The growing problem of workplace apathy, encompassing trends like quiet quitting and “resenteeism”, has been steadily brewing over recent years. While many might have harboured this attitude towards work long before even COVID times, the trend truly took root at a grand scale during the period known as the “Great Resignation” – a time when fluidity in the job market skyrocketed as unsatisfied employees made the leap to leave their jobs in search of greener pastures. Today, the job market looks very different, but resentment towards work still exists. This has been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, which has bound many to their jobs for security, even if they remain inherently dissatisfied.
Recently, organisations have also grappled with the disruptive forces of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, with sensationalised headlines threatening imminent job replacement by this technology. These claims often induce substantial anxiety, and so obscure from view the potential this technology has to actually bolster careers, rather than hinder them.
So, how should organisations navigate the coexistence of widespread workplace apathy and the so-called “AI-phobia”?
The Influence of AI
According to a new McKinsey report, in the US, many low-wage service jobs could be eliminated by AI within 7 years. In particular, low-wage jobs in the food industry and in customer service are among the positions most likely to be replaced by generative AI by 2030. However, delving beneath the surface of such reports unveils a more optimistic outlook if we opt to embrace AI. Countless forecasts highlight the potential for job creation, the transformation of existing roles away from mundane tasks, and the promise of heightened productivity.
Favorable statistics tell a more positive story as well. For instance, according to the WEF Future of Jobs 2023 report, AI is expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of surveyed companies and is expected to lead to high churn – with 50% of organisations expecting it to create job growth compared to the 25% expecting it to create job losses.
As AI’s influence ripples through organisations, specific sectors will experience varying degrees of impact. Nonetheless, similar to any organisational redesign and transformation, these changes necessitate careful handling for success. Achieving full workforce buy-in and a clear shared objective is crucial. Unaddressed workplace apathy can obstruct or delay an organisation’s journey toward embracing AI, and the technology has the potential to re-engage people that may feel indifferent, uninspired or concerned by opening up career opportunities.
Beyond the technological shift
While technological adoption often underpins organisational transformation, other factors are equally vital. A significant portion of workplace apathy stems from employees’ sense of detachment from their organisations. The initial, essential step involves fostering a two-way discussion between individuals and their managers, guided by the organisation’s wider goals and aspirations. This multifaceted connection, involving numerous dots to link, is where AI plays a pivotal role. AI is able to bridge the gap and enhance employee-organisation interaction, and these deeper insights and information empower richer conversations between employees and managers.
Hence, while AI may reshape roles and duties for many, it also influences aspects like learning, development, and career advancement, rendering talent management strategies smarter and swifter, as well as more impactful and personalised. AI is both the challenge and the solution.
Turning to AI enables individuals to identify potential career trajectories by sifting through extensive data on skills, capabilities, and paths taken by others. This uncovers pathways that might have eluded them, empowering individuals to steer their own growth. Remarkably, 80% of employees prefer self-service technology over conversations with a manager to gain insights into career possibilities within their company – a clear sign that organisations should be using AI to fuel internal mobility. In this way, AI is helping match people’s aspirations with company needs in a way that could never have been achieved before – unearthing career and development pathways that are the perfect fit for them, and thereby allowing organisations to plug skills gaps and empty roles before they even appear.
The influence of AI extends beyond this point. The technology aids in surfacing relevant learning materials, developmental opportunities, even mentorship matches, enabling employees to craft their growth strategies.
A Remedy and a Safeguard
This AI-driven transformation of career progression and development occupies a crucial role in tackling the pandemic of workplace apathy. It transcends being a single-shot strategy and evolves into a continuous provision catering to the evolving needs of individuals and organisations.
Executed adeptly, AI holds the power to eradicate workplace apathy and forestall its resurgence. By empowering employees and organisations to perpetually align their ambitions, AI becomes a force for proactive advancement and ultimately creates stronger resilience for the organisation”
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