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Artificial intelligence in the workplace

June 27, 2023
Artificial intelligence robot hand touching human hand with a big data network background.

The thought of using artificial intelligence (AI) at work may sound like science fiction, but many industries have adopted this innovative technology. AI has countless practical applications, from automating data analysis to writing social media posts. According to a 2022 study by tech giant IBM, 35% of organizations used AI in 2022, and another 42% are investigating potential uses of the technology.1

However, many people remain wary of AI. A 2022 survey by MITRE discovered that 78% of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about AI being used for malicious intent, and 82% support government regulation for AI.2 This article closely examines the benefits and applications of AI in the workplace. Read on to discover the answer to a common question: Do the potential benefits of artificial intelligence outweigh the risks?

Understanding artificial intelligence

The recent release of the ChatGPT chatbot has increased public awareness of artificial intelligence, but this technology has existed for almost 70 years. Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term for technology that imitates the innate cognitive functions of humans. In other words, AI mimics how people think, learn, and make decisions — and it does these tasks at a much faster rate than humans can accomplish.3

You may already use AI if you use speech recognition and digital assistant applications on your smartphone. These tools can also collect and analyze data, make predictions about the future, and generate content. Additionally, machine learning methods allow AI systems to learn with algorithms and data, making them increasingly accurate and faster.4

People often associate AI with computer science but in fact it's already present in their everyday lives. Many sectors implement AI to complete routine and repetitive tasks. For instance, the online retailer Wayfair uses AI to optimize its supply chain processes.5 Fitbit has developed AI wearables that analyze health data and share findings with healthcare providers.6 And in 2023, Spotify launched an AI DJ that creates customized playlists.7

What are the benefits of artificial intelligence in the workplace?

Many organizations are still in the early stages of adopting artificial intelligence, but these tools will likely become more prevalent soon. According to a 2023 Salesforce survey, only 10% of American employees use AI daily at work. However, the survey found that 67% of business leaders are exploring ways to implement generative — or content-creating — AI.8

The benefits of artificial intelligence in the workplace include:

Enhanced business efficiency

In a 2021 survey by the software firm SnapLogic, 61% of employees reported that artificial intelligence makes them more efficient and productive.9 AI saves workers time by performing tedious, time-consuming, or repetitive tasks at a lightning-fast speed. For example, a software engineer could use an AI tool like ChatGPT to detect errors in complex code. Similarly, website chatbots answer basic customer questions about products, allowing sales representatives to focus on more challenging tasks.

Making smarter business decisions

Executives and managers need to consider many factors when making business decisions, like historical trends and potential risks. Artificial intelligence helps leaders analyze data to make decisions based on facts instead of relying purely on intuition and avoiding human error or data processing mistakes.10

For example, a fashion retailer could use AI to evaluate customers’ past buying habits or competitors’ marketing campaigns. Based on its findings, the AI may make smarter business decisions or recommend that the company abandon a low-performing clothing line or revamp its social media brand to meet customer expectations.

Improved customer service

Artificial intelligence allows businesses to provide personalized customer service at scale. According to a 2023 Forbes survey, 56% of businesses already use AI to enhance the customer experience.11 AI enables companies to send custom emails and text messages to thousands of customers. Additionally, this technology can provide specific product recommendations based on customers’ demographics, purchasing habits, and other data.

Decreased costs

Artificial intelligence reduces operating costs by streamlining workflows and eliminating wasteful practices. According to a 2022 McKinsey study, 52% of companies decreased their supply chain management costs after adopting AI. Also, 45% of businesses reduced their service operations costs, and 43% decreased expenses related to strategy and corporate finance.12

Potential risks of AI in the workplace

Artificial intelligence provides many advantages for workplaces, but this technology does have some potential dangers, including:

Promoting discriminatory hiring practices

In a 2022 Society of Human Resources Management survey, 79% of human resource professionals reported that their companies use artificial intelligence and automation in recruitment and hiring. AI has many applications for these activities, like screening resumes and eliminating unqualified candidates from the search pool.13

However, because AI technology is developed by humans and trained on human patterns, it can reflect unconscious human biases, leading to discriminatory hiring practices. For example, the human resources team at Amazon stopped using a recruiting algorithm in 2015 after the company discovered that the tool prioritized men over women.14

Threatening job security

Because artificial intelligence can automate numerous tasks, experts predict this technology could eliminate the need for some positions. In March 2023, the investment firm Goldman Sachs predicted that up to 300 million jobs could be affected by AI. According to this report, some of the occupation types that are most likely to be replaced by AI are office and administrative support positions and jobs in legal field.15 In other words, roles that don't necessarily make critical decisions or tackle complex issues but a lot of repetitive processing jobs and those that could complete tasks that could be feasibly taken over by digital assistants.

Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that AI will likely change the tasks required for some careers instead of eliminating them, resulting in minimal overall employment loss.16 The Goldman Sachs report explains this as jobs being complemented rather than substituted by AI and estimates 63% of jobs being complemented by AI and notes that "the ultimate effects will depend on how labor demand and occupational workloads evolve in response to partial labor savings in the majority of occupations."15 Ultimately AI is great for productivity gains in areas like research and data analysis, data delivery, and document processing, but human intelligence is still completely necessary for smart decision making and complex tasks.

Do the benefits of AI outweigh the risks?

While artificial intelligence has some risks, this technology also has the potential to revolutionize the workplace. Goldman Sachs predicts that generative AI will boost the annual GDP by 7% and significantly increase worker productivity. The company also notes that technological developments often lead to new careers, so workers replaced by AI could upskill into more lucrative positions.15

With AI taking over repetitive jobs and offering digital assistance on more complex tasks, one of the biggest advantages could be for the human workers themselves. AI can directly benefit workers by decreasing their workload, boosting creativity, and promoting a healthier work-life balance. In SnapLogic’s survey, 68% of employees said they would welcome more AI-based technology in their workplace.9

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  14. Retrieved on May 5, 2023, from aclu.org/news/womens-rights/why-amazons-automated-hiring-tool-discriminated-against
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