How to build the right culture for AI

In this article, Nigel Church, CEO of Emerge Digital, explains how companies can build the right culture to adopt AI
Nigel Church
AI Robot

A recent report from IBM revealed that 77% of businesses are either incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into their operations or assessing its potential applications. AI is clearly playing a prominent role in today’s modern workplace, providing a competitive advantage to businesses across almost every sector. 

However, whilst this may be true, last October, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that nearly a third (32%) of the British population have concerns about AI's potential to render their jobs obsolete. Apprehension surrounding job security, online safety, and data protection continues to grow. Only by creating an inclusive company culture which considers the impacts of AI implementation on staff, can UK businesses and their workforce harness the benefits of this technology effectively.  

So, how can leaders create such a culture where AI not only augments the work environment but also reassures employees of their irreplaceable value? How can they create a future where technology aids, rather than replaces, humans? 

Establish a shared vision for your business 

AI integration relies on a clearly articulated, technology-driven vision for the business. This vision should encapsulate the objectives of the company — whether that is enhancing customer satisfaction, driving innovation, or achieving sustainable growth. It should paint a picture of the future that resonates with every member of the organisation, giving them something to aim for in their daily work and reinforces their idea of where the business is heading. This shared vision is key to ensuring technology is accepted and adopted by employees. 

Align AI with your vision  

With the vision in place, AI initiatives should be chosen carefully to align with the business's strategic goals. This is critical to ensure that AI helps overcome any barriers from within the business. From enhancing operational efficiency, to unlocking new opportunities, it’s all about selecting the right technology to meet your business’ needs. It's also important not to think about adapting your vision to accommodate AI; rather, it's about identifying how AI can help in making the vision a reality. If the answer is that it only helps in a few areas, then stick to those areas; don’t overcomplicate things.  

Ensure understanding at board level   

Board level buy in is critical. Having the board recognise and accept the purpose of AI's impact is key, as they are in a unique position to emphasise AI’s benefits while also being conscious of the challenges and implications for the workforce. The board needs to adopt the technology from the top down, communicating the positive impacts it will have on the company, and helping staff to accept innovation, reassuring them that the technology is a tool for enhancement, rather than a threat to job security. The board are also best placed to make sure that any new implementations align with the company’s vision, and that budget and resources are committed to the right tools. 

Humanise AI within your culture 

Ensure to define AI as a 'Copilot' in the journey towards achieving the company's vision. This reduces fear of displacement, positioning AI as a tool that empowers employees, freeing up their time to be creative and innovative and to enhance client experiences - rather than something which is going to cut costs by replacing the business’ people. Embed AI into the fabric of the organisation’s culture as an enabler, to build excitement instead of apprehension.  

Thoughtful implementation to reassure staff 

Approach the implementation of AI with caution. With any type of technology installation, making big changes too quickly can leave staff feeling disconnected and uneasy. Take slow, thoughtful, and deliberate steps. Given the still-evolving understanding of AI's full impact, businesses must navigate this terrain carefully, ensuring they don’t lose their people along the way. Be transparent with your staff; explain what is going to be implemented and why and spend time talking about how this will change specific roles, and how it will improve employees’ working lives. Give staff a safe place to feedback anonymously, giving them a voice to share valuable insight. This approach prioritises the wellbeing of the workforce while capitalising on the technological advancements AI offers. 

Building the right culture for AI is not an overnight feat, but a gradual process underpinned by strong leadership and a clear, shared vision. As businesses stride towards becoming AI enabled, the focus must remain on reassuring the workforce, enhancing their creative capacities, and ensuring technology serves as a tool for empowerment rather than a source of insecurity. In doing so, UK businesses can navigate the AI landscape with confidence, leveraging its potential to drive efficiency, innovation, and profitability, all while safeguarding and enriching the lives of their most valuable asset—their employees. 

Written by
Nigel Church
CEO of Emerge Digital
March 15, 2024