President and Chief Operating Officer, RingCentral.
While artificial intelligence (AI) introduces near-endless opportunities to improve the way we work, it can feel intimidating for some, especially during a time of such incredible advancement. Understandably so: When benefits like automation and cost-cutting are on the table, many begin to wonder which jobs are secure.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to influence our teams’ perception of and relationship with AI, help them figure out how to use it effectively and prepare them for how it can positively impact the workplace down the road. There are four key things leaders can do to make this happen.
1. Remember that technology is evolving.
Every decade or so, a new technology emerges that’s truly disruptive. This goes back centuries: The introduction of the printing press in the 1400s dramatically reduced the need for people to handwrite books or papers, just as the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s established machinery that eliminated the need for jobs traditionally completed with manual labor.
Fast-forward to the 2010s, when the rise of the gig economy shook up entire industries, like taxi services, deliveries and freelance work, to name a few. As of 2022, there were more than 57 million freelancers in the U.S.—with the population at 334 million, freelancers make up about one out of every six people in the country—and this number is only expected to grow. These advancements have fundamentally disrupted how we think about jobs and work.
AI is not something to fear, but rather something to embrace. What if society never accepted the progress afforded by the printing press, the sweeping changes brought about during the Industrial Revolution or the more recent disruption driven by gig economy businesses?
The influence of AI on our lives will only grow from here. Leaders need to help their teams reframe these changes as the next step in this progression and learn to look ahead to the possibilities.
2. Lean into the positive changes AI brings to the workplace.
As the technology progresses, AI will help remove the mundane nature of repetitive, administrative tasks and free up time for strategic work. In fact, my company’s research shows that nearly 50% of decision-makers believe that AI will help free up their time to focus more on core initiatives.
This is already happening in the workplace. Business communications tools use AI to help teams work together more efficiently. After a meeting, some tools summarize entire discussions into one or two paragraphs, providing conversational intelligence that makes it easy to refer back to or to catch up if you’ve missed a call.
Another example: Real-time behavioral coaching is helping contact center agents provide better service. Tracking parameters such as active listening and empathy enable the detection of patterns for tailored coaching, fostering efficient feedback, rapid improvement and team growth. After all, there’s no better feeling than watching your direct report excel all the way into a new promotion—and AI can help us get there faster.
For sales professionals, we’re seeing AI boost customer relationships with real-time listening and prospecting. This type of revenue intelligence can help provide stronger visibility and feedback into the buyer-seller relationship and level of engagement activity, leading to quicker, more streamlined and smarter deals—in addition to commission for the sales agent at hand.
Will AI advancements displace some roles? Potentially, yes, but the nature of the workplace and the types of jobs available will continue to evolve as well. In the same way that no one in the 1400s envisioned a new role as a printing press operator, no one prior to 2012 imagined they could parlay their vehicle ownership into a ride-hail side hustle.
Leaders can help their teams understand that AI will open up opportunities that might be more interesting, more human and more rewarding—and can help employees prepare to capitalize on them.
3. Recognize that ongoing education is the key to increased productivity.
Leaders have an opportunity to help teams embrace these changes through updated learning and development programs, companywide training, certification offerings and the like.
The excitement is already there: According to my company’s research, more than half of workers aged 21 to 34 believe AI advancements will boost productivity. Today’s technology makes this learning curve all the more attainable—an enormous volume of educational materials and resources can be available at the click of a button.
Everyone, starting with the C-suite and cascading down the organization, should be determined to learn as much as they can to keep up with changing technologies and boost productivity.
Encourage experimentation on your team as well, but provide guidelines as to what’s acceptable for your organization and your customers.
As for leaders, the more you learn, the better you can assess how AI can positively impact your business—and how others may use it to disrupt that business.
That being said, even though AI tools are already having a positive impact at work, these technologies are still in the very early stages. No one singular tool is perfect, and there are still challenges and limitations to be worked through, especially when it comes to weeding out biases in AI and making sure these tools are utilizing the most up-to-date and accurate data sets. It’s important to stay open-minded when it comes to AI but also aware of potential shortcomings.
4. Look forward to stay ahead.
As we’ve seen, AI is already improving the workforce in a number of ways, from easing administrative burdens to providing real-time performance feedback. In the near future, we may see AI supporting business-critical issues like compliance pitfalls, continued conversation intelligence and customer experience.
Leaders who educate themselves and their teams about the potential of AI, and who can envision how it might continue to shape the way we work, will be ahead of the game.
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