It's been two years since the prospect of AI took the tech industry by storm. This latest technological wave has brought uncertainty, negativity, and positivity to the world of work in equal measure. Today, Netitude Virtual IT Director Michael Hamer puts pen to paper to clear up the potential pros and cons of AI in the workplace.

The Current Landscape of AI in the Workplace  

AI has been the most transformative technological wave since the introduction of preassembled mass-produced personal computers in 1977. In the case of the personal computer (PC), what initially started as a slow burner started to build momentum and experienced rapid, continuous growth in the next two decades and beyond.

 There is a high possibility that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology could follow a very similar trajectory in the years to come. We are still in the infancy of the lifecycle of transformative forms of Generative AI technology, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's Copilot.  

The challenge facing business leaders around the globe is how to implement this technology so that it integrates with their existing business model without damaging their existing value proposition.  

The Pros of AI in the Workplace 

I approach things with a glass-half-full attitude, focusing on the positive aspects rather than dwelling on the negatives. Today, I'll highlight some of AI's significant benefits in the workplace, including the creation of new job opportunities, advancements in decision-making capabilities, and enhancement of overall workplace efficiency. 

New Job opportunities  

While it may surprise some, the introduction of AI in the workplace has the potential to create new job opportunities rather than simply replacing existing ones. While AI's automation technology may absorb certain roles, this transformation also opens the door to the creation of entirely new positions.

These emerging roles will likely emphasise less mundane and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to channel their energies into more creative endeavours. As a result, employees may find themselves empowered to think more innovatively and deliver higher-quality work. 

Enhanced Decision-Making:  

We very much live in a digitally-led world in 2024. Everything turned into a numbers game. Everywhere you look, from sports to social media, is driven by data. Four years ago, Forbes revealed that in 2010, the world created around two zettabytes (ZB) of digital information, according to the International Data Corporation (ICD). To put that into perspective, a zettabyte is the equivalent of one billion one-terabyte hard drives!  

Fast forward ten years, and the World Economic Forum figures estimated that the number of zettabytes had grown exponentially, culminating in 44 ZB of data being generated in 2020.

As a species, we're practically drowning in data. Therefore, we should count ourselves lucky that instead of manually sifting through uncountable datasets, we've created technology capable of analysing all the information at a fraction of the speed, enabling us to make better-informed business decisions in the workplace.  

Enhanced Efficiency & Productivity 

We strive to be more efficient in our personal lives and the workplace. AI can streamline everyday tasks' mundane, repetitive nature, reduce manual labour costs, and enhance productivity across the board. According to TechJury, AI will increase labour productivity and optimise business efficiency by 67%, automate communication by 70%, and improve data analytics by 59%, according to AI predictions.  

These statistics demonstrate the growing confidence in AI's potential to transform business operations and streamline various processes. As organisations continue to adopt and integrate AI technologies, they can expect significant gains in productivity and efficiency.  

The Cons of AI in the Workplace 

Now, let's flip the coin and focus on the pitfalls of AI in the workplace. In this section, we will focus on some of the most concurrent cons reverberating in and around workplaces across the globe in 2024. 

Job Displacement and Skill Gaps 

As more tasks and actions become automated within businesses, there is a considerable concern that more AI integration will lead to job replacement, especially in roles that involve repetitive, routine, or mundane work. Furthermore, significant upskilling across the board might be needed to ensure that employees are well-equipped to acquire new, essential skills that will enable them to adapt to the ever-changing AI landscape.  

Ethical and Privacy Concerns 

When you input prompts and various types of information into AI technologies like ChatGPT and Copilot, do you truly understand where that data is stored and how it might be used? That's why our tech experts recommend researching what happens to your inputted data before using any AI assistant. 

The technology relies heavily on diverse datasets, raising concerns about how data is collected, used, and potentially shared. For instance, in a hypothetical scenario where OpenAI suffers a severe cyberattack and their data is breached, employees who unintentionally input your organisation's data may inadvertently place your business at risk. 

With learning models like ChatGPT, data leakage can happen before this stage. If you make a query that includes sensitive data, the model may learn from this and then use it to answer other people's queries, inadvertently sharing your sensitive data. 

In 2023, Cybernews.com, a research-based online publication, published an article revealing that OpenAI's infamous ChatGPT was linked to Samsung's alleged data leak. The supposed leak came about due to employees inadvertently sharing confidential company information and code with the Generative AI, thus, going against Open AI's advice to avoid sharing any sensitive information with the AI assistant.  

Fellow tech giant Apple responded to these claims by reportedly restricting AI tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT over fears that confidential information entered into these systems would be leaked or collected.

Overreliance and System Failures 

Of course, becoming too dependent on AI technology in the workplace could have dire consequences for employees and organisations alike. Say, for instance, the tech giants all banded together to disband all forms of AI altogether, or if AI technology was outlawed by governments globally—I think it's fair to say that would have a drastic impact on people's productivity and an organisation's ability to function effectively. 

