Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly gaining traction in the workplace. It is commonly used to screen job applications and to conduct interviews, and it fuels data analytics to help business lines make better decisions. Employees interact with chatbots to choose the right health plans schedule meetings and, in some cases, report sexual misconduct in the workplace. AI can enhance on-demand learning and speed up online learning in response to demonstrated mastery.

With more and more employees using some form of AI technology at work, opinions about AI are shifting fast. Human resources (HR) practitioners, line managers, and rank and file employees express considerably more enthusiasm and optimism about these technologies than they did just one year ago. This change is shaking up workplace dynamics and expectations and spotlights development opportunities for managers operating in the age of artificial intelligence.

Consider a recent global survey of 8,370 professionals across 10 countries, conducted on behalf of Oracle and Future Workplace. Half of respondents said they currently use some form of AI at work, an increase from 32% in 2018.

Equally striking, people’s perceptions of these technologies are changing as swiftly as the rate of adoption. While some individuals continue to worry about AI, findings suggest that the majority of employees feel enthusiastic about AI and what it makes possible. Eleven percent of respondents went as far as characterizing their relationship with AI at work as “loving.”

Robots as Managers?

Employees are already turning to robots for tasks and guidance that are traditionally in the manager’s domain. In fact, 64% of survey respondents said they would trust a robot more than their manager for certain tasks, half have asked a robot for advice rather than asking their manager and 32% said they believe that robots will eventually replace their managers.

These employees aren’t picturing a friendly R2-D2 droid that rolls into their office for a visit. They’re thinking of AI software that automates processes and chatbots that can answer questions and increasingly carry on a human-like conversation. They see AI-powered managers as better at providing unbiased information, problem-solving and answering confidential questions without causing fear of scrutiny.

In response to AI, human managers now must take on a role that focuses on using their uniquely human skills in understanding employees’ feelings, coaching, and creating or promoting a supportive work culture.

Using an AI-powered Platform to Deliver a Personalized Learning Experience: A Case Study

HR managers are among the most optimistic about AI. Leading talent organizations are already using AI — to make learning faster, more effective and more personalized. For example, when TIAA, a Fortune 100 financial services organization, set out to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its learning operation and of individual learners, the learning team piloted an AI-powered adaptive learning platform for compliance training.

The pilot results were dramatic. The average time to complete the module went from four hours to one hour and 27 minutes. One person completed it in only 35 minutes. In addition to driving greater efficiency, using an AI-powered learning platform provides learners with embedded training support, thereby reducing the need for training by 50% and recovering thousands of hours of productive time.

Today, embedded AI technologies guide employees through numerous courses and systems at TIAA, creating an adaptive learning experience that gauges their level of understanding and confidence along the way and speeds up once learners demonstrate mastery. This approach makes learning faster and more efficient for employees and frees up learning team resources to address additional training needs.

“This has had a very positive impact on the learner experience,” says Michael Bland, vice president and chief learning officer at TIAA. “The path is now more individualized. It’s easier to pinpoint areas for growth and adapt the learning path accordingly.”

3 Steps Learning Organizations Can Take Now

Many managers spend a good chunk of a typical workday on low-value tasks like scheduling, budgeting and compiling reports. Organizations can achieve a payoff by helping managers relegate these and other administrative tasks to AI. Managers who learn to harness the power of AI can focus more time on leadership essentials like crafting strategy and engaging one-on-one with their employees — things that people can do better than robots.

Here are three ways your organization can capitalize on the opportunities that AI presents:

  1. Providing training on AI and sharing best practices: Find ways to promote and share AI best practices and success stories across the organization. Help leaders learn about and become more comfortable with AI technologies. Nearly one-third of respondents to the Oracle/Future Workplace survey said best practice training would make them more likely to use AI at work.
  2. Gain clarity on the role of your managers today: Determine how AI is changing the way managers at your organization spend their time. What new expectations are emerging? What can managers delegate to bots? Both managers and their employees need to understand how their roles are changing — and how they’re not.
  3. Invest in building human-centered skills: As managers gain more time, they will have the opportunity to hone their human capabilities, like coaching, design thinking, team leadership and promoting a positive workplace culture. After all, using artificial intelligence in the workplace is really an opportunity to become a more human workplace.

The organizations that move swiftly to encourage adoption of AI will be the winners in the global marketplace. They’ll be able to protect and expand their footprint in current markets — and they’ll drive innovation and create new markets while they’re at it.