AI is here. 3 considerations for the C-suite

A Fortune 500 enterprise software company paired thousands of its customer service agents with a generative artificial intelligence tool to bolster customer connections. The results were enough to catch anyone’s attention.

Not only did AI raise agents’ productivity by 14%, but AI-assisted interactions had a higher average customer loyalty rating, or Net Promoter Score, according to what researchers say may be the first study of the impact of generative AI when deployed at scale in the workplace.

“AI assistance improves customer sentiment, reduces requests for managerial intervention, and improves employee retention,” wrote researchers from Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Meanwhile, The Travelers Companies, the global insurance giant, told analysts on a recent earnings call that it is stepping up investment in AI capabilities. The company’s CEO said, “Over time, the impact of AI across the economy is going to be profound, so is the opportunity for Travelers.”

Over time. That is a key timeline because companies should think twice about the long term before racing into something they may not fully grasp.

$200 billion by 2025

Corporate investment in AI is already ramping up quickly and could hit as much as $200 billion globally by 2025, just two years away, according to Goldman Sachs. The investment bank says AI could impact the U.S. economy more than previous corporate investment booms in electricity and personal computers.

Chief executive officers would be wise to walk before they run.

While organizations and individuals should embrace these technologies, they should do so responsibly and thoughtfully. The market is moving at an unprecedented pace toward adoption—a fail-fast methodology—the enterprise should adopt at a speed that can be measured, tested, and analyzed.

No one can adequately define what it means to any organization with a degree of accuracy because there simply isn’t enough information to help business leaders make educated decisions to position their organizations for success.

The result? Businesses are struggling to find the right information to help them make the correct decisions.

And without proper data, leaders are left wondering: “Where does AI fit and not fit?” “Do I have enough experts on my team to give me a clear picture of what’s ahead?” “How do I proactively make AI happen instead of it happening to me?”

3 considerations for the C-suite

To help find answers to those questions and more, CEOs should first consider the following:

1. Workflow disruption. Executives don’t make business decisions based on faith; they do so on reliable data. Their short-term concern is wondering if AI will yield a specific benefit, such as efficiency and productivity, while also meeting the business’s strategic objectives. Without data, the answers don’t exist. McKinsey did a study that found without generative AI, automation could take over tasks accounting for 21.5% of the hours worked in the U.S. economy by 2030. With AI, that share jumps to 29.5%.

2. Are we ready for this culturally? Generative AI, for example, is viewed as a productivity multiplier by 90% of employees, research shows. The technology is here, and it’s happening with or without you. Leaders who have created a culture of innovation and change management are more likely to be prepared for generative AI technologies to be implemented inside their workforce and workflows. Organizations that have yet to create an innovation-first mindset will find that their level of fear is far greater than the actual risk that the technology imposes.

3. Fear of regulation. How will AI-related rules and regulations impact my business? The only way to stay ahead of regulation and ensure compliance is if you know what’s coming. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are either considering or have passed laws governing the use of these technologies in hiring. New York City’s law went into effect in July and was specifically focused on using AI in employment decisions. Various U.S. states are considering similar measures. Compliance with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation began several years ago, resulting in stiff fines for violations. So, engage with like-minded organizations and government bodies. This opens your organization to the conversation and allows for input and alignment on policy, procedures, and practices.

Humans in the loop

No discussion of AI in the workplace would be complete without a word or two about bias and accountability.

Forward-thinking leaders should be aware of two important ethical principles. One, humans must always be kept at the forefront. Especially for HR, AI is not meant to replace the building and cultivation of human relationships. It is designed to be a “co-bot” for the organization.

Two, ensure that the disciplined principle of “humans first” is consistently upheld throughout the organization. That includes protecting against discrimination. Since AI cannot experience the world as we humans do, AI has the potential to discriminate against all humans. That’s why the C-suite must ensure a thoughtful, responsible, and accountable way AI tools are selected, measured, explained, and implemented.

The best-managed companies excel at looking ahead and around the corner, so investing in AI makes them well-managed for the long haul. But it is best to get engaged now because time isn’t on your side. We don’t have years to figure AI out like we did with BYOD or cloud computing. Your competition is figuring it out in 30 days.

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