 The UK Government revealed in 2022 that 'around 15% of all businesses have adopted at least one AI technology, which translates to 432,000 companies. Our tech experts are confident that the number of uptakes will have increased, and therefore, the ramifications that would be felt by potential AI system failures or a global AI boycott would be massive.

Preparing for the AI-Driven Future  

AI adoption has met with various stumbling blocks. There has been much scaremongering regarding AI technology, powered mainly by deepfake scandals and social media. People also worry that as AI's capabilities expand and grow, so does the likelihood that they'll be put out of a job and replaced by a machine.  

The recently released Microsoft & LinkedIn: 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report stated that Generative AI usage has nearly doubled in the last six months, with 75% of global knowledge workers using it.

Upskilling and Reskilling  

The Work Trend Index Annual Report, amalgamated by two tech giants (Microsoft and LinkedIn), also indicated a considerable desire for people to upskill and reskill their AI abilities. According to the report, which included insights from 31,000 people across 31 countries, 66% of business leaders say they would only hire someone with AI skills. 

However, we have some inconsistencies in AI adoption across the board. A large percentage (78%) of users are adopting the practice of "Bring Your Own Artificial Intelligence to Work (BYOAI)," which tends to be more common in small and medium-sized companies (80%). Only 25% of companies intend to offer training on generative AI this year. 

So, it seems that the same business leaders who expect their hires to have AI proficiency aren't prepared to invest in the appropriate and necessary training to upskill and reskill in AI and instead expect the employees to fit the AI bill in their stead. 

Human Collaboration with AI 

Humans and machines have worked together since the first industrial revolution (1790 - 1840). Roughly two hundred years later, we've just entered the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), also known as Industry 4.0 – a period earmarked by the convergence of numerous feats of technological development, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and Smart Factories.  

Therefore, AI is firmly placed to become an integral cog in the workplace in the years to come. It is set to be an integral cog in the digital transformation era, and businesses must find a way to solve how the Industry 4.0-shaped puzzle fits together within their business.  

That being said, adaptive technologies such as AI can only have the desired impact if organisations take all the necessary steps to ensure human-AI collaboration is as seamless as possible:  

  1. Understand Your Business Needs: Before diving feetfirst into AI collaboration and business-critical integration, we recommend that you grasp how artificial intelligence can elevate pre-existing processes and address specific organisational challenges.  
  2. Start Small: AI adoption is most successful in small increments. According to the IBM Global AI Adoption Index 2022, organisations should opt for phased AI adoption instead of attempting a broad rollout simultaneously. Therefore, the advice is to start small and learn big; begin with pilot projects or small-scale experiments to test AI tools effectively. 
  3. Choose the Right Tools: What works well for one business may not necessarily work for another. AI solutions must be selected based on how they align with your business's scale, goals and overall compatibility.  
  4. Prioritise Data Quality: The age-old concept of opting for quality over quantity is again appropriate in this step. When datasets are not prioritised, you tend to receive and produce inaccurate predictions and decisions, reduce trust and confidence, and incur bias.  
  5. Foster a Collaboration Culture: Fostering a collaboration culture involves making deliberate and consistent efforts to create an environment where humans and AI systems work together seamlessly. In order to attain a truly collaborative culture, your organisation needs to embrace change and experimentation, assemble cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets, and organise regular knowledge-sharing sessions where team members can come together to discuss AI concepts, tools and best practices.  

The Netitude Take  

AI will transform how businesses operate by making staff and processes more efficient and adding new possibilities to your clients' services and products.  Understanding how to use it as part of your wider Digital Transformation strategy will be key to staying competitive and helping reduce the risk of falling into privacy or other AI pitfalls. 

As a starting point, business leaders should seek a demo of AI from an experienced partner to understand the huge recent improvements made and consider how they apply to their businesses and industries. 

A guided introduction of Microsoft's Copilot AI to key team members will start to build an organisation's experience with AI. A structured approach will help deliver results from the investment, and the service is designed to reduce privacy and security risks. 

From here, you'll be in a stronger position to evaluate suppliers and partners when they bring you their AI offerings and identify how they could be used in your products, services and processes.  

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Closing Thoughts

Today, we've explored AI's impact on the future of work. To gain a comprehensive understanding, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of integrating this technology into the workplace. However, AI isn't a binary choice between positive and negative outcomes. Rather, it's a multifaceted tool with valid arguments on both sides. Ultimately, deciding whether to integrate the technology rests on personal preferences and alignment with organisational goals. 

You can stay ahead of the curve by preparing for an AI-driven future. Start upskilling and reskilling your employees today and advocate for collaboration within your organisation today. Make those small incremental steps now; you'll have us to thank later.  

If you want additional knowledge, guidance, or advice related to AI or any other tech query, contact our friendly team of technological experts today!  

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