AI Anxiety: It’s Time to Build an HR Roadmap

A high percentage of workers with college degrees think artificial intelligence will take their jobs. Should companies care?

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

May 24, 2023

4 Min Read
Happy smiling face amongst lots of sad faces drawn on sticky notes.
Kerry Taylor via Alamy Stock

Nearly 69% of college graduates in the workforce fear that AI could take their job, according to a survey conducted by Tidio, a sales automation company.

Given what we know and do not know, it’s right that workers should be concerned. We see AI in call centers, in IT operations automation, in medical diagnoses, in content production and in coding, to name a few areas. We’re at the point where there isn’t enough empirical experience to see where AI will work best, and where it will prove to be so inadequate that humans have to intervene. What companies do know is that they want to adopt AI in as many useful ways as they can, assuming that AI will add to revenue and reduce the cost of operation.

Even everyday consumers see the AI revolution.

I stopped at a local restaurant for a cup of coffee the other day and found it impossible to order from the counter! There was a kiosk looming imposingly in front of the counter with a menu and buttons to push. With a sheepish expression, an employee at the grill who happened to see me said he couldn’t take my order because he wasn’t supposed to.

The coffee I wanted was a custom request, so for five minutes I did battle with the kiosk and its AI. I found it impossible to work with. Finally, out of sympathy, the employee helped. However, he did it reluctantly because he had been told he wasn’t supposed to help.

People are tiptoeing around AI processes in companies like this as well. These processes get implemented, and it is only then that everyone understands what works and doesn’t work in practice. On the fly, employees take over what AI can’t do. It was this mode of operation that came to a head in the restaurant when I watched an employee take over for a kiosk that couldn’t do the job, and he finally said in frustration, “I don’t even know why I help this thing. It’s probably going to take my job!”

Like earlier stages of computerization, AI will indeed take jobs. The customary answer to this concern -- as in the past -- is that it will only create new, more interesting jobs. Meanwhile, nobody knows for sure what these jobs will be.

This leaves employees in uncertain waters.

Because there is so much uncertainty in the employee body at all skill levels, it’s incumbent for companies to relieve employee anxiety. Companies can do this by building HR roadmaps that complement the technology roadmaps that are now being rewritten for AI.

What Is an HR roadmap?

Airfocus, which sells product management software, defines an HR roadmap as “a step-by-step guide that helps businesses strategize, prioritize, and guide company culture. It can also be used to build and manage talent acquisition strategies.”

HR does this work every day. It works with upper management and outside consultants to design and facilitate company culture. It works with upper management, department managers, and line managers as it projects company growth, new products, new skills that are needed, and what job requisitions must be created. HR also works with managers to identify and develop internal talent, and it works on salary, bonus, and perks programs targeted at retaining valuable employees.

Where IT Enters

The problem with the HR roadmap is that it looks at today’s employment situation and work processes. However, no one knows exactly how AI will impact work, so it’s hard to reimagine the employee workforce of the future with any degree of accuracy.

IT occupies a ringside seat in this dilemma. First, IT’s own workforce is concerned about how AI will impact their jobs. Second, the path to redefining jobs and clarifying employee roles for all workers depends on the technologies that IT itself implements.

IT is integral to technology adoption in companies, including implementation of AI, the ability to redesign and try out work processes and systems, central to IT’s work. Because of that there is also an opportunity to engage managers and employees in IT and in other areas of the company. In this way, everyone can see firsthand how a technology like AI is likely to fit in with what they do, and what their future work with AI may look like. This certainly beats closed door meetings between management and AI vendors while the rest of the corporate workforce is excluded, and frets and sweats on the other side of the closed doors.

The other derivative element of a collaborative and inclusive technology adoption like this is that HR, IT, senior management, and employees get a real feel for what the future HR roadmap with AI will look like. That HR roadmap, hopefully, will stay in step with the AI roadmap and will be as mindful of the human workforce as it is of how AI promises to supercharge revenues and improve operational efficiencies.

This reassures employees. It also addresses an ongoing concern that all companies face in a highly competitive job market -- employee retention -- because it will be your top performers who are most marketable and who are most likely to leave if they feel their employment is threatened.

What to Read Next:

AI and Hiring Quick Study

Pairing AI with Tech Pros: A Roadmap to Successful Implementation

The Future of HR Tech: How AI Is Transforming Human Resources

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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