Artificial intelligence (AI): how does it impact your culture?

Why HR needs to embrace AI and turn it to their advantage

The impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become increasingly significant, writes Jerome Parisse-Brassens, who explains that HR needs to play an active role in embracing AI and turning it to their advantage

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming one of the most important business disruptors of our times. As we move from digitalisation to the digital era, it is critical to change mindsets and move away from a focus on threats to a focus on opportunities offered by cognitive technologies. HR teams need to play an active role in embracing this new technology and turn it to their advantage.

At the heart of artificial intelligence is the use of data to analyse patterns, and in particular patterns of behaviours. At Walking the Talk, we define culture as “the patterns of behaviour that are encouraged, discouraged, and tolerated by people and systems, over time.” With this definition in mind, it is easy to see how central culture is to AI.

AI will help to manage culture more effectively
The purpose of artificial intelligence is to analyse vast amount of data to extract patterns. By analysing behavioural data sets, organisations will develop a good picture of their culture and be able to use real-time diagnostics. I can picture a world where data is fed from many sources such as HR data, exit interviews, induction processes, performance management, business processes, leadership forums, and discussion threads to extract real-time behaviour patterns and build an almost daily picture of the culture at play.

Beyond behaviours, AI will also be able to identify systemic issues and their consequences, avoiding many of the current risks, and facilitating the seamless development of a culture plan. If Wells Fargo had had access to or used AI to identify patterns in its retail business, it would probably have detected that something was not quite right, and that millions of loan and credit accounts were being created for clients who never asked for them. By crossing sales information with client complaints and other customer data, a pattern would have appeared, leading to an internal enquiry. AI will facilitate culture audits of systems and processes in place in the organisation. Regulators and boards who are currently putting pressure on executives to ensure that cultural risks are addressed will welcome the use of AI.

“To make the most of AI, organisations will need to shift towards a mindset of innovation”

AI will directly influence the mindsets and behaviours of people
Innovation is the cultural element that will be the most impacted by artificial intelligence. Asking questions, challenging, testing, trialing things and failing fast are all behaviours underpinning innovation, and they are the essence of AI and cognitive technologies. To make the most of AI, organisations will need to shift towards a mindset of innovation. They will need to ask the right questions of the machines, they will need to be ready to test the solutions provided and move quickly. AI will see patterns that the human brain can’t detect and offer news ways forward. Consequently, the type of people organisations need to recruit will change, moving away from highly technical roles to jobs that place more importance on cultural fit and adaptability. HR practitioners need to factor this into their workforce planning strategies.

Collaboration will also become more important than ever. The integration of early AI tools is making organisations become more collaborative and multi-disciplinary as opposed to top-down and autocratic. Internal technical expert teams implementing AI will need to work very closely with the front-line that is delivering the services, facilitating increased learning and setting the scene for further digital disruption.

As for customer-centricity, one of the goals of artificial intelligence is to analyse large amounts of customer data. It provides the input into decision making and customer handling processes focussed on customer needs, desires, and experiences. Organisations now have at their disposal the information they need to put the customer at the centre of everything they do.

Organisations will be able to target their communications to the individual, reinforcing meaning that employees are looking for. Whether communication is about customers, perks, or business results, it will be on the money. This will provide effective support to HR leaders and practitioners in communicating effectively with the workforce.

The full cultural impact of artificial intelligence is not yet understood. But the journey has started and I predict that the changes will be significant. And as it is so often with culture, it becomes a leadership issue. Will leaders adapt to a new workforce, new ways of thinking and acting? Will leaders make the most of a new technology that will help them to empower the workforce? Will they use artificial intelligence to create the culture they need to effectively implement their strategy? This challenge requires major cross-functional attention, effort and collaboration, and the HR community will play a critical role in addressing it.

“The type of people organisations need to recruit will change, moving away from highly technical roles to jobs that place more importance on cultural fit and adaptability”

AI will help to manage culture more effectively
By analysing behavioural data sets through artificial intelligence, organisations will develop a real-time picture of their culture. AI will be able to identify systemic issues and their consequences, avoiding many of the current risks and facilitating the development of a culture plan. AI will facilitate culture audits of systems and processes in place in the organisation. Regulators and boards who are currently putting pressure on executives to ensure that cultural risks are addressed will welcome the use of AI.

4 key insights into AI, culture and people

  • To make the most of AI, organisations will need to shift towards a mindset of innovation. They will need to ask the right questions of the machines, they will need to be ready to test the solutions provided and move quickly.
  • Collaboration will also become more important than ever. The integration of early artificial intelligence tools is making organisations become more collaborative and multi-disciplinary as opposed to top-down and autocratic.
  • AI will provide input into decision making and customer handling processes focussed on customer needs, desires, and experiences. This will reinforce customer-centricity.
  • Organisations will be able to target their communications to the individual, reinforcing meaning that employees are looking for.

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