Guest Columns
4 mins read

AI & People – how to embed AI processes in your organisation without terrifying your staff

 Matt D’Cruz of Martin Tripp Associates discusses the fears surrounding the organisational implementation of AI and the steps needed to ease these concerns. TL;DR: It is crucial to listen to team members, address their concerns, and highlight AI’s ability to handle routine tasks allowing for more creative work. Encouraging small-scale experimentation and creating a safe environment for innovation are further key steps to successful AI integration.

Last year, you may remember I wrote a piece about AI transformation within the media sector. (If you haven’t, here it is!) We were quite surprised by how much engagement it generated, and how many people contacted us with their own thoughts. It’s something that a lot of you want to talk about, and I’ve spent quite a bit of the intervening time talking to business leaders about how they are embedding AI into their own organisations.

It’s fair to say there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty out there – for businesses, it’s the fear of missing out, and finding themselves playing catch-up, perhaps permanently. But there’s also the fear of getting things wrong and damaging their brand in the process. And then there’s the fear, quite prominent among certain groups, particularly journalists, that the technology might end up replacing them altogether.

Most of the conversations I’ve had suggest that this last fear is, for now, somewhat misplaced. But here are some pointers for how to introduce AI into your business without completely freaking your team out in the process.

First up, listen!

As we’ve already established, there will be a lot of fear, and perhaps some suspicion within your organisation. There will be excitement in there as well, and not just around younger or more technically minded team members. Convene team sessions, or perhaps even one-to-ones with some team members. How do they feel about this technology – are they excited, curious, apprehensive? Do they have ethical concerns?

Encourage everyone to speak and contribute – if there are significant concerns, take them on board, and whatever you do don’t dismiss them. These are crucial steps to achieving the necessary buy-in. You’ll find your transformation runs more smoothly if it doesn’t feel like a top-down implementation.

What do people dislike about their current jobs?

One of the big benefits of AI will of course be its ability to do a lot of things quicker, cheaper or better than a human could. There’s real potential to build consensus by selling the notion of automating away routine tasks, the things that distract them from what they really want to do – usually the more engaging, creative parts of their work that AI can’t successfully replicate. I’m thinking of the national newspaper publisher who told me that, while they aren’t using AI in their journalism, they are developing their own proprietary technology to do a lot of the heavy lifting around metadata tagging – and to a far more sophisticated level – freeing their editors up to focus on other parts of the job.

This is where you can really get buy-in. What else could they be doing with the time that frees up, that they would not otherwise be doing? That could be important strategic work, investigative journalism, or something that unleashes real creativity. And what does the technology enable them to do that would just not have been possible before – perhaps because it was prohibitively expensive or time-consuming?

Encourage experimentation, trialing and testing

I don’t think anyone would advise messing around with the jewel in your company’s crown just yet. Find small, reasonably self-contained projects and encourage your team to trial and test things, getting a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Invest in training and development – in time it will benefit the whole organization. And ensure that you establish continuous feedback and improvement discussions. Once again, these should be two-way, and not top-down. It’s important to establish clear guidelines, agreeing best practice.

Ensure people feel safe – you’ll get more out of them that way

Most importantly, you have to create a sense of psychological safety within your organisation, where people feel empowered to take risks and be creative. Because – contrary to some of the wild claims made by very prominent self-proclaimed futurists – AI is unlikely to be replacing all of our jobs any time soon. Humans are essential to the future of your organisation, so make sure they know that. Because they are the ones who are really going to deliver your future growth.

Matt D’Cruz
Partner, Martin Tripp Associates

Martin Tripp Associates is an executive search firm that specialises in the media, entertainment, information and communications sectors, with clients which range from large multi-nationals through to pre-revenue start-ups. Based in London, they have conducted successful searches around the world, at C-suite and senior leadership level, across a diverse range of disciplines including creative, sales, product, technology, strategy and general management. Martin Tripp and Matt D’Cruz, the Co-Founders, are both former B2B journalists who have written on a broad range of subjects, including as headhunters.