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Sponsored by: WellSpark
October 11, 2023

It Doesn’t Have to be Scary! Approaching Generative AI Adoption with Strong Change Management Practices

We are living in a time of workplace transition. What started as a primarily onsite work culture in the U.S. shifted dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many employers are now facing resistance from employees as they try to nudge things back toward the “way things used to be.” Coupled with unprecedented economic, political, and technological uncertainties and the need to retain the absolute best talent, employers may have a heightened awareness of the potential for volatile behavior. The result? Careful action at a time when swift action is essential.

Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, generative artificial intelligence, or GenAI, has contributed to fueling this uncertainty. It’s here, and it’s not going anywhere. It has permeated our daily routines, and organizations of every size are working to learn how to leverage, adopt, and protect against it. In some industries, such as insurance, healthcare, marketing, and finance, we are already seeing glimpses of GenAI finding its footing.

The shift to embracing this form of AI can be a big change for your workforce, and employers can’t assume that their employees will react well to this change. It is particularly scary for some employees because they may feel that their jobs are at stake with the adoption of this new technology. Just like in the 1970s and 1980s when workplaces had to embrace the addition of computers, and since then, the many significant advances in digital and mobile technology, here we are again.

From the lens of workplace behavior, there’s a concept called change management, which, boiled down to its essence, is a systematic approach to organizational transition or transformation. Leaders at organizations touched by GenAI can acknowledge that any change causes uncertainty and that this one, like others in the past, has the potential to negatively impact workplace culture.

According to behavior and data scientist and author Dr. Pragya Agarwal, “workplace culture is the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.” For employers to successfully implement any major change, including the integration of GenAI, they want to consider what support and resources are available to employees.

Support starts with open, honest communication – early and often. In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown says that in the absence of data, people will create their own stories. If you want to foster a culture that encourages people to embrace GenAI, inform people about what you’re doing along the way. Invite employees to participate in the conversation about innovation. Allow the information they receive – their data – to tell a compelling story that will 1) keep them aligned to your company’s values, assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs; and 2) inspire them to want to be part of it.

At the same time, hold space for those who don’t operate at the speed of technology and put resources in place for people to work through the change. Try hosting focus groups for people to get their concerns addressed or extra training sessions for those who might not feel as confident with learning new skills. Connect the change to your broader well being strategy and cross-promote your company’s employee assistance program (EAP), mental health support benefits, or health coaching programs. 

Innovation is also a key driver of positive workplace culture, and the best talent expects it. They also expect whole-person support for their physical and mental health. Invest in the well-being of your employees, integrate wellbeing into your people strategies, and make sure you frequently communicate about these efforts to your workforce.

It can be a delicate balance between preserving workplace culture and implementing changes to meet the future needs of the business, and GenAI adoption is no different. This time of transition could lead to amazing organizational transformation with a strong and purposeful approach to managing change. Don’t be afraid of taking swift action if that’s what your business needs. Just bring your people along with you.