How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact the Workplace?

Paolo Giuricich, Organisation Development Consultant

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has transformed our day-to-day lives and workplaces in terms of function and feel. This phenomenon will only continue to gather speed, and as we look to the future, I ask: what big changes to our business culture can we can anticipate from the rise of machine learning?

Let’s begin with some fascinating work from Salzberger-Wittenberg, Williams and Osbourne, who wrote in 1999 about the difference between humans and machines when it came to learning. The gist of the piece was that real (human) learning can only happen from an initial state of ignorance from which data is gathered and the brain is able to work things out and recognise patterns from here. 

This concept, when talked about in relation to successful interpersonal relationships, teaches us that we need to be open and receptive, and approach things from a state of willful ignorance – devoid of prejudice and presuppositions. This means being open to both verbal and non-verbal communication.

“we need to be open and receptive, and approach things from a state of willful ignorance – devoid of prejudice”

Humans learn through a combination of signals received through our senses and emotions, as well as our ability to contextualise. Machine learning, on the other hand, does not take into account complex human needs, and does not incorporate these abstract human elements of interpretation when a programme is being run. I went to a talk about a business who have recently used Artificial Intelligence to recruit new staff. It saved a considerable amount of time, taking only a fortnight to produce a list of viable candidates. Following this, the candidates were invited to an assessment process where the human employers made the final decision. To me, it all seems a little bizarre that, prior to this, all decisions were made by computers – what of the great candidates who were filtered out by the machine who may have been a perfect fit for the company if only they’d been through a human recruitment process? The business was happy with how things turned out and the candidates they were presented with. How the A.I. came to its conclusions is fascinating, and would be well worth dissecting.

To me, it all seems a little bizarre that, prior to this, all decisions were made by computers

This marks a new age in terms of how business is done. I believe A.I. will be used more and more frequently not only during the recruitment process, but in other areas of business too, and we should be as receptive as possible in order to adapt to these changes. At the same time, we need to maintain things that are important culturally, such as ensuring inclusivity and diversity, and that the emotional, human connections are still valued. If this is achieved, humans and machines will co-exist quite peacefully in the workplace, and the cultural shift will happen without disruption

A.I. has plenty of positive potential – it may well be able to:

  • Identify the type of learning that will best suit the personal state of individuals within an organisation – both emotionally and contextually – at any given moment.
  • Deliver tailored information and news within businesses to create a greater understanding of relevant ideas and identify areas that could be improved.
  • Highlight patterns where we as humans are inclined towards bias and prejudice.
  • Find great candidates who have the necessary skills and bring diversity to the workplace.

A.I. could truly change the workplace for the better, and is something I am cautiously excited about.

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