Opinion: AI May Not Replace Your Job, but it’s Going to Remake Your Work. One Thing Must Not Change.

Even as AI technology advances, employee well-being and involvement are integral to a company’s success.

Businesses are at the intersection of two trends that will define work and life for years to come.

One is the widespread decline in trust. Each year, Edelman, the global communications firm, conducts a survey on trust, called the Edelman Trust Barometer. This year’s report included a startling headline: “Business is the only institution seen as competent and ethical.” In an era of declining trust in nearly every facet of society, business now stands alone as an institution people continue to trust.

The other is the rise of artificial intelligence. Although most businesses are still early in their adoption of AI, in survey after survey, business leaders report that they expect AI to materially change their businesses. This isn’t simply a matter of automating manual processes. Recently, close to half of CEOs surveyed said they believe AI will replace “most” or even “all” of their company’s jobs.

Both of these trends have wide-ranging implications. Both trust and technology are vital components of organizational success, empowering, enabling and engaging an organization’s most valuable asset: its people. The impact goes further. As businesses build trust with and between their employees and customers, and support them with responsible and innovative technology, businesses create a path for societal connection and advancement.

So as AI reshapes how businesses function, and trust continues to decline, CEOs are tasked with a critical challenge: How to adapt to the technological tide while preserving and nurturing the trust they’ve established?

People first

The integration of AI into business operations presents a paradox. On the one hand, it offers unprecedented efficiencies and capabilities, elevating human performance and results. On the other, it can lead businesses to deprioritize human elements in the workplace.

Trust is established through human connection — with each other, with shared goals or beliefs, or with shared experiences. When led effectively and empathetically, businesses are naturally a place of human connection. People come together to achieve a shared mission, according to a shared set of values, through a shared set of activities, within a shared space (physical or virtual).

To nurture human connection, CEOs must adopt a people-first approach, recognizing that even as AI technology advances, employee well-being and involvement are integral to a company’s success. This involves:

  • Transparent communication: Keeping employees informed about AI integrations and their implications. This transparency helps alleviate fears and uncertainties regarding AI, fostering a culture of trust.

  • Inclusive decision-making: Involving employees in discussions about AI implementation. This model improves decision-making and ensures that employees are valued and heard.

  • Continuous learning and adaptation: Provide opportunities for employees to continuously develop their skills in line with AI advancements. This step demonstrates commitment to employees’ long-term success and is crucial in an environment where AI can render certain skills obsolete.

Efficiency and empathy

We are already starting to see leaders and managers explore using AI for the most people-centric responsibilities: team communications; performance reviews, coaching conversations.

AI brings efficiency, but it lacks the empathy and emotional intelligence inherent to humans. So although AI can be a useful tool for management and leadership, CEOs must ensure that the human touch in customer relations, employee management, company culture and business decision-making remains prominent. If these become overly-automated, they’ll lose the power to create human connection, eroding trust in the process.

Moreover, the ethical concerns surrounding AI are significant. Issues such as data privacy, bias in AI algorithms, and the potential for job displacement need careful consideration. CEOs must lead the way to implement AI ethically, ensuring that their companies set examples for responsible and equitable use of technology.

The rise of AI and decline in trust calls for a new kind of leadership — one that embraces the potential and complexity of technology without losing sight of our common humanity. By prioritizing people, leading with empathy and navigating the ethical challenges of AI, CEOs harness the power of AI while also enhancing the trust and culture that drive their organizations. By doing so, CEOs will not only prepare their businesses to thrive, but also help build a future where technology and humanity converge for the greater good.

Zack Kass is an adviser on AI strategy and is the former head of go-to-market strategy at OpenAI. Nathan Christensen is CEO of HR and compliance firm Mineral.