Article: AI integration: Balancing human essentials

HR Technology

AI integration: Balancing human essentials

As organisations adopt AI, it's vital to establish guidelines that prioritize preserving these essential human connections, ensuring a balanced and promising future.
AI integration: Balancing human essentials

Reflecting on the past year, we witnessed increasing global turbulence between nations, escalating effects of climate change, and ongoing recovery from the pandemic, and yet no change was quite as impactful around the world as the launch of open Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms. The adoption of open AI such as ChatGPT, hit new records relative to the pace and volume of people using the tools. The popular press has been filled with the coming threats and promises of AI in both the workplace and our daily lives. As Human Capital Leaders, it may be hard to keep up with all experiments, trials, and plans for AI across organisations, yet we must help ensure that we address the AI-human teaming in a way that works for our workforce. As AI applications advance and new solutions emerge, it may be helpful to consider the positive elements of our “Pre-AI” days. To help illustrate, allow me to share a recent personal experience with a new AI application:

As I entered the medical doctor’s office for my annual health check and screening, I was ushered into the lab area where a nurse’s aide took samples of my blood for screening, and then completed a variety of other measures for blood pressure, height, weight, temperature, heart rhythm, etc.. After waiting for about 15 minutes, I was ushered into a private room with a desk, microphone, camera, and computer screen. As I sat alone in the room, the computer came to life and started asking me questions about my health, lifestyle habits, medications, diet, exercise, and any updates to my family medical history. After answering the questions, the computer voice asked me if I had questions or current concerns, to which it provided some general answers. 

Once this was completed, a physician entered the room and reviewed the medical report generated by the AI application with me. The computer system reviewed all of my blood work, vital information, personal history, family history, and potential genetic issues, and compared this in a database with millions of other human data relevant to my situation. It then developed a comprehensive review along with potential risk factors and suggestions for my diet, exercise, and overall wellness. The doctor thanked me for the visit, clicked the approve button on the screen, and escorted me to the exit. The comprehensive AI report was already posted to my medical portal and reminders were available to download to my calendar and smartphone health functions. It was clear that the review and potentially the monitoring of my health was now in the hands of AI!

While this experience is only a pilot medical project at one clinic in the US, it provides a glimpse into the potential future as we integrate AI into roles and functions. As I reflected on the AI clinic experience, I felt assured by the comprehensive nature of the reporting and the unbiased overview of my physical health and the recommendations. On the other hand, the human connection and social experience of talking through things with a respected authority were missing. The visit felt mechanical, cold, and impersonal since the human interaction was largely limited to the physical tasks of checking vitals and ushering me to the right places. Is this what we will expect to see in our future workplaces?

In the year ahead, we will likely see more AI applications emerge that are integrated into our work activities, just as I experienced in the medical clinic example. As we consider future AI applications in the workplace, it seems important that we find ways to reflect on our pre-AI days to continue to allow meaningful human connections. Research on human behaviour suggests that there are a few key factors that help us to feel valued, connected, and appreciated. These factors include trusted relationships, a social network, and a sense of belonging – in other words, some human essentials are important for our well-being. Allow me to reflect on these factors in light of potential future AI applications in the workplace. 

Trusted relationships – When we think about close relationships with others, the word ‘trust’ often emerges. Building a sense of trust with other people can take time as we demonstrate credibility, develop personal connections, and show genuine interest in others. Trust is important to enable psychological safety, which is often needed for sharing feelings and ideas with others. The absence of trust can lead to stress, disengagement, and fatigue in the workplace. As we consider future AI applications that may replace human connections, it may be important to help ensure that there are other ways for people to interact and develop trusted relationships. This can be a challenge if people are isolated from others or only interface with others through digital platforms.

Social networks – Organisations provide a social network of people with a common affiliation. Typically, there may be shared values, a focus on inclusion, and a culture of respect. A health organisation climate provides a platform for social relationships and a sense of general respect in the organisation. Oftentimes, employees may find others with mutual interests within the organisation, which may allow them to have a social network of colleagues. The social networks in the organisation can be severed when we rely on digital means for connections and there are no occasions for casual human interaction. 

Sense of belonging - In the workplace, employees are often a part of teams or workgroups that may provide a common goal, interdependence, and shared responsibilities. Teamwork coupled with active inclusion, is generally needed to foster a sense of belonging. When we have a sense of belonging, we are more likely to have a sense of pride in what we do, enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, and have positive self-esteem. With the application of AI interventions, we may be tempted to rely less on things like team brainstorming and creativity, yet we must also recall that it is important to provide a sense of belonging in our organisations.

As human capital leaders, we have not only the responsibility for considering the structure of work, organisation culture, talent management systems, and strategic leadership that drive the human capital system, but we also have the responsibility to understand and consider the impact of AI on this human capital system in our organisations.

Before launching into the year 2024 and all of the new possibilities in our organisations fueled by AI, let’s take some time to reflect on the value and importance of human connection. It is the trusted relationships, social networks, and sense of belonging that help promote well-being in our workplaces and society. After all, as stewards of human capital, we owe this to ourselves and to the people in our organisations to create a promising new future for both AI and humans.

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Topics: HR Technology, #Innovation, #YearThatWas

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