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Will AI be an Enabler for Employees or a Stressor that Threatens their Performance?

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Strictly speaking, artificial intelligence (AI) has already been introduced into various industries since the 1980s, including but not limited to manufacturing, healthcare, consulting, and finance. However, the biggest feature of the recent emerging AI technology is that it leverages neuroscientific understandings of the mind to advance artificial cognition. Human neural networks are the basis of AI deep-net models and reinforcement learning which have enabled technology to compete with human speech recognition, learning, planning, and problem-solving at various levels. In other words, many areas that have been considered unique to humans have opened up the possibility of being replaced or supplemented by AI. What does it mean to the future workforce? How do employees and businesses think and feel about adopting such technology today? I reviewed several scholarly articles to gauge current perceptions and reactions from employees and businesses toward the adoption of AI

Scholars from the journal Frontiers in Psychology predict that within the next 10 to 20 years, 47% of the US workforce will be categorized as high risk for automation Rodriguez-Bustelo & colleagues (2020). However, perceptions of AI can impact a company's ability to accept and adopt such technology. West University of Timisoara from Romania conducted studies testing the validity of their hypotheses that perceived that the disadvantages of AI positively influence the risky perception of adopting such technologies by employees. The results showed that there was a positive relationship perceived between the unwillingness to work with AI and the perceived threats. Gînguță A., & colleagues (2023).

On the other hand, some researchers have paid attention to the positive effect of AI on employees. For example, researchers from Guangxi University in Nooning, China (Wei et al., 2022) found that AI has an overall positive effect on the mental health of low-skilled manufacturing workers. Here we see that technology can seemingly alleviate laborious work done by humans and therefore improve perceptions of workplace quality and satisfaction. Similarly, the computing skills AI possesses can provide promising stress reduction within the workplace. Supplementing for AI when performing repetitive tasks can reduce anxiety and stress in the workplace among employees, contributing to decreasing employees’ stress Loureiro SMC & colleagues (2023).

Here we see that technology can seemingly alleviate laborious work done by humans and therefore improve perceptions of workplace quality and satisfaction.

Additionally, AI technology can be used by companies to predict and prevent employee turnover and thus improve their ability to retain valuable employees and maintain a strong and productive workforce (Paigude et al., 2023). If companies track data of employees like mental health prognosis, performance data, and times employees reach out to HR within a company, the company may be able to create relational trends allowing companies to then create ways to support their employees to ultimately increase the success and profitability of the company in the end. By valuing an employee in such a way, you are prioritizing the longevity and success of such a company. However, data implemented and used by algorithms in AI can be subject to bias.

According to Ntoutsi and colleagues (2020), “If misrepresented groups coincide with social groups against where there already exists social bias such as prejudice or discrimination, even ‘unbiased computation processes can lead to discriminative decisions procedures’. If there is a lack of representation within data algorithms, then decisions based on these data are fundamentally biased, prejudiced, or discriminatory thus advocating for distrust in company products and services. These algorithms can even affect hiring processes as most companies use AI to filter through pools of applicants. This is a clear concern and one that should be investigated further because it could contribute to a lack of diversity within the workplace and affect employee performance in general.

AI’s abilities allow for a wide variety of business applications and usage. It is certain that there are many concerns brought forth in not just the perception but the adaptation of such a technology. It is important for companies to prioritize transparency to maintain employee satisfaction. Even though capitalistic ventures can disregard mental health, employee satisfaction could be useful in helping improve employee performance. Similar to the .com revolution of the 1990s and 2000s, AI is just another disrupter within the economy that we must adapt to. Support should be provided to those that may suffer collaterally; but in such a discussion, it is inevitable to avoid controversial approaches of fiscal, economic, and political intervention. There is evidence that there are efforts by corporations to support job development and better understanding and incorporation of AI.

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