However, as with all change, there are questions about how AI will change the workplace – and how workers will respond.
“Robots and AI are steps along the road of using technology to reduce uncertainty, to manage safety in a less labour-intensive way and to engage the workforce in the process,” says Bridget Leathley, Lead Consultant at Tribe Culture Change.
“The best use of technology will bring workers into the process, rather than isolating them.”
AI is not the enemy
A great example of how AI can help workers is Computer Vision (CV) – a form of AI that can derive information from digital images and videos and go on to identify potential hazards.
But might workers feel spied upon?
“If you use CV and discover workers are taking a shortcut across a vehicle route and you discipline them, you will lose trust,” says Bridget. “The CV becomes the enemy. People will learn to behave in front of the cameras – but it won’t improve their attitude to safety.
She continues, “Instead, if you ask those people why they need to behave in a certain way, you might learn they aren’t given enough time, or that the alternative route is longer, darker, noisy or wet. If you find out the reason behind the behaviours detected by CV you can implement the changes. Discipline shouldn’t be the first call.”
Trust first, AI second
Trust is an important quality that not only must be nurtured but be maintained within a company. It is therefore wise to implement AI gradually to retain your workforce’s trust.
Bridget says, “If the technology makes workers’ lives easier, they will generally be happy about it. When introducing CV, consult with your team, explain its usage and add one camera. Firstly, show that you can be trusted and provide some visible benefit, once this is achieved then introduce another. Take it slowly.”
Humans are still required
Bridget explains how people will always be needed: “A key concern is that if people assume AI will always be right, people could get hurt, or treated unfairly. The information captured by the CV must be checked so there always needs to be a human in the loop.
“But thanks to its algorithms, many more useful observations can be made by the CV suggesting what to watch and when .”
What the future holds
Many industries are embracing AI and paving the way when it comes to introducing the use of evolving technology. Research undertaken by the OECD* also confirms that the use of AI is improving safety conditions within work environments and reducing accidents, and with the right implementation strategy, workers will learn that new procedures make their jobs easier.