Friend or Foe? 60 Percent of Employees See AI as a Coworker

A new MIT survey reveals that AI improves self-determination, including competency and autonomy.

MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group released a report earlier this week that sheds light on how workers around the world view artificial intelligence (AI). A global survey of 1,741 managers across 20 industries revealed that 60 percent view AI not as a threat to their jobs, but as a coworker.

The report, “Achieving Individual—and Organizational—Value With AI,” also reveals that among respondents whose company derives moderate, significant, or extensive value from AI, 85 percent said they personally obtain value from AI.

“Our research shows that contrary to common belief, organizations that obtain value from AI do not do so at the expense of the people across the organization,” said Shervin Khodabandeh, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Boston Consulting Group, to “Quite the opposite—companies who obtain value from AI are more likely to have happier, more fulfilled employees who themselves realize the individual value that AI can enable.”

The report detailed three ways that AI generates values for employees:

  • Increased competence: AI can make employees better at their jobs by giving them sharper insights, more relevant, granular information, and helping them make better decisions.
  • Increased autonomy: AI can help employees make informed judgments without needing to talk to a manager.
  • Stronger relationships: AI can help employees deepen relationships with colleagues, business partners, and customers. Respondents said that using AI improved interactions with their team members (56 percent), managers (47 percent), and other people in their departments (52 percent).
(Source: MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group.)

(Source: MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group.)

According to Khodabandeh, the biggest obstacles to the adoption of AI are organizational rather than technical. The failure to use AI is often due to unclear strategy, absence of C-level commitment to AI’s potential, and the scarcity of engineering talent.

A key finding of the report was that mandating the use of AI is an important first step to overcoming resistance to it. Requiring AI use tripled how much the technology would be used. An employee who had to use AI at work was three times as likely to regularly use it as an employee who was not required to do so.

Another important finding was that managers lead by example. Managers who used AI with their teams were 3.4 times as likely to increase regular AI use among team members than managers who did not.

The report also showed AI aids with anticipating and avoiding unwanted outcomes. AI is proving beneficial for organizations navigating difficult situations related to global conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues range from employee absences and supply chain disruptions to materials scarcity and dips in consumer demand.

The report concluded by mentioning the concern that AI could replace workers. The authors explained that instead, their research found individual use and individual value were crucial for organizational success with AI.

“The new threat is that if people are not using AI to become more self-determined, they and their company will miss out on important sources of individual and corporate value,” said the report.

Khodabandeh added: “The relationship between individual and organizational value from AI is additive, not zero-sum.”