Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a tangible force shaping the contemporary workplace, no longer a distant promise. As organizations increasingly integrate AI technologies, questions naturally arise about its impact on the human element in this technological transformation.

To gain deeper insights into this dynamic intersection of AI and the workplace, we turn to David Irecki, Director of Solutions Consulting for the Asia-Pacific and Japan region at Boomi. Irecki brings forth a distinctive perspective on how to bridge the gap between human potential and the capabilities of AI.

Why do employees appear hesitant to embrace AI despite its increasing adoption in organisations?

Implementing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), may cause uneasiness amongst employees, especially those who are less tech-savvy.

Some employees may fear that they will be made extraneous once AI is deployed. In other cases, employee reticence may be due to a lack of transparency, particularly if the new technology or infrastructure is being implemented as a top-down directive without properly communicating how it can benefit team members in their roles.

Organisations can help ease any reticence by communicating with team members about the risks and the rewards of AI. Everyone should be aligned on the company’s broader AI vision and strategy. Ensure that all team members – from interns to executives – understand what the company is trying to accomplish. Help them prepare for change by explaining how AI can complement their role, streamline processes, or improve productivity so their time may be freed for more meaningful work. Importantly, develop and communicate a plan for how the organisation will utilise AI ethically while respecting the rights of employees, partners, and customers, and avoiding discrimination or bias. Cultivate a culture of curiosity, openness, and learning when it comes to AI adoption.

How can we dispel the notion that AI is a one-size-fits-all solution for workforce challenges?

​While AI has become a blanket term to describe a variety of technologies, including machine learning (ML), deep learning, and neural networks, there is a misconception that AI is a single solution for workplace challenges. To put it simply, this is an oversimplification that runs the risk of furthering misinformation about what they can and cannot do.

Every organisation has their own unique needs, thus the way every organisation uses AI will be different. Organisations looking to make their processes AI-ready should start by assessing their Process Maturity Ladder – evaluating their current, “as-is” processes and their aspirational “to-be” state. take inventory of current manual processes, map out workflow, identify any inefficiencies, and note opportunities for automation and AI to bring significant improvements. 

By understanding its manual processes, an organisation can route a path to automation. And, while automation doesn’t inherently require AI it can often be a necessary precursor to more advanced intelligent processes.

What strategies can help shift the perception of AI from a threat to a valuable tool in the workplace?

​In my experience, leaders are being pretty level-headed about AI in the workplace.

They are treating it as an inevitability–which it is–but also being careful about the risks. I think this is the right approach. If you try and lock it down, employees will find a way to use it anyway, and just not report their usage.

In terms of protecting against AI being a threat to jobs, I think the best way to dispel any concern is to demonstrate the productivity lift it can give to people doing their jobs. If the employees using AI are the ones being more productive, then they are likely to be the ones reaping the rewards. The demand for digital work always exceeds the supply, so there will still be plenty to do.

Could you elaborate on the dual nature of AI, its benefits, and potential drawbacks?

As we grapple with the rapid advances in AI, it is therefore essential to understand its current capabilities and potential future implications. The duality of AI’s power is clear; on the one hand, it helps solve complex problems from trendspotting to customer service and automating communications via chatbots.

Artificial intelligence can solve problems proactively with actionable intelligent insights that facilitate predictive maintenance, automated updates, and optimal resource allocation, allowing software to efficiently self-manage. On the other hand, it can also be leveraged by cybercriminals for more sophisticated attacks. There is also the fact that AI is only as good as the data it is fed. According to Gartner, more than half of organizations (52%) report that risk factors are a critical consideration when evaluating new AI use cases, which underscores that AI alone is not a silver bullet.

In what ways can AI support local companies in facing economic headwinds and talent shortages?

​Given the fact that many local companies – especially SMEs – may lack the budget for large-scale AI implementations, customisable AI can leverage data to identify trends, automate routine, mundane tasks, and enable better decision-making while reducing the probability of mistakes. 

​In addition, with low-code technology, SMEs need not rely too much on specialised IT talent but enable citizen developers to customise work applications that will help improve their work efficiency. 

​AI can also complement existing employee skills and minimise the impact of talent gaps – through automation. However, there is the caveat that this rests on a robust data ecosystem, to free staff from silos and enable them to focus on value-add initiatives, not spreadsheets. 

​Meanwhile, in the short term, organisations can maintain their digital transformation momentum by minimising the impact of the legacy talent shortage. In fact, a good example is Boomi Ai itself, which radically simplifies the work of building integrations and automation and of managing integration-related IT operations.

What role should education and training play in preparing employees for AI integration?

Education and training work hand in hand to equip employees to move with the times. However, not all employees are the same; some have existing skill sets and may only need minor upskilling. Others, meanwhile, may need complete re-skilling for the relevant set of skills.

​Organisations must develop the capacity to deploy AI solutions if they are to realise the full, transformative value it can bring to their businesses. This requires investing in digital infrastructure and engineering capabilities, as well as fostering an innovative culture. In addition, the role of training an AI-ready workforce, equipped with basic AI competencies and literacy, will help new or upskilled employees be immersed into the future AI-driven workplace.

Can you share practical examples of successful human-AI collaboration in the workplace?

With the use of AI technologies including AI fracture diagnostics, healthcare non-profit organisation, AO Foundation managed to improve patient outcomes and cut integration from months to days to accelerate innovation across their ecosystem. As a result of the human and AI collaboration, it opened opportunities for digital innovation that benefit members, patients, and musculoskeletal surgery as a whole.

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