- Any AI or digital transformation initiative will introduce change into the workplace, and the success of the implementation depends on a solid change management approach.
- A leader’s social intelligence, including the ability to communicate effectively, empathize, and praise and encourage improvements, is critical for getting people on board with change.
- Leaders can develop, encourage and leverage early advocates by understanding what will make people feel more positive about AI in the workplace.
Change is inevitable in the workplace, but that doesn’t make it easy. And when you’re implementing something as transformational as artificial intelligence (AI), managing the change can be even more challenging. AI and digital transformation are disrupting more than just workflows and processes, they have the potential to change entire jobs, which can leave people feeling anxious.
But ready or not, the change is coming. In our survey of more than 3,500 leaders, managers and employees around the world about attitudes towards AI in the workplace, 44% of respondents said they expect AI to impact their role in the next 1-5 years. Gartner’s 2019 CIO Survey reinforces this trend, showing that “the number of enterprises implementing AI grew a staggering 270% in the past four years and tripled in the past year.”
Whether you’re already taking big steps into this “third era of IT,” as Gartner calls it, or just beginning the process, the success of your implementations will depend on how well the change is managed.
Managing the Change of an AI Implementation
Change management is a systematic approach to the transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. And it’s yet another area where social intelligence is critical, and a core discipline for today’s leaders. Managing change effectively requires leaders who can build trusting relationships that inspire and engage people and align their efforts to realize the desired organizational outcomes.
Here are a few change management tips that leaders can apply to ensure successful AI implementation:
Effectively communicate the need for change
One of leadership’s primary responsibilities in change management is to communicate the need for change to those who didn’t help originate the idea. The best organizations connect the need for change with the organization’s purpose, appeal to employees’ motives, make the change objective clear and create accountability.
This reflects what we learned in our survey about what would make people feel more positive about AI in the workplace. More than 7 in 10 said that there were three things that would be extremely important: transparency (having a clear understanding of what AI is doing), trust in the organization’s leadership, and confidence in their skills to adapt to the changes resulting from AI.
Work with each person’s reaction to the idea of change
Of course, everyone is different and people’s reactions to the idea of change will vary. Some will embrace it, immediately seeing the upside potential, others will be skeptical, and the rest will fall in the middle.
It is important to try to see the change from others’ perspective, recognizing that their past experiences are what lead to their beliefs that in turn drive their initial actions in response to change. With AI, someone’s reactions might be different depending on the purpose or application of the particular technology. Leaders have to be able to anticipate and tune into these different perspectives.
Encourage early adopters and praise every improvement
Leveraging those who embrace the idea first (advocates) can help build momentum for the change. As noted above, our study points to those key factors that will help create more “early adopters,” who are hugely valuable to the initiative’s success. They feel positive about the change, so they make the early wins happen and, through their example and enthusiasm, inspire others to get on board.
Leaders should encourage these advocates and praise early wins. These advocates provide evidence that the change is possible and makes others more willing to follow.
And keep in mind: A positive attitude can make a big difference. As Dale Carnegie said, “Keep your mind open to change all the time. Welcome it. Court it. It is only by examining and reexamining your opinions and ideas that you can progress.”
AI Creates Change that Leaders Must Learn to Manage
In the Gartner study, AI was considered “by far” the technology that’s expected to be most disruptive for organizations, playing a major role in reshaping business models. Navigating that disruption to ensure the organization gets the desired benefits of AI—without negatively affecting employee engagement and morale—requires leadership to step up and make solid change management practices an integral part of the process.
For more tips on getting the most from your AI implementations, download our research report, Beyond Technology: Preparing People for Success in the Era of AI.