the necessary skills to work alongside technology. This can include training on software, hardware, or other technological tools, but even more importantly, behavioral skills. To succeed in today’s fast-paced, digital workplace, employees must learn how to adapt to changes, work well in teams, take ownership, develop a growth mindset, and communicate their ideas genuinely and compellingly. It’s important to remember that, even as technology gets more advanced, there are specific human skills that AI can’t replace, like emotional intelligence and other soft skills – which will become increasingly important in the coming years
5. Jobs That AI Will Disrupt
Automation has already displaced manual labor in for instance the manufacturing industry, but with the advent of ChatGPT and other types of generative AI, other jobs will also be disrupted – particularly white-collar ones. So let’s have a look at three not-so-obvious professions that are at higher risk of being transformed by AI:
- Customer service and support: chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming increasingly mainstream in customer service: nothing new so far. But with the rise of conversational AI, not only can chatbots handle customer inquiries and support, they can actually grasp the intent and the sentiment of the client calling or emailing. These bots can adjust themselves to any problem the customer has, respond accordingly, and by doing so personalize the customer journey. Additionally, people no longer have to wait to speak to a support representative, which reduces waiting time and improves their overall experience
- Marketing & Communications: you might think that marketing & communications are typical ‘human’ professions, but AI is already used to automate lead generation, customer segmentation, and predict market trends. Moreover, with the arrival of ChatGPT, AI can develop complete marketing and social media campaigns, writing compelling short copy and advertising texts. This can potentially reshape the role of copywriters in the advertising industry and beyond
- Graphic designers: DALL-E is another AI tool created by the company behind ChatGPT. It can generate and edit images and pieces of art in a matter of seconds and is seen as a potential disruptor of the graphic design industry and the world of visual content creators
6. Jobs That AI Can’t Replace
Yes, AI will disrupt a reasonable number of jobs, but it won’t replace all jobs. There will always be professions that require emotional intelligence and other unique, human skills that machines will never be able to develop. Think: creativity, critical thinking, negotiating, making deep connections with others, teamwork, and thinking outside the box – which is the bedrock of innovation. On the contrary: AI is designed to think inside the box, as it can only work with the flow of data it receives and detect patterns based on that input.
So which jobs are safe from AI? Here are three examples:
- Psychiatrists and therapists require emotional intelligence, listening skills, and empathy to connect with their patients on a deep level. They need to truly understand human behavior and provide their patients with personalized treatment. Can you imagine yourself lying on the sofa and chatting with a robot about your fears and problems? We don’t think so
- Most of us have played around with AI apps generating fantastic artwork, and the above-mentioned DALL-E can indeed alter the work of the graphic design industry. However, artists, photographers, and designers will never be fully replaced by AI, as human creativity is too complex to replicate. For now, it’s unlikely that AI will create work that is genuinely original and unique
- It’s the core job of CEOs and other executives to make strategic decisions and provide vision and leadership to their organizations and people. AI can help them formulate KPIs and be a driving force behind the decision-making process. However, some leadership skills are impossible to be replaced by AI: networking, personal interaction and creative thinking for example
An AI tool like ChatGPT is particularly interesting because it affects white-collar workers, compared to blue-collar workers in the past. ChatGPT will not replace you as a white-collar worker though. A white-collar worker using ChatGPT will replace the ones not using advanced tools.
Tobias Hoelzer, AI lead Lepaya
7. AI and the Future of Jobs
Though many jobs will be reshaped due to technological advancements, the robots aren’t quite taking over yet. But the rise of artificial intelligence? That’s inevitable. It will change the world of work as we know it, and that can be a good thing. Because actually, AI is expected to create more jobs than it will destroy – completely new industries even. There will be new occupations we haven’t yet imagined, which McKinsey says could account for 10% of all jobs created by 2030. The development and implementation of AI require skilled professionals in areas such as data analysis, programming, and machine learning, but also in other fields. Take a look at this overview, compiled by the World Economic Forum:
At Lepaya, we help organizations adapt to the Future of Work by creating a culture of continuous learning. We build stronger teams and inspire future leaders, for instance by offering innovative learning experiences with VR Training and a dedicated AI coach.
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