A new report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group finds that despite the commonly held belief that artificial intelligence-powered automation can take workers’ jobs, 60% of employees view AI as a coworker and not a job threat.
Furthermore, organizations with employees who derive value from AI are 5.9 times as likely to see significant financial benefits from it than organizations where employees do not get value from AI, according to the report Achieving Individual—and Organizational—Value With AI.
What does it really mean to use AI?
The research, based on a global survey of 1,741 managers and interviews with 17 executives, finds that individuals derive personal value from AI “when using the technology improves their self-determination, which encompasses their competency, autonomy and relatedness,” the report said.
The report discusses what “using AI” really means and defines it as “a broad range of applications in which AI may be a more or less prominent component.” Citing Salesforce’s customer relationship management software Einstein as an example, the report explains that the tool is used for classic AI tasks: to predict customer behavior, understand customer sentiment and automate client services.
However, end users might not be aware or care that AI is behind the product’s performance.
“Many technologies have embedded, even hidden, AI components that workers may not even be aware of,” said Sam Ransbotham, professor of analytics at Boston College and guest editor for the MIT SMR Artificial Intelligence and Business Strategy Big Ideas research initiative. “When everyone is using AI to some degree—and getting value from it—familiar tropes become problematic.
“For example, the idea that managers who use AI will replace managers who don’t use AI loses meaning when everyone is using AI.”
In fact, the report notes that managers can encourage AI use and catalyze value creation at the individual level by cultivating trust, understanding, agency and awareness.
Some workers may take AI for granted
AI use is so pervasive that individual workers may take some of its applications for granted. According to the findings, 66% of individuals reported that they do not use AI or use it only minimally. But when prompted with specific examples of AI-enhanced business applications, such as office productivity applications, calendar schedulers and CRM software, 43% of these respondents acknowledged that they regularly or sometimes use business products embedded with AI.
“When individuals don’t know that they are using AI, they naturally have a harder time recognizing its value,” said François Candelon, global director of the BCG Henderson Institute and co-author of the report. “But, our research shows that employees using AI knowingly are 1.6 times more likely to get individual value and 1.8 times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than those who do not realize they use AI.”
AI impacts job satisfaction, competency and coworker interaction
Some 64% of survey respondents personally derive at least moderate value from using AI, according to the report. These workers are 3.4 times as likely to be more satisfied in their jobs than employees who do not obtain value from AI. Only 8% of global survey respondents reported feeling less satisfied with their jobs because of AI.
Individuals who receive AI-based suggestions on improving their performance are 1.8 times as likely to feel more competent in their roles than those who don’t. Furthermore, employees whose organizations invest in AI that improves the quality of decision-making in areas such as operations scheduling, inventory management and marketing return on investment are 1.5 times as likely to perceive individual value from the technology compared with those who are in organizations that do not invest in this type of AI.
The survey revealed that many respondents think that using AI has improved interactions with their team members (56%), with their managers (47%) and with other people in their departments (52%) in addition to helping them feel more capable in their job performance.
How to help employees be comfortable using AI
The report also provides advice on how to get employees comfortable using AI and what type of benefits they might realize.
“To obtain the financial and organizational benefits of AI, managers must promote a virtuous cycle of use and value at the individual level by cultivating trust, understanding … and awareness of the technology,” said Shervin Khodabandeh, a senior partner and managing director at BCG, co-leader of GAMMA in North America, and a co-author of the report. “The relationship between [the] individual and organizational value from AI is additive, not zero-sum.”
Mandating the use of AI will help overcome resistance to it
Interviewees and survey respondents indicate that mandating the use of AI is an important initial step to overcoming resistance. Making AI use mandatory triples the likelihood of its use. Individuals required to use AI at work are three times as likely to regularly use the technology as those not required to use it professionally.
But, managers should still ensure individuals have agency. Individuals who can override AI are 2.1 times as likely to use it regularly compared with those who cannot override it. Moreover, managers who lead by example by using AI with their teams are 3.4 times as likely to boost regular AI use among individual team members than managers who do not.
“Trust is just one factor driving AI adoption: Being required to use it. Seeing your boss use it. Having the ability to override it. These all contribute to adoption, especially at the early stages of AI deployments,” noted David Kiron, MIT SMR editorial director, research, and co-author of the report.