Harnessing Generative AI: A Win-Win for Employers and Employees

In their new column, Korn Ferry’s Jeff Gerkin and Tessa Misiaszek explain how generative AI could lead to unparalleled growth and satisfaction for companies and workers alike.

Generative AI’s expanding capabilities promise to usher in a new era of productivity, potentially transforming the dynamics of the modern workplace. As we leverage these advancements, the question emerges: Who truly benefits? The answer might be more straightforward than we think.

It's undeniable that generative AI's potential is massive. Employees are expected to see the greatest gains by using generative AI to augment activities like writing and content creation, research and analysis, information management, administration, and customer service. And these advancements mean that knowledge workers might experience a surge in productivity, and the overall net impact of AI as an economic driver in the United States may be as high as 21% on its GDP by 2030. Software developers could witness a 30% uptick in output, data scientists might see their efficiency multiplied by eight, and executives could enjoy a 63% rise in their productive capabilities. While these benefits serve as an obvious boon to companies, employees will likely also profit by gaining more time back to pursue passions, develop new skills, or simply focus on their wellbeing.

Despite these exciting prospects, employers today face a unique challenge. With US unemployment rate low and wages climbing by nearly 6% so far this year, there's mounting pressure to maximize efficiency without inflating costs. Additionally, with global GDP forecasts suggesting a slowdown in the coming years, AI may be the silver bullet organizations need to ensure sustained growth. After all, the promise of AI lies in its ability to help organizations dramatically reduce headcount while simultaneously improving productivity.  Thus, a disproportionate focus on the financials will be extraordinarily tempting. 

Yet, it's crucial to look beyond mere numbers. A startling revelation from a recent Gallup poll unveils that today's workforce is grappling with heightened stress levels. A staggering 59% are contemplating resigning, with 51% actively scouting for new opportunities. While AI-driven productivity spikes are alluring, they might be discounted if employee burnout and attrition follow suit. The tangible and intangible costs of employee turnover could eclipse the temporary gains from AI-augmented efficiency. Additionally, the organization needs to understand the impact to their customers. Will a more efficient AI-driven process improve the customer experience? Or will it diminish the brand?

Below, we outline some key considerations for companies examining the integration of AI:

  • Understanding AI's role in the workplace. The rapid evolution of AI technology is reshaping industries and redefining job functions. For companies contemplating an AI-centric transformation, it's crucial to understand its overarching implications fully. Rather than merely considering it a tool to increase efficiency, businesses must anticipate the broader changes AI could usher in. This includes changes to existing roles, where some tasks might become automated, and emerging new roles centered around AI management and oversight. Equally vital is recognizing how AI might influence leadership dynamics. With data-informed decision-making gaining prominence, leaders need to adapt by becoming proficient in deriving insights from AI-driven analytics. Furthermore, robust governance protocols become imperative with AI's potential to create, modify, and distribute content. Ensuring intellectual property protection, especially when AI can generate content, requires comprehensive policies that delineate ownership and usage rights.
  • Valuing the employee first. As companies pivot towards AI-driven operations, the human element remains irreplaceable. With their creativity, empathy, and critical problem-solving abilities, employees continue to be an organization's most valuable asset. Therefore, a successful AI transition requires positioning employees at its core. Crafting a compelling, employee-centric value proposition means creating an environment where AI aids, rather than replaces, human talent. Offering training and development opportunities can equip employees with the skills required to navigate an AI-augmented workplace. Moreover, fostering an authentic, inclusive workplace experience, where technology complements human capabilities, can make the company attractive for both existing employees and prospective talent. In an age where skill sets are constantly evolving, employees value organizations investing in their growth, especially emerging technologies.
  • Getting your employees ready for change. Integrating AI into business processes is not just about technological change; it's a holistic organizational shift. Companies require a well-structured change readiness strategy to ensure smooth navigation through this transformation. This begins with transparent communication. Employees should understand why AI is being adopted, how it will impact their roles, and the benefits it promises for them and organization. Additionally, as AI gets incorporated, preserving the foundational elements that define the company's ethos is essential. While processes and tools may evolve, the core values and corporate culture that resonate with employees should remain consistent. This balance of change and continuity can alleviate potential apprehensions and foster a more receptive environment for AI adoption.
  • Optimizing the employee experience. In today's hyper-connected era, high engagement levels with an organization's tools and platforms do not always translate to genuine employee satisfaction. In an AI-integrated workplace, it becomes even more vital to discern between authentic engagement and mere interaction. For instance, while an AI tool might streamline tasks, leading to increased usage, it doesn't necessarily imply that employees find their roles fulfilling. Companies must be vigilant about potential burnout, especially if AI-driven efficiencies lead to escalated expectations. Regular feedback loops, wellness initiatives, and mental health resources can help address these challenges. Furthermore, charting precise career trajectories, where employees can visualize their growth and understand how they fit into the organization's future, even with AI advancements, ensures they feel valued and invested in their roles.

If companies can strategically align generative AI's capabilities with their employees' well-being and growth, the resulting synergy could herald a win-win scenario. Both employers and employees could revel in the shared benefits, leading to a more harmonious, efficient, and fulfilling work environment.

Find out more about Korn Ferry’s Business Transformation capabilities.