AI is a coworker, not a job threat, say business leaders

A new report suggests companies that have already welcomed artificial intelligence into the workplace could see a six-fold increase in financial benefits

A substantial majority of managers and executives regard artificial intelligence (AI) as a coworker, not a job threat, according to new research.

A new report from MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that 60 per cent of employees have welcomed AI as a coworker, and organisations with employees working well with AI are 5.9 times more likely to see significant financial benefits than organisations that are not using AI.

The report, Achieving Individual — and Organisational — Value With AI, presents findings from the sixth annual research effort between MIT SMR and BCG on AI and business strategy. It includes results from a global survey of 1,741 managers and interviews with 17 executives representing more than 100 countries and 20 industries on the use of AI at work. According to the report, individuals derive personal value from AI when using the technology improves their self-determination, which encompasses their competency, autonomy, and relatedness.

"AI use in business is now pervasive,” says Sam Ransbotham, Professor of Analytics at Boston College and guest editor for the MIT SMR Artificial Intelligence and Business Strategy Big Ideas research initiative. “Many technologies have embedded, even hidden, AI components that workers may not even be aware of. 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."

According to the findings, 66 per cent of individuals report 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 customer relationship management software, 43 per cent of these respondents acknowledge that they regularly or sometimes use business products with AI.

"When individuals don't know that they are using AI, they naturally have a harder time recognising its value," says 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 realise they use AI."

Managers must lead the way in use of artificial intelligence

Making AI use mandatory triples the likelihood of its use, the research discovered, and 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. 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,” says David Kiron, MIT SMR Editorial Director, Research, and co-author of the report. “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.”

According to the report, 64 per cent of survey respondents personally derive at least moderate value from using AI. 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 eight per cent of global survey respondents are 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 working at organisations that invest in AI that improves the quality of decision-making for matters such as operations scheduling, inventory management, and marketing ROI are 1.5 times as likely to perceive individual value from AI compared with those who are in organisations 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 per cent), with their managers (47 per cent), and with other people in their departments (52 per cent), in addition to helping them feel more capable in their job performance.

"To obtain the financial and organisational benefits of AI, managers must promote a virtuous cycle of use and value at the individual level by cultivating trust, understanding, agency, and awareness of the technology," says 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 individual and organisational value from AI is additive, not zero-sum."

